Louie Cullen

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Louie Cullen
Louie Cullen Holloway (cropped).jpg
Cullen in Holloway in 1908
Louisa Clarissa

Died24 July 1960
Sydney, Australia
Known forSuffragette and feminist
MovementWomen's Social and Political Union
AwardsHolloway brooch

Louie Cullen (1876–1960) was a British suffragette and hunger striker who emigrated to Australia to continue her feminist activism. She was imprisoned for her activist work, and was awarded a Holloway brooch.


Born Louisa Clarissa Mays[1] in 1876,[2][3] she preferred to be called Louie[4] but ia called Louise in some references. She left school at 14 and worked for some time[5] before in 1900, she married a working class man, Joshua William Cullen, who was sympathetic to the call for women to have the right to vote.[4]

Suffrage, imprisonment and recognition[edit]

Women's March to Hyde Park, 1908

Cullen became a radical suffragette, joined the Women's Social and Political Union near its start, when there were no formal branches and by 1906 was the organiser of the Kensal branch in London.[5] In that year, Cullen and Hannah Mitchell had smuggled a 'Votes for Women' banner into the House of Commons whilst there with nineteen others and Emmeline Pankhurst and left during the scene caused when they opened up their banners there.[2] Cullen was arrested following the 1908 attempt by suffragettes to rush into the House of Commons hidden in a pantechnicon [6] to get their voices heard on women's suffrage.[4]

Cullen was imprisoned[7] in Holloway prison and went on hunger strike for the cause of women's suffrage.[4] She also spoke on a main platform no 3. at the Women's March in Hyde Park, 21 June 1908.[4] Cullen was encouraged to go for a few days to 'rouse' people to have a crowd ready to greet Winston Churchill, on his speech-giving in Norwich, in a July 17, 1909 letter from Christabel Pankhurst.[8] Cullen's health suffered from her imprisonment, and she and her husband moved in December 1911, initially for a two-year period,[2] to Melbourne, Australia.[4] They ended staying for the rest of their lives in Australia.

Activism in Australia[edit]

The Cullens adopted a child who died soon after their arrival in Australia.[9]

In 1914, Cullen was undertaking speaking engagements on women's rights at the Women's Political Association, Melbourne, convened by Vida Goldstein, saying 'women do the scullery work of the world, unorganised and unpaid.'[10] Cullen also gave practical assistance to young women alone in the city, setting up the Wayfarers social club to create a welcoming community.[10] Her support for the causes promoted by the Pankhursts continued in her participating in a march and handing the Australian Prime Minister a petition with 5000+ signatures[11] for the release of Adela Pankhurst Walsh, imprisoned for protesting at the price of food.[10]

In the 1930s, the Cullen's moved to Sydney and she joined the Suffragette Fellowship, and described as an 'original suffragette' in the Sydney Morning Herald.[12] Cullen supported more women getting engaged in politics writing in 1947, to congratulate a Mrs N.A. Parker on her election.[13] And Cullen was widely reported for publicly objecting to the use of 'obey' in the marriage ceremony of the then Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) to Prince Phillip, as 'positively antediluvian.'[10]

In 1953, Cullen donated to the national collection her Holloway Medal, a portcullis brooch with the WPSU ribbon colours of green white and purple, designed and presented to her by Christabel Pankhurst, to commemorate 50 years of women's right to vote in Australia.[10]

Later life and legacy[edit]

Cullen's husband Joshua, who supported her feminism, died in 1956 at the age of 88.[10] Cullen became known as "the last of the suffragettes".[9] She was interviewed for the People[14] and Women's Day.[15] Cullen had her portrait photograph taken with the WSPU illustrated certifcate, wearing her Votes for Women sash in 1958, in the National Library of Australia collection.[9] In her 80th year, she took on officials to leave her home at Lidcombe, Sydney[2] to the Children's Library and Crafts Movement, as a children's centre.[16]

By 1958, Cullen was in a nursing home in Hammondville.[9] She died on 24 July 1960 in Sydney.[4] Her death was reported internationally, including in the Singapore Free Press and the London Daily Telegraph. Cullen had said she would "like the newspapers to know, in the hope that coming young folk will remember how some freedoms are bought."[9]


Photo of Cullen with the caption "Hyde Park"

There are artifacts of Cullen's life in the National Library of Australia, in particular the among the archive papers of Bessie Rischbieth, feminist and founder of the Australian Federation of Women's Societies (or Voters), who persuaded Cullen to donate her suffragette items to the collection.[10] These include Cullen's sketch of her prison cell, with the caption, "stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage."[17] There is also Cullen's Holloway brooch[18] and her WSPU sash, which she is seen wearing in a duo photograph of her both in prison clothing and dressed in white wearing the sash for the Hyde Park Women's March, from her book written in 1959.[19] The collection has the original certificate from Emmeline Pankhurst, honoring Louise Cullen's contribution of "self-forgetfulness and self-conquest, ever ready to obey the call of duty, and to answer to the appeal of the oppressed",[20] which she is holding in her portrait.[9]


  1. ^ "Joshua Cullen - Historical records and family trees - MyHeritage". MyHeritage. Retrieved November 12, 2019. Joshua married Louisa Clarissa CULLEN (born MAYS). Louisa was born circa 1877, in Gorleston on Sea, Norfolk, UK.
  2. ^ a b c d Atkinson, Diane (2018). Rise up, women! : the remarkable lives of the suffragettes. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 51, 533. ISBN 9781408844045. OCLC 1016848621.
  3. ^ "Mrs Louisa Clarissa Cullen". Women's Suffrage: History and citizenship resources for schools. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Louie Cullen—part one". www.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  5. ^ a b Crawford, Elizabeth. (1999). The women's suffrage movement : a reference guide, 1866-1928. London: UCL Press. ISBN 0203031091. OCLC 53836882.
  6. ^ "Suffragettes' Raid". The Week. 21 February 1908. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  7. ^ Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners 1905-1914. 1960.
  8. ^ "Letter from Christabel Pankhurst to Louie Cullen". Museum of London. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Louie Cullen—part three". www.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "Louie Cullen—part two". www.nla.gov.au. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  11. ^ "Mrs. Adela Walsh". Labor Call (Melbourne, Vic. : 1906 - 1953). 1918-01-17. p. 5. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  12. ^ "WOMEN'S RIGHTS". Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). 1936-08-13. p. 18. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  13. ^ "Congratulations To Mrs. Parker From Sydney". Molong Express and Western District Advertiser (NSW : 1887 - 1954). 1947-09-05. p. 2. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  14. ^ People. Sydney, N.S.W: Associated Newspapers Ltd. 1950.
  15. ^ Woman's day. Melbourne: Herald and Weekly Times. 1953.
  16. ^ Melbourne, National Foundation for Australian Women and The University of. "Children's Library and Crafts Movement - Organisation - The Australian Women's Register". www.womenaustralia.info. Retrieved 2019-11-03.
  17. ^ "Louisa Cullen's prison cell in Holloway Prison". Papers of Bessie Rischbieth. 2004/3/310,nla.gov.au/nla.obj-250831564. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Louisa Cullen's Holloway Prison brooch". Papers of Bessie Rischbieth. Series 3, MS 2004/3/276-312, nla.obj-250831564.
  19. ^ "Louisa Cullen in Woman's Day". National Library of Australia. 25 August 1959. p. 9. nla.gov.au/nla.cat-vn1316088. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  20. ^ Cullen, Louisa; Pankhurst, Emmeline (1909). Illuminated address presented to Louisa Cullen. Women's Social and Political Union (Great Britain).