From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Suffrage: Mud March[edit]

  • Extract (entry 9 February 1907) [1]

In bed for breakfast – and what was my utter disgust – and disappointment – to hear the torrents of rain – and there was not a shadow of its coming last night – it was bitterly cold. As it was so heavy I hoped it would stop – but it went on and on into a fine heavy drizzle. They said I should be mad to go in the procession and though I knew I must – I went out at 12.30 taking Mickie a walk and sent a telegram to Alexandra Wright telling her the rain prevented my joining them. I had arranged to be at their house at 1 o’clock and go with them to Hyde Park. We all had lunch. I knew I was going all the time – but couldn’t go. Off to wash my hands. 2 o’clock. ‘They will be just starting’, said I. Then as I washed I made up my mind I would go rain or no rain and – lo – the rain had ceased. I prepared a plan to Agnes. She too knew she was to be of it – both flew upstairs and were out of the house before 2.15.

We tore to Notting Hill Gate – meaning to go the quickest way. No motor bus – so we tore for the train – it came in as I started to race down. In we scrambled – had to change at South Kensington much to our disgust – but we were not kept long. We flew out at Charing Cross and up Villiers Street. No sign of the Procession of Women Suffragists in the Strand. They were timed to leave Hyde Park at 2 o’clock so I had to pluck up my courage and ask a policeman. No, they had not passed. So, knowing the route, we flew up as far as Piccadilly Circus and there in about 2 minutes we heard strains of a band and waited, anxious and expectant. The crowd began to gather and we were nearly swept away by the first part – a swarm of roughs with the band – but the procession itself came – passed along dignified and really impressive. It was a sight I wouldn’t have missed for anything – and I was glad to have the opportunity of seeing it as well as taking part in it.

We stood right in front so as not to miss our contingent – and I asked if they knew where it was. Miss Gore Booth said it was coming and we were fearfully excited and I was so anxious not to miss our lot. I shrieked out when I saw Miss Doake’s red head in the distance and we dashed up to them and asked if we could join in. Alexandra carried our banner. Mrs Wright said come along here – it felt like boarding an express train but I suppose it was a quite simple rally though I cannot look back on it as that – but we were so excited and so anxious not to miss them. We walked three abreast – Miss Doake, Agnes and I – I was on the kerb side – behind us Gladys [Wright], Miss Ellis and Mrs Doake. North Kensington was not very well represented but I really do not know who else of us was there.

Then the real excitement started. The crowds to see us – the man in the street – the men in the Clubs, the people standing outside the Carlton – interested – surprised for the most part – not much joking at our expense and no roughness. The policemen were splendid and all the traffic was stopped our way. We were an imposing spectacle all with badges – each section under its own banners. Ours got broken, poor thing, unfortunately, and caused remarks. I felt like a martyr of old and walked proudly along. I would not jest with the crowd – though we had some jokes with ourselves. It did seem an extraordinary walk and it took some time as we went very slowly occasionally when we got congested – but we went in one long unbroken procession. There were 3000 about I believe. At the end came ever so many carriages and motor cars – but of course we did not see them. Lots of people we knew drove.

Up the Strand it was a great crowd watching – some of the remarks were most amusing. ‘Here comes the class’ and two quite smart men standing by the kerb ‘I say look at those nice girls – positively disgraceful I call it.’ Then ‘Ginger hair – dark hair – and fair hair’ ‘Oh! What nice girls’ to Miss Doake, Agnes and I. Several asked if we had brought our sweethearts and made remarks to express their surprise at our special little band. ‘All the prizes in this lot’ etc. The mud was awful. Agnes and I wore galoshes so our feet were alright but we got dreadfully splashed. It was quite a business turning into the Exeter Hall. A band was playing merrily all the time – the one which had led the procession – and there was one not far off us. Three altogether, I was told.

We got good seats and of course had to wait some time before the meeting started – it was just after 4 pm when it did – but there was a ladies’ orchestra performing and playing very well and a lady at the organ in between whiles. The meeting was splendid. Mr Walter McLaren in the Chair and Israel Zangwill as chief speaker – he was so splendid and most witty. Miss Gore Booth – Mrs Fawcett – Mrs Eva McLaren – Lady Strachey and several other ladies spoke and Keir Hardie made an excellent speech. It was altogether a wonderful and memorable afternoon – and felt we were making history – but after all I don’t know, I am sure, what will come of it. The MPs seem to have cheated and thoroughly ‘had’ us all over it. They wanted the Liberal Women’s help to get into the House and now they don’t care two straws or they are frightened of us. We walked up to Tottenham Court Road and came home by bus. It was nearly 7 o’clock when we got in. .. I felt bitterly tired all the evening after the excitement.

The online copy of above also provides an image of the poster.

On her return (from India, 1902) she taught infants at Allenswood for a few years until she encountered the veteran feminist Emily Davies, whom she later recalled 'in her bonnet and shawl, with unerring instinct discovered my existence and caught me in her net and changed a butterfly into a caterpillar'. Under Davies's guidance she became first a committee member and then, in 1907, secretary of the London National Society for Women's Suffrage. With no previous experience she was called on to organize the first large public demonstration of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS)—the ‘mud march’ of 1907—which was such a success that she was given the task of organizing all subsequent NUWSS demonstrations and pageants. Suffrage activity was something of a family tradition, and she worked closely both with her mother, Lady Strachey (who was one of the leaders of the mud march), and with her sister-in-law Rachel Strachey (1887–1940).

  • Transcript of Daily Mail report 11 February 1907 p.37
  • Text

Forty societies were represented in the procession, including many delegates from the North and the Midlands. The metropolitan districts were very strong, and their banners were a feature. Though the clerk of the weather was as unsympathetic as a Liberal steward, the demonstrators held on bravely through the mud. They were led by such ladies as Mrs. Fawcett, Lady Maud Parry, Mrs. Garrett Anderson, Lady Strachey, Lady Emily Lutyens, Lady Frances Balfour, the Countess of Carlisle and her daughters, one of whom carried a banner, and Mrs. Peachy Phipson, M.D. A long string of smart carriages and motor cars formed part of the procession. There were two meetings -one in Trafalgar Square, the other in Exeter Hall. At the former Miss Gore Booth deplored the alienation of the Labour Party through the action of a certain section of the suffrage movement. Mr. Keir Hardie found himself strongly in sympathy with the resolution proposed at this gathering, for it was on the lines of those defeated at the Belfast conference. He demanded a Bill this session. He declared that those who are not prepared to act to others as they would desire others to act to them are unworthy of the rights of citizens.

  • Early history, women's suffrage:
  • 1640s: Levellers 1640s flirt with the notion. Foot p.10
  • 1840s: Chartism & women's suffrage. Foot p. 116
  • 1850s: Post-chartism & women's suffrage, Foot pp. 173-74
  • 1867: Foundation of the National Society for Women's Suffrage (NSWS) by Lydia Becker and others "The Early Suffrage Societies in the 19th century and ODNB Lydia Becker
  • 1868: Millicent Fawcett speaks at first women's suffrage mtg held in London, at the Gallery of the Architectural Society in Conduit Street. Abrams p. 180
  • 1884: Gladstone's Reform Bill excludes all women from the extended suffrage. Foot, p. 179 Henry Fawcett abstains from voting on a (defeated) amendement that would have introduced women's suffrage. Abrams p. 182
  • In 1888 a split in the Central Committee of the NSWS means that Fawcett & the moderates part company with the more militant faction led by the Pankhursts. Abrams, p. 185
  • 1897: Founding of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) [2]: "Notice of formation and the inaugural minutes of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies of November 1897, under the presidency of Millicent Fawcett. From the 1860s, local, regional and factional societies grew in number and in 1897 a federation of seventeen societies came together to represent every active suffrage society in Britain. By 1913 nearly five hundred regional suffrage societies had joined, making the NUWSS a most influential alliance."
  • 1903: WSPU foundation & start of militancy. Foot p. 194 See also ODNB Emmeline Pankhurst
  • Hume, p. 34: "This so-called Mud March was the largest public demonstration in support of woman's suffrage that had ever been attempted" [3]
  • The Observer 10 February [5]
  • The Observer 10 February [6]
  • The MG 13 february 1907 [7]

9th February[edit]

The band and lead banner at the Mud March, 9 February 1907

On the morning of 9 February, large numbers of women converged on the march's starting point, the statue of Achilles near Hyde Park Corner.[1] Between three and four thousand women were assembled, from all ages and strata of society, in appalling weather with incessant rain which turned the streets to mud.[2] They included Lady Frances Balfour, sister-in-law of Arthur Balfour, the former Conservative prime minister; Rosalind Howard, the Countess of Carlisle, of the Women's Liberal Federation; the poet and trade union organiser Eva Gore-Booth; and the veteran campaigner Emily Davies.[3] Although the WSPU was not officially represented, some of its leading members attended, including Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Annie Kenney, Anne Cobden-Sanderson, Nellie Martel, Edith How-Martyn, Flora Drummond and Charlotte Despard.[4][5] The march's aristocratic representation was matched by numbers of professional women – doctors, schoolmistresses, artists[6] – and large contingents of working women from northern and other provincial cities, marching under banners that proclaimed their varied trades.[7]

(left to right) Lady Frances Balfour, Millicent Fawcett, and Lady Strachey at the march

By around 2.30 pm the march had formed a line that stretched far down Rotten Row. It set off in the drenching rain, with a brass band leading and Millicent Fawcett, Jane Maria Strachey and Frances Balfour at the head of the column.[8] The procession was followed by a phalanx of carriages and motor cars, many of which carried flags bearing the letters "WS", and bouquets of red and white flowers.[9] Despite the weather, thousands of the public thronged the pavements to enjoy the novel spectacle of "respectable women marching in the streets", according to Harold Smith.[10] There was some mockery and jeering from male onlookers,[11] but according to The Observer's reporter, to a far lesser extent than had been evident in former female demonstrations.[7] The suffragist Katharine Frye, who joined the march at Piccadilly Circus, recorded "not much joking at our expense and no roughness."[12][13]

On reaching Trafalgar Square the march divided: representatives from the northern industrial towns broke off for an open-air meeting at Nelson's Column,[14] while the main march continued to Exeter Hall, for a meeting chaired by the Liberal politician Walter McLaren, whose wife, Eva McLaren, was one of the scheduled speakers;[12] others due to speak included Keir Hardie, the leader of the Labour Party.[15] Eva McLaren said she believed that the Liberal Party, to which she belonged, was the means to women's franchise, and that no one knew better than she did that the Party needed to be educated on the subject.[16] Hardie's presence did not find universal favour in the gathering. His personal sympathy with the militants, contrary to official Labour policy,[17] was a source of dismay in Liberal suffrage circles, and his speech was greeting with some organised hissing from Liberal women sharing the platform.[1] However, he spoke strongly in support of the meeting's resolution, which was carried, that women be given the vote on the same basis as men,[18] and demanded a bill in the current parliamentary session.[19]

At the Trafalgar Square meeting, Eva Gore-Booth referred to the "alienation of the Labour Party through the action of a certain section in the suffrage movement", and asked the party "not to punish the millions of women workers" because of the actions of a small minority.[14] When Hardie arrived from Exeter Hall, he again expressed his support for a women's suffrage bill. Men, he said, should fight to ensure that women enjoyed the same rights as they themselves enjoyed. He expressed a hope that "no working man [would] bring discredit on the class to which he belonged by denying to women those political rights which their fathers had won for them".[14]

Possible interpolation re 13 February[edit]

Meanwhile, on 13 February the WSPU organised a demonstation in which hundreds of women marched from Caxton Hall in Westminster to the Houses of Parliament. A number of women broke through the police cordoned and entered the parliament building. Among the 51 arrested were Charlotte Despard and the Pankhurst sisters Christabel and Sylvia. ([8] Rosen book)