Who is she?

Tomorrow, February 6th 2018 is the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage, 100 years since the Representation of the People Act was passed, giving some women the right to vote for the first time. 

SuffragetteI’ve been trying to find out about our Suffragette and found interesting information in an article to be found at http://www.johndclare.net/Women1_cjbooks.htm  about Suffragettes who were imprisoned for breaking windows which was our Suffragette’s crime. There is an excerpt below. Six of the women named in the Diary by our Suffragette are mentioned,  (Ada Wright, Kathleen Brown, Theresa Garnett, Mary Allen, Mrs Mabel Tuke, and Mary Leigh – it’s pleasing to learn some first names too) and so is another Suffragette, Gladys Roberts of Leeds.

By a process of elimination, this could be her. I’ve looked in the Census of 1891 and discovered that a 5-year-old Gladys Roberts lived at 7 Craven Road, Leeds.  If this is she, she would have been only 18 years old in 1909.

I also discovered that the personal effects of Gladys Robert, ‘ex suffragette’, were auctioned off at Christies in 1981. These included her Holloway brooch, which was awarded to her after her Hunger Strike.   ( ‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement’ Elizabeth Crawford)

In the Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners 1905-1914, held in The Women’s Library, I found all but two of the names and learned some more first names: Lilian DoveWilcox, Sarah Carwin, Florence Cooke and Alice May.

To my delight I also found my Great Grandmother, Mrs. Wiseman. She, too, was awarded a Holloway brooch, which is proudly held in another branch of the family, it having gone down the line of oldest girl in each generation.


If our Suffragette is Gladys Roberts, perhaps the original Diary was included in the sale and is now in the hands of the buyer, who may, you never know, read this and get in touch. Perhaps a relative of Gladys Roberts will read this and get in touch.

I, and so many of the readers of this blog, really want to know more about her and the rest of her life. I shall keep on researching and will post if any more info turns up.

Thank you to my readers for your comments and your loyalty in following the Diary of our Suffragette. How incredibly brave these women were.


It was Marion Wallace Dunlop who was the first to go on a hunger strike. She had been arrested and convicted of wilful damage, caused by rubber stamping a Bill of Rights message on a wall at St. Stephen’s Hall!

She was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment. Being denied political prisoner status she decided to go on a hunger strike on July 5 1909. She threw away the food brought to her. The prison authorities threatened to force feed her with milk through her nostrils. As a form of inducement (or torture) to break her fast, they left food on the table in her cell. After a fast that lasted ninety-one hours the Home Secretary set her free.

The Suffragettes decided on multiple, simultaneous attacks and demonstrations to confuse and harass the establishment, and keep their cause in the newspapers.

One group including Ada Wright was to break windows in Whitehall. To women of culture and refinement, throwing stones in order to cause damage, required great moral courage. As soon as the stone throwing began, arrests were made. Other teams made their way to the House. Onlooking crowds watched terrified, as the women stood their ground fearlessly under the harassment of the milling and rearing police horses.

By the evening, one hundred and eight Suffragettes had been arrested. They appeared the next day in Bow Street to stand trial charged with obstruction, malicious damage and assaulting the police. The police had difficulty identifying their battered prisoners as to who did what. Due to a legal point concerning one of the Acts they were being charged under, the trial was adjourned.

At the same court, the group responsible for the stone throwing were tried separately. This group was found guilty and sentenced to seven days close confinement (solitary) in Holloway Prison. Amongst those imprisoned were Gladys Roberts of Leeds, Miss Wright, Kathleen Brown and Mary Allen. They immediately went on a hunger strike and no amount of pleading by the doctors and intimidation by the authorities persuaded them to eat. Seven days later, they were released without breaking their fast.


And so the Diary ends …….

……… with this poem

Poem on last page of Diary

Life and Death

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced or cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find, me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate
I am the Captain of my soul.

Wm. Ernest Henley

The poem is usually known as ‘Invictus’

Next post:

I think I may have discovered the identity of our Suffragette.

Monday 19th Aug

Still some confusion re dates; should be Monday 19th July)

I had rather a bad night. My bed I was sure was stuffed with stones and my poor bones ached terribly.  When the Doctor came I asked if he could not send us all to Hospital. He said, as a matter of fact he was going to send me there but I must take some nourishment.

At a little after 12o’clock, just after dinner had been thrust in the Hospital Matron and 2 prisoners with a carrying chair came for me and carried me to the Hospital. They put me to bed and gave me a hot water bottle and brought me jelly, milk, bread and butter etc which of course I refused. The Doctor came and talked and talked but I said I wouldn’t budge.

Then he came and asked me where I wanted what was left of me to be sent at the end of the month. I said I did not think there would be any to send anywhere. I gave him Clements Inn and Miss Jones’ address. They brought me library books, the other Doctor came, I had a footbath and then the wardress who was very nice, settled me for the night.

At 6.20 the Governor came with the Matron and said, “Are you feeling miserable?”

I said, “Not at all. I’m very comfortable.”

“Are you still obstinate?”


“Well, I have some news for you, you are to be released.”

He told me to be very quiet and move about slowly and he would send a wardress to dress me and also some brandy in a beaten egg.  He said he would send to Miss Jones and see if she could take me.

As soon as he had gone I got up and waited and at about 7.20 after the Matron had brought me my bag a wardress came for me and I was taken in a cab to the Jones’.

At about 8 o’clock the Drum and Fife Band came and they fetched Mrs. Leigh in to see me and then Christabel and Mrs Lawrence came just as I was put to bed.

I never was so happy in my life!

Last page of Diary to follow

Sunday 18th Aug

(This is the date as written in the Diary. It seems that her 4 days on Hunger Strike have confused our Suffragette.      It should be Sunday July 18th.  Just imagine how she is feeling with no sustenance  for almost four days. All these women show such courage, such fortitude and such strength of will.)

I had a fairly good night but dreaming of food all the time. I find it was Saturday yesterday and not Friday as I thought. The Governor came early. I said I had nothing to say. He said he was very sorry. I feel more cheerful today. I’ve had quite long talks with Mary Allen through the wall. Miss Brooke was ill in the night. We have beaten Mrs Wallace Dunlop’s record. Dinnertime today will be 96 hours without food.

The younger Doctor has been. He felt my pulse for ever so long both sitting up and lying down. I wonder if we shall be sent to Hospital. Mary Allen is singing. Her heart is bad. So is Miss Carwin’s who has also a very bad headache and lumbago. Mary Allen is thinking of what she will do when she is on her holidays. We heard the singing in the Chapel. Mary Allen is singing hymns for us now.

I am sitting with my feet in hot water which is brought every night. I found the others don’t get it. I asked the Doctor for it. I’ve just made my bed. It’s made me feel so tired and faint. Our feet are all like stones. I don’t think the Doctor is coming again tonight. I think Mary Allen feels being in these cells rather badly but she says she would not have missed it. We shall have a tale to tell if we get out alive. I suppose everyone is going to Church now. I hope they will remember we poor wretches.

“To Freedom’s Cause till Death!”  My feet are warmer now. The Doctor did come.

Saturday 17th July

I can’t get up this morning. The cleaner came and swept out my cell. She smiled at me and it made me so weepy. The Doctor has been and tried to persuade me to give up the Hunger Strike by saying  I was not so robust as the others, what would my Mother say and so on. I had to make a fool of myself when he had gone. The Governor and Matron have just been to say the Herbert Gladstone has written that he has fully considered the petitions but sees no reason why he should take action which proves he could if he would. The Chaplain just looked in.

A visiting magistrate has just been and seemed very sympathetic.  He says he will inform H. Gladstone that nothing but 1st Division will satisfy us. He says 4 more Suffragettes came in yesterday. I expect they are Freedom Leaguers. Dinner has just been brought in and it is now 72 hours since I tasted food. “Great your strength if great your need.”

Tremendous excitement. Mary Allen has just come down to the cell next to mine. She has been in Dx til now. Miss Spring has been taken back to Dx because she was ill I think. Mary Allen has broken more windows when she heard H G’s reply. It has quite bucked me up.

There has been a butterfly in my cell all day. It beat itself against the window at night and made such a noise until I got up and put it in a paper bag.

( I find this last paragraph really moving.)

Friday 16th July

I slept well but was aroused by someone ringing the bell. The Doctor was sent for. I did not know who it was. I am getting weaker. I’ve applied for the Chaplain. The wardress said to me this morning,” Get your clothes and we shall want to take your bed out.”  I wonder if they will. Miss Carwin didn’t have hers all yesterday. Part of the process seems to be to degrade us by not allowing us to wash properly. Last night I had only my drinking can of water to wash in. My wash tin leaked violently. I asked the wardress if we were not supposed to wash at night and she said, “In this part of the prison you are only supposed to wash in the morning.”

In the morning we had had about a quart of water and a little scrap of soap which was taken away. This morning I have only had my drinking can of water to wash in again and no soap. May Herbert Gladstone’s downfall be speedy. I asked the Doctor yesterday for my ointment and bandage out of my bag and they brought me my bag and let me take it out. I also took out my toothbrush and face flannel with the wardress’s permission as the Doctor said I could have any bits of linen or things of that sort which I needed for the eczema.

Yesterday he also sent me a box of ointment which I did not keep as I was having my own. Yesterday I read morning and evening prayers, lessons etc. They understand refined torture in Holloway. I do not like the Governor and should not trust him. I wish I could faint or something of that sort. How long I wonder can I live without food and without air. The Chaplain has been and says he can’t get us library books. The Doctor has been also. He seems much amused and tries to persuade us to desist. A nice fat old wardress who I take to be the Matron of the Hospital and who can smile always comes with him which is a comfort. He is going to get me some soap and water and something to sit on as they have removed my mattress and bedding.

I have just had a good wash with about a quart of hot water and soap which was brought. They brought me my mattress, pillow and rug late this afternoon. I am waiting for my sheets and blanket now and then I shall go to bed. I have read nearly all the Book of Job. I saw through the peephole which was accidentally left open, Mrs Holt White Simmons go out of the cell opposite looking ghastly. I wonder if I look likewise 4 days without food.  Miss Carwin has got 10 days close confinement. The Governor and Matron came this afternoon but to no purpose. God help me to hold out. I feel so chokey when I think of the outside world.

Thursday 15th July 1909

I heard a bell this morning so I dressed.  Wardresses came. “Any applications?”  I asked for the Governor and the Doctor. They brought in a little pan of water, towel and a bit of soap. I went to the lavatory and came back to find that an india-rubber pint jar of water and a comb had also been left in my cell. How long, oh Lord! How long?

I lie on the bed, I feel so weak. Breakfast  has just been put in. They have changed my diet to the vegetarian and so have brought a lump of butter beside the usual. I said I did not want any, God help me. I wonder if those outside are thinking of us. I am a coward. A day of reckoning will come for the Governor. Oh, Nell, I am glad you are not here. It is hard to bear. Perhaps if your turn comes we shall have won the battle.

No sunshine can get into this cell. At night there is a gas jet burning over the door. Always a dull light. However my room at Stamford and Metcalf’s where I sat for 4 years was not much lighter than this.

(Here our Suffragette has sketched two small drawings of her cell)

Suffragette's cell

Suffragette's cell 2

I have seen the Doctor. He argued with me about the unreasonableness of our conduct. He says he will try and let me have my ointment.  After the Doctor left they changed the india-rubber jar for an earthenware one. The Chaplain came. He was rather nice. A  wardress who came with him tried to argue that our conduct was retarding the Cause etc etc.

The Chaplain asked if there was anything I wanted. I said I wanted a good many things and supposed we should not be allowed a library book. He said he thought we should have one but he was going to see the Governor about us being down here. We are practically underground  for the window just seems to come to the ground level. He said he was very sorry to see us here.

I could not keep back a few tears when he had gone. I feel so weak. I forgot to say that a wardress brought in a Bible, Prayer Book and Hymn Book this morning. I have  spent the time reading them. “Fight the good fight of faith”  I like the hymn. “The Son of God goes forth to war “and 14th John. I read the marriage service over. I thought it would get my blood up so I read Paul’s opinions on the duties of a wife. They have not removed my mattress. I have spent all day lying on it.

I suppose Mother and Father are enjoying the sea air at Bridlington. Thank God they don’t know where I am. The bang of the double doors is terrible. It seems strange to think of all who we love going about their business in the usual way while we ………

Oh! I do feel blubbery. I expect it is because I am losing my strength. I am not usually given to weeping but I feel I should like to have a jolly good cry.

I wonder what was in the papers about us, whether there were any questions in the House. I heard a wardress say something about Kier Hardy. I applied to see the Governor but he has not been yet.  I hear knocking on the walls and all the prisoners are shouting that they have not eaten their food. Neither have I. Dinner consisted of an egg and potatoes and a pint of milk and (Oh! awful temptation) a boiled onion.

I am getting disinclined to write even.

The Governor’s been.  I asked if yesterday’s proceedings were to be considered as Herbert Gladstone’s reply. He said that the visiting Magistrates were a separate body and acted on their own initiative. Herbert  Gladstone had not replied. I expect the visiting magistrates get the orders from Gladstone as I saw my sentence was written down before I was tried and the others who came after me.