The Suffragettes and the Cat and Mouse Act #Fawcett #MondayBlogs #Women

 

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It can only be estimated that the number of women who went to prison was more than 1,000 because many were imprisoned under public order offences and so are not easy to identify.

Neither is it certain how many went on hunger strike or were forcibly fed.

 But it is certain that the Suffragettes refused to bow to violence against them. 

 They were quite happy to go to prison. And, from 1909, women demanding the status of political prisoners began to refuse food. The government was extremely concerned that they might die in prison thus giving the movement martyrs. So prison governors were ordered to force-feed Suffragettes even though this caused a public outcry as forced feeding was traditionally used to feed those who were then called lunatics…as opposed to what were mostly educated women.

 Force-feeding was a serious problem. The force-feeding of hunger-striking suffragettes was invasive, demeaning, and dangerous, and in some instances it damaged the long-term health of the victims, because it should also be remembered that women were given disproportionately long sentences for minor offences such as protesting, resisting arrest, or smashing a window.

 There have been many studies of the letters, diaries and autobiographies written by prisoners indicating the horrors of force-feeding and the particularly harsh treatment of poor or working-class women. One describes the experiences of Lady Constance Lytton, who disguised herself as a poor woman named Jane Warton in order to gather evidence of differential treatment.

Constance Lytton

Jane Warton was “held down by wardresses as the doctor inserted a four-foot-long tube down her throat. A few seconds after the tube was down, she vomited all over her hair, her clothes and the wall, yet the task continued until all the liquid had been emptied into her stomach. As the doctor left ‘he gave me a slap on the cheek’, Constance recollected, ‘not violently, but, as it were, to express his contemptuous disapproval’.”

She was forcibly fed seven more times before her true identity was revealed and she was released. Constance never fully recovered from her ordeal – she suffered a stroke in 1912 and died in 1923.

 Forcible feeding was humiliating, especially so for poor women fed through the rectum and vagina. The knowledge that new tubes were not always available and that used tubes may have been previously inflicted on diseased people undoubtedly added to the feelings of abuse, dirtiness and indecency that the women felt.

 

Herbert Asquith

 The government of Asquith responded with The Cat and Mouse Act When a Suffragette was sent to prison, it was assumed that she would go on hunger strike as this caused the authorities maximum discomfort. The Cat and Mouse Act allowed the Suffragettes to go on a hunger strike so they became weaker and weaker. Force-feeding was not used. When the Suffragettes were very weak they were released from prison. If they died out of prison, this was of no embarrassment to the Government. However, they did not die but those who were released were so ill that they could take no part in violent Suffragette struggles. When the women who had been arrested and released had regained their strength, they were re-arrested for the most trivial of reason and the whole process started again.

This, from the government’s point of view, was a very simple but effective weapon against the Suffragettes.

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The move for women to have the vote had really started in 1897 when Millicent Fawcett  founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage.

 

Millicent

 Millicent Fawcett believed in peaceful protest. She felt that any violence or trouble would persuade men that women could not be trusted to have the right to vote. Her game plan was patience and logical arguments. Fawcett argued that women could hold responsible posts in society such as sitting on school boards yet were not trusted to vote; she argued that if parliament made laws and if women had to obey those laws, then women should be part of the process of making those laws; she argued that as women had to pay taxes as men, they should have the same rights as men

And one of her most powerful arguments was that wealthy mistresses of large manors and estates employed gardeners, workmen and labourers who could vote……..but the women could not regardless of their wealth…..

Dame Millicett’s legacy continues today through the women’s rights charity, the Fawcett Society.

Welcoming the announcement, chief executive Sam Smethers called it a, “fitting tribute. Her contribution was great but she has been overlooked and unrecognised until now. By honouring her we also honour the wider suffrage movement.”

The Fawcett Society@fawcettsociety is the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights.

The Fawcett Society’s story begins with  Millicent Fawcett , suffragist and women’s rights campaigner who made it her lifetime’s work to secure women the right to vote.

At the age of 19, she organised signatures for the first petition for women’s suffrage, though she was too young to sign it herself. She became President of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (the NUWSS) from 1907-19. With 50,000 members it was the largest organisation agitating for female suffrage at the time. Her powerful and peaceful mass campaign was instrumental in securing the first extension of voting rights for women in 1918.

Millicent worked alongside the Suffragettes, who employed different, and more militant tactics in their campaign. From the beginning,  Millicent took an interest in women’s empowerment in its broadest sense; the suffragette colours were green, white and violet which stood for Give Women Votes. The suffragist colours, by contrast, reflected their broader movement: green, white and red or Give Women Rights.

In 1913 she was awarded a brooch engraved with “For Steadfastness and Courage”, which The Fawcett Society till has today.  Millicent Fawcett died in 1929, a year after women were finally given equal voting rights. Her work has continued ever since, with The London Society for Women’s Suffrage renamed as The Fawcett Society in her honour in 1953.

2018 marks 100 years since women first secured the right to vote, and  Millicent Fawcett will be making history again. She’ll become the first woman commemorated with a statue in Parliament Square– a landmark moment for the wider suffrage movement, and for women everywhere.

She went on to lead the constitutional suffrage campaign and made this cause her lifetime’s work, securing equal voting rights 62 years later. Today The Fawcett Society continues her legacy of fighting sexism and gender inequality, the belief being that no one should be prevented from reaching their full potential because of their gender.

The Fawcett Society campaigns to:

Close the gender pay gap. Secure equal power. Challenge attitudes and change minds. Defend women’s rights post-Brexit. There must be no turning the clock back.

THEIR VISION: A society in which the choices you can make and the control you have over your life are no longer determined by your gender.

THEIR MISSION: We publish compelling research to educate, inform and lead the debate. We bring together politicians, academics, grassroots activists and wider civil society to develop innovative, practical solutions

They campaign with women and men to make change happen.

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Mutterings by author, Thorne Moore

 Monday, 28 August 2017

Judith Barrow coming full circle

I have written four novels and each has been independent – different settings, different characters, different themes – but I have begun to feel the allure of keeping a story going, beyond the last page of a book. I have written short stories that accompany my novels, but I’ve never yet been brave enough to take on a whole series.
That is what Judith Barrow has done, with her Howarth Family trilogy, covering the decades from the Second World War to the late sixties, and she has completed it now with a prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, covering the early decades of the 20th century. I am hugely impressed.

Pattern of Shadows is the first of the Howarth family trilogy. Mary is a nursing sister at Lancashire prison camp for the housing and treatment of German POWs. Life at work is difficult but fulfilling, life at home a constant round of arguments, until Frank Shuttleworth, a guard at the camp turns up. Frank is difficult to love but persistent and won’t leave until Mary agrees to walk out with him.

Sequel to Pattern of ShadowsChanging Patterns is set in May 1950, Britain is struggling with the hardships of rationing and the aftermath of the Second World War There are many obstacles in the way of Mary’s happiness, not the least of which is her troubled family. When tragedy strikes, Mary hopes it will unite her siblings. Will the family pull together to save one of their own from a common enemy.

The last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows is set in 1969. There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way they can escape their murderous consequences.

And so to the prequel: A Hundred Tiny Threads: Winifred is a determined young woman eager for new experiences. When her friend Honora – an Irish girl, with the freedom to do as she pleases – drags Winifred along to a suffragette rally, she realises that there is more to life than the shop and her parents’ humdrum lives of work and grumbling.
 Bill Howarth’s troubled childhood echoes through his early adult life and the scars linger, affecting his work, his relationships and his health. The only light in his life comes from a chance meeting with Winifred, the daughter of a Lancashire grocer.

For the record, in my opinion, this is a great book, that places two people in the midst of some of the most earth-shattering and horrifying events of the early 20th century but shows it all through their very individual eyes, coloured by their own uniquely troubled situations. And, of course, knowing how it ends in the following trilogy adds a piquant regret to the tale.

Judith, like me, has lived in Pembrokeshire for many years and, like me, came here from a distant galaxy long ago and far away – Well, Yorkshire in her case and Bedfordshire in mine. Here, she tells how she came to Pembrokeshire.
We found Pembrokeshire by accident.
With three children under three, an old cottage half renovated and a small business that had become so successful that we were working seven days a week, we were exhausted. David, my husband, thought we should get off the treadmill; at least for a fortnight.
Pre-children, cottage and business, we always holidayed in Cornwall. But we decided it was too far with a young family and an unreliable van. We’d go to Wales; not too difficult a journey from Lancashire, we thought.
Once that was mentioned, David was eager to see Four Crosses, near Welshpool, where his grandfather originated from.
‘We could stay there,’ he said.
‘But the children will want beaches,’ I protested. ‘And I’ve heard Pembrokeshire has wonderful beaches.
We agreed to toss a coin and Pembrokeshire won. We’d call at Four Crosses on the way home.
I borrowed books on Wales from the library and, balancing our 8-month-old twins, one on each knee, I read as much as I could about the county. It sounded just the place to take children for a holiday. We booked a caravan and, when the big day came, packed the van to the hilt with everything the children would need, remembering only at the last minute, to throw a few clothes in for ourselves.
It took 10 hours.
In 1978 there was no easy route from the North of England to West Wales.
We meandered through small lanes, stopping for emergencies like much needed drinks, picnics, lavatory stops and throwing bread to the ducks whenever our eldest daughter spotted water. I’d learned to keep a bag of stale bread for such times.
The closer we were to our destination the slower we went. In the heat of the day the engine in our old van struggled; we needed to top up the radiator every hour or so. For the last 50 miles we became stuck in traffic jams.
We got lost numerous times.
All this and three ever-increasingly fractious children.
We arrived at the caravan site in the middle of the night so were relieved to find the key in the door.
The owner, a farmer, had given up and gone home.
I woke early. Leaving David in charge of our exhausted and still sleeping family, I crept out.
The sun was already warm; a soft breeze barely moved the leaves on the oak tree nearby. Skylarks flittered and swooped overhead, calling to one another. 
Although the caravan was one of four in the farmer’s field, we were the only people there. It was so quiet, so peaceful.
I walked along a small path. Within minutes I was faced by a panorama of sea. It seemed so still from the top of the cliff, but the water blended turquoise and dark blue with unseen currents, the horizon was a silvery line.
Faint voices from two small fishing boats carried on the air.
The sandstone cliffs curved round in a natural cove. Jagged rocks, surrounded by white ripples of water, jutted up towards the sky.
I fell in love with Pembrokeshire.
I’d always liked living so close to the Pennines. The moors, criss-crossed by ancient stone walls, were glorious with wild rhododendrons in summer, heather in the autumn. Even when brooding under swathes of drifting mist or white-over with snow, I was happy there.
But Pembrokeshire has a powerful glory of its own.
Within months we’d thrown caution, and our past lives, to the wind and moved here, much to the consternation of our extended family; as far as they were concerned we were moving to the ends of the earth.
But it was one of the best decisions of my life.