Suffragettes January 28 1913




For an indication of what might be expected from the women in the way of reprisals against the Government one turned naturally to the two militant Suffragist bodies – the Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Freedom League. At the meetings of both these bodies there were unmistakable signs of trouble for the future. There was a very large attendance at the ordinary weekly meeting of the Social and Political Union at the London Pavilion in the afternoon. Mrs Pankhurst, Miss Annie Kenney, and Mrs Drummond were supported by several members of the deputation which recently waited upon Mr. Lloyd George. The gathering was held before the Prime Minister had made his definite statement that the Bill was to be dropped

Mrs Pankhurst said that it seemed to her that unless the unexpected happened the situation meant war again. People were discussing whether the present situation was due to the ignorance, or culpable negligence, or to the base trickery of the Government, who after all were responsible for the deadlock She was going to leave it to those people to decide whether the Government were criminals or fools. (Laughter and cheer.) It was not their business to decide the question. It was their business to say most distinctly what it was their duty to do in the situation for which the Government were responsible. They were told that the majority of the Government were supporters of woman suffrage. These members shared the responsibility for the present situation with the Prime Minister and his anti-suffragist colleagues. They were even more culpable because it was their duty to see that the so-called pledge was adhered to in the spirit and the letter. Their duty now was to resign. The only way in which they could recover a shred of their lost honour was by resigning. Those were their conditions; those were their demands, and unless they got a Government measure, or unless those so-called suffragists, notable Mr Lloyd George and Sir Edward Grey, resigned they would take up the sword again, never to lay it down until the enfranchisement of the women was won.

She spoke very seriously because she knew what it meant. She knew that she was in a position of grave responsibility to the suffrage movement, and she meant to take her part, as an individual, in the front rank of the movement. (Cheers.) People who criticised them spoke of underground and secret methods and had gone to far as to suggest lack of courage of the part of the women who were conducting this campaign. In a civil war like this there was no other way. They had to fact an enemy with all the resources of Government and civilisation at its disposal. They had no army and navy, and no police force. They were in the position of all those people in history who had found themselves opposed to the Government, and who were practically unarmed and unorganised. (A Voice “Rebellion”.) Yes; the accepted rebellion: but she was talking of tactics and methods of warfare. Invariably all the great battles of this kind had been waged by guerilla warfare. Let them think of the Garibaldian movement, of the Duke of Brunswick and the Black Brunswickers, of Mexico, and of the fight against the great Power of Austria – it was guerilla warfare, the only form of warfare possible. Theirs was guerilla warfare – (Cheers.) – and she said that in the course of that warfare the women leaders had shown as much heroism, resource, and ingenuity as any of the great men who were concerned in those struggles. It was guerilla warfare that they declared that afternoon. (Loud cheers.) They declared that they would resume guerilla warfare and continue it until this question was settled as soon as they were satisfied beyond possibility of doubt that the Government refused to take the responsibility in this matter, and the Suffragist members of the Cabinet did their duty by resigning, and so breaking up the present Government and bringing an end to this Parliament. (Cheers.) As soon as they knew what had happened in the House of Commons that afternoon they would hold a Council of war, and decide when to begin proceedings. They could not say whether it was to be a matter of hours of days. She asked the women who wished to co-operate in the engagement in which she would take part to give their names. Their tactics would have to be in the nature of surprises to the enemy, and she again asked those who were prepared to take part in a gallant onslaught with her to send in their names at once. (Loud cheers.)

Miss ANNIE KENNEY, in the course of her speech, referred to the absence of Miss Christabel Pankhurst, who, she said, was doing more good work where where was than she could if she were here in the clutches of the Government. They could carry on the movement over the telephone in these days, and if she (Miss Kenney) chose to be seasick in going to visit Miss Pankhurst what had it got to do with anybody else? (Laughter and a Voice: “Convert the people.”) Yes, they would convert the people by making their lives impossible, by making them say to the Government that they could not have their windows broken daily, (Interruption.) If the person who interrupted was a shopkeeper he had better look out. It was not just their shop windows that were going to be broken they would attack something else unless they were careful.

At the evening meeting held in the Holborn hall, which was crowded to excess, Mrs Pankhurst was even more definite in her threats. She announced that militancy would begin again to-day, that the members of the Union would respect human life but not human property, and that militancy would go on until the Government brought in a Bill. She said she meant to be militant herself, and asked for volunteers to help her.

Mrs Pankhurst presided over the gathering, and was accompanied by Mrs Drummond and Miss Annie Kenney. The meeting was preceded by the singing of the “March of the Women”.

MRS PANKHURST said that the Parliamentary farce was played out. The pledge which they were urged to accept, not only by those who made it, but by those who professed to be their warmest friends, was broken and destroyed. The amendments to the Reform Bill – the suggestion of amendments in itself being an insult to the intelligence of women – were gone. The famous Reform Bill itself, which was to give votes to millions of women – (laughter) – was withdrawn. Either, as they had already said, those who framed the Bill were so ignorant of Parliamentary procedure that they were unfit to occupy any position of responsibility, or they were scoundrels – (loud cheers) – of the very worst kind. So far as Parliament was concerned, the farce of the Reform Bill, with its promises and its amendments was at an end, and what were they offered instead of it? (A Voice: Another insult.) Quite right another insult to their intelligence. They had found men so gullible that she supposed they thought women were worse, because what they offered to women they dare not offer even to the most ignorant of the men folk. Their union had predicted disaster so far as women were concerned, and had said that nothing but a Government measure offered them any security for success. They must have a Government measure to take the place of the “torpedoed” amendments. They said that if the Suffragist members of the Cabinet could not bring their colleagues, who were a minority, into line, then it was their duty – notably the duty of Mr Lloyd George and Sir Edward Grey – to resign forthwith. (Cheers.) And they said that failing those toe alternatives there was nothing for it but for the W.S.P.U. to resume militancy. (Cheers.) That had been their position all along.

Now they were told that next session facilities would be given – (laughter) – for a private member’s Bill. (“Shame”) What was their answer to that? Was there a woman in that hall who would accept such an offer as that? (“No”) No, and they were going to make that understood in no unmistakable way. (Cheers.) They knew the whole thing had been a sort of mock battle. It had been one of those combats, those trials of strength, where the conclusion had been known before it was begun. It had all been arranged – “You take this side, we will take the other. We will pretend to fight it out, but it is settled that you are to be defeated, and then when it is all over we will to and enjoy ourselves together.” (“Oh, will they?”) They had already begun it. In one of the newspapers they were told that in spite of the insults that were hurled by the anti-Suffragist Mr. Harcourt – (hisses) – at Mr. Lloyd George and Sir Edward Grey, on Saturday evening two of those men were seen going arm-in-arm to a music-hall together. Could they not imagine them saying: “Now we have dished the women let us forget all about it, and let us go and see a cinematography performance of something much more interesting to men – big game hunting”) The Suffragist of to-day were not so easily taken in as had been the Suffragist of the past. They had lost that touching faith in politicians, and they were in serious danger of losing faith also in the average man. (Cheers.) The education of men had been so bad. They had had a code of honour for themselves as between men, and the had had a different code of honour as between themselves and women. Men were what heredity had made them, and it was their duty as women, in the interest of the race to teach men a different code of honour. (Cheers.) They were the instruments of Providence in this business, and to those women who had not understood the reason of their militancy she would say that if it was for no other purpose than this, militancy was needed. Women needed to stand face to face with men, not to cajole and persuade them, but to make them do their duty. (Cheers.) They must all do the work that came to their hands when the time was ripe and it was ripe now.

It was what they were going to do in this crisis that mattered. Mrs. Drummond, the leader of the deputation to the Suffragist Cabinet Ministers, had that evening written to Mr. Lloyd George to remind him that he had said he was prepared to see her and her deputation again when some new circumstances arose that changed the situation. She had written and asked him to see them again to-morrow – (cheers) – and had asked him to send an immediate reply fixing the time and place. What the answer would be she did not know, but Mrs. Drummond was ready to go with the deputation and see Mr. Lloyd George again, to repeat to him what had already been said, that it was his duty to come out of the Cabinet, and that nothing short of that would satisfy the women of this country. They wanted to give him a last opportunity of saving his soul. (Laughter and cheers.) They must all be ready. That meeting was a meeting of preparation. Many women had already announced that they intended to be militant at the proper time and the proper place. They would be militant in the ways that they had arranged. She was going to be militant also. (Cheers and “No not yet.”) Women were not sentimentalists. They had stern business to do. The way in which they could best help her was by helping her to make her special piece of militancy successful. In that meeting there were certain stewards wearing white rosettes. She wanted women to volunteer to go with her to give their names to the stewards. If her piece of militancy was to succeed it had to be done with discretion, so she was not going to ask them to get up in the hall, because if they did get up they would not be able to carry through what she had in mind. They had gone through various stages of development in the movement. So long as they thought they could win their case by going straight out of Caxton Hall to the House of Commons, unarmed in the hope that the Prime Minister would receive them, they did so. They allowed themselves to be battered by the police: they allowed themselves to be insulted by the street corner men, by the white slave traffickers, to who the Government wished to present the vote in this Bill. They were going into warfare now, and if they were to succeed it had got to be guerilla warfare. The Government could bring out the soldiers to shoot them down, and they could turn the police against them, as they had done before. They were guerillists. They would fight this fight as Garibaldi fought in the Italian fight for freedom. They had to replace force with woman’s wit: they had to take the enemy unawares. (Cheers.) They had to produce the maximum of effect with the minimum of effort.

In all the struggle that lay before them, in which they had to place honesty and feminine ingenuity against craft and force of every possible kind, one thing they would regard as sacred. Human life was sacred beyond everything else, so that regard for human life would always be nearest to their hearts. Short of that they were warranted in using all the methods that were resorted to in time of war. If they talked to them about the destruction of property , well, what would men do in time of war? What did they do in the South African War? What did they do in a war of aggression against poor helpless savages in order to rob from them the land on which they were born? They burned the roof over the houses of innocent women and children; they turned them out into the streets; they even killed and maimed, and gave no quarter to those human beings. They were not going to injure human beings, but if it was to win the vote they were going to do as much damage to their property as they possibly could. People might say to them: “Why do you touch the property of people not responsible?” They were all responsible unless they put a stop to the way in which women were being treated. And what was going to be the result? As soon as they had had enough of it they would tell the Government that they must end it. The people would say to the Government: “Do something.” Punishment would not end it. They would realise that the only way to get security was by giving the women the vote. They would be told that people who broke the law were showing themselves unfit to have the vote. (Laughter.) But who were the lawbreakers? There were 5,000 men in prison in London, and it was only necessary to make provision for 700 women. If Mrs. Drummond was received by Mr. Lloyd George on the morrow she would be present at the Horticultural Hall to report the result of her conversation. She asked them all to attend the next night prepared to take action. That night they would be prepared not only for words but for deeds. (Loud cheers.)

Mrs Drummond and some of those who had been on the deputation to Mr. Lloyd George then addressed the meeting.

In answer to questions Mrs. PANKHURST said that the campaign was well marked out and they knew what they were going to do. Until they go a Government measure this militancy which would begin on Tuesday night would go on. Asked if she wanted people to “hunger strike” in prison, she said that every person must decide for herself. They did not want unnecessary waste of strength. They wanted to conserve their force, and the action each one should take was not for her to decide. She would carry through what she meant to do, because she believed that she could do a great deal herself to put an end to this torture altogether. She would do her duty as she saw it, and all that was necessary was for them to do their duty as they saw it.

Miss KENNEY also spoke. She vigorously attacked the Labour Party for going on with their Trade Union Bill as if they thought that was more important than votes for women. Every woman ought to take her share, break windows, fire pillar-boxes, or do what was necessary. They had been told that they did not destroy letters. Well, they had got to destroy them now. They were told to convert the public. The were going to convert the public by making it so dreadful and disagreeable and so uncomfortable for them that the public would go to the Government and demand that they should do something. Those women who had come from the provinces should not go home. They were wanted for active service. If they took Mrs. Pankhurst to gaol they who were outside would see whether they would forcibly feed her or not. There would be no waiting for a week or even for a day. Let them hope that before another week was over they would have so changed the situation that the people would force the Cabinet to settle the question for ever.



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