Suffragettes January 31 1914





Acting upon his promise to a deputation from the Women’s Social and Political Union, which waited upon him on Monday, the Bishop of London has visited Holloway Gaol with a view of ascertaining the condition of Miss Rachel Peace, a militant prisoner, whose health was stated to have become affected as the result of forcible feeding. Mrs. Diplock was chosen by the deputation to interview the Bishop of London, and his Lordship has sent the following letter to her:

London House, 32, St. James’s-square,
Jan. 29, 1914

To Mrs. Diplock,

Dear Madam, – In accordance with the promise given to you and your deputation, I obtained a permit from the Home Secretary to visit Miss Peace, and paid a visit to the prison at ten o’clock yesterday [Wednesday] morning. The “terms of reference” containing the charge which you asked me to investigate were contained the the paper which you handed me on behalf of the deputation, and which was as follows:

Miss Ansell went in on Monday at about three o’clock, and on Tuesday afternoon was awakened by a shriek of pain uncontrollable, terrible pain, and then loud moans, heart-breaking. A door slammed and she heard no more. Between nine and ten next morning she heard several people go to the same cell and the shrieks and the moans were repeated. In the afternoon the same thing, and was repeated while she was in prison twice a day. Miss Ansell refused to be examined by the doctor, or to speak to him but on the third day she sat up and said: “You devil! You devil!” several times. On Thursday the doctor with a moustache said she was to be released. Both doctors are coarse, unfeeling brutes, strongly built men of about forty. Miss Ansell was in the convicted hospital.

Miss Ansell suggests that as she did not hear any sound after the door was slammed that Miss Peace may be in the padded cell. She heard the shrieks as someone came to wash the instrument at the tap, and then all was silent. Her own taxi-driver had tears in his eyes as he helped her into her house. Miss Ansell suggests, could we not get a Bishop to go and see Rachel Peace, or a member of Parliament to insist on seeing her. She repeated several times that Rachel Peace must come out.

I was at once admitted to the Governor’s room, and was glad to find in the Governor one whom I had previously known at Wormwood Scrubs prison. He sent for the chaplain and the matron, and after asking them various questions, I requested to be allowed to go at once to see Miss Peace, and, accompanied by the Governor and matron, I went across to what I think was called the “Remand Hospital.” I noticed that this building was about 300 yards from the “Convicted Hospital” in which Miss Ansell had been confined, and was separated from it by thick walls and a large courtyard.

You will be relieved to hear that I found Miss Peace, who had, of course, no idea that I was coming lying on a comfortable bed, fully dressed, in a well-warmed cell, much larger than those I have been accustomed to see in the prisons I have visited. Her face was fully rounded, and showed no signs of emaciation or distress, except that it was a little pale. I was introduced to her by the Governor, who then left the cell.

I asked her if she minded my having a little talk with her. When she assented. I asked her how she was, and she complained of indigestion, and also some discomfort in her lower limbs, which made her disinclined to avail herself of the leave for exercise which was, of course, given her. I asked her whether she had ever shrieked, as described by Miss Ansell. She said that she may have uttered one exclamation once, but she had never shrieked. Had she ever been put in a padded cell? Certainly not. Did she complain of her treatment in any way? Yes, her complaint was this: That though she had served quietly two sentences, one of six months and one of three months, and again had behaved well during this term of imprisonment, she was not released as other were under the new Act, and that is why she now felt aggrieved.

I then told her that if she would give any undertaking, by word or writing, which she would herself consider binding, that she would not commit any act of militance, such as burning of houses, for which she was imprisoned, I had the Home Secretary’s assurance that she would be released at once. This undertaking she said she was unable conscientiously to give, but she said that she would promise to observe the conditions of any licence under which she might be released. This I promised to report to the Home Secretary, and after spending about a quarter of an hour with her, she thanked me for coming, and I left the cell.

I then asked to see the head doctor, whose appearance did not in any way bear out the description given by Miss Ansell, and he and I, and the Governor, and the matron talked the matter over. They all spoke very kindly of Miss Peace, and gave her a good character for her behaviour in the prison, and this I also promised to report.

I then went straight to the Home Office, and made a report of my visit. I pleaded that Miss Peace, in view of her good conduct in the prison, and her promise to abide by the terms of her licence, might be released under the new Act. The Home Secretary, though he was evidently most anxious to show clemency to the prisoner, felt that he could not accede to this application. The discharge under the new Act can be granted only on grounds of health, and runs only for a short time. At the end of that time the licence expires, and any promise to obey the licence would expire with it, and, so far as her promise is concerned, the prisoner, he said, would be free again to burn the houses of peaceful citizens. Though the Home Secretary could not release Miss Peace on the terms she proposed, he repeated his willingness to advise he absolute release if she would give a promise to refrain for the future from crime. The grievance I have tried to get rectified was her own grievance, and not the grievance attributed to her by others. She said nothing whatever to me about forcible feeding.

I have no hesitation in saying that if Miss Ansell heard shrieks they could not have been uttered by Miss Peace, and though everyone must deplore the necessity of imprisoning any such poor woman or of forcibly feeding anyone at all, still more a woman, the fears which you express to me with regard to her condition are not borne out by the facts of the case.

Yours faithfully, A. F. LONDON

I am sending a copy of this letter to the Home Secretary and to the Press.

THE MORNING POST JANUARY 31 1914 …….. View of the Bishop’s visit to Holloway by the Morning Post

THE MORNING POST FEBRUARY 2 1914 …….. Militants and Forcible Feeding – The Bishop of London “In Blinkers”

THE MORNING POST FEBRUARY 10 1914 ……. Bishop of London’s second visit to Holloway – The Screams Explained

THE MORNING POST FEBRUARY 11 1914 ……. The Bishop of London in Disfavour



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.