18th November 1910. The Real Black Friday.
The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst with the slogan, ‘Deeds not Words’. (1)
Moves for women’s suffrage had grown over the years with the demeaning use of ‘Suffragette’ attributed to Charles Hands of the Daily Mail in 1906.
By 1909 one of the weapons used by these Suffragettes was the hunger strike which was met by forced feeding.
Then came the first Conciliation Bill of 1910, which would have given the vote to certain wealthy women, but after receiving a Second Reading, Prime Minister, Asquith announced he was dissolving Parliament.
The WSPU responded by sending a delegation to Parliament Today in 1910 led by Emmeline Pankhurst, but which was to result in six hours of fighting between police and Suffragettes, widespread arrests, and a day to be known as ‘Bloody Friday’.
Emmeline had three daughters with the eldest Christabel imprisoned as early as 1905, becoming the leader in London, whilst her mother worked the country.(2)
After the failure of the First Conciliation Bill a second was presented in 1911 which on its failure saw the Suffragettes again attack the Parliament.
Then in 1913, after the third (1912) Bill’s failure, arson and violence saw destruction at Regent’s Park, and Kew Gardens where the orchid and tea houses were destroyed.
Several Government Ministers’ houses were bombed and Herbert Asquith was attacked while playing golf. In 1914 Indian club-wielding ladies were met by a 1000 strong police cordon when attempting to present a petition to the King, churches were burnt and windows smashed.
Valuable paintings were damaged including Velazquez’s, Rokeby Venus in the National Gallery. A bomb destroyed Yarmouth Pier.
Expectation had risen in 1912, when the Franchise and Registration Bill was introduced abolishing plural voting and property qualification and setting 21 as the age of voting for men.
However in January 1913 the government withdrew the Bill and the Home Secretary banned public meetings by the suffragettes; violence continued. Emmeline was gaoled after bombing Chancellor, Lloyd George’s golfing villa in Surrey. A bomb was found in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Then in June, Emily Davison tragically died under the King’s horse at Epsom. See plaque Left.(3)
1913 saw the infamous Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act, commonly ‘The Cat and Mouse Act’ that allowed hunger-striking inmates to be released, only to be re-arrested after they had recovered.
With armed conflict looming in 1914, all suffragette activity ceased as attention was given to the war effort, when women were to prove themselves as equal to men in many areas, including munitions, and which probably did more for women’s suffrage than all the pre-war violence.
A bronze statue to Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Dame Christabel stands at the entrance to Parliament’s Victoria Tower Gardens: all passion spent!
(1) In 1908 WSPU had adopted the three colours: white, green and violet as symbolic of its struggles.
(2) Christabel fled to Paris in 1912 to avoid prison, eventually to settle in America.
(3) She was later to have a plaque surreptitiously erected in the Commons’ crypt broom cupboard by radical Tony Benn. In 1911 she had hidden there, so she could say her address was the House of Commons at Census time.
mirror.co.uk. Ruth Halkon 27.11.2015. The Real Black Friday/Pics of Nov 18th.
tompride.wordpress.com/Pic of Plaque.