|Women’s Suffrage in the UK||Women Suffrage in the USA||Parliamentary Reform|
On 25th June 1909 Marion Wallace-Dunlop was charged "with wilfully damaging the stone work of St. Stephen's Hall, House of Commons, by stamping it with an indelible rubber stamp, doing damage to the value of 10s." According to a report in The Times Wallace-Dunlop printed a notice that read: "Women's Deputation. June 29. Bill of Rights. It is the right of the subjects to petition the King, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitionings are illegal."
Wallace-Dunlop was found guilty of wilful damage and when she refused to pay a fine she was sent to prison for a month. On 5th July, 1909 she petitioned the governor of Holloway Prison: “I claim the right recognized by all civilized nations that a person imprisoned for a political offence should have first-division treatment; and as a matter of principle, not only for my own sake but for the sake of others who may come after me, I am now refusing all food until this matter is settled to my satisfaction.”
In her book, Unshackled (1959) Christabel Pankhurst claimed: "Miss Wallace Dunlop, taking counsel with no one and acting entirely on her own initiative, sent to the Home Secretary, Mr. Gladstone, as soon as she entered Holloway Prison, an application to be placed in the first division as befitted one charged with a political offence. She announced that she would eat no food until this right was conceded."
Marion Wallace-Dunlop refused to eat for several days. Afraid that she might die and become a martyr, it was decided to release her after fasting for 91 hours. Soon afterwards a group of suffragettes in Holloway Prison who had been convicted of breaking windows, adopted the same strategy. After six days they were also released.
On 22nd September 1909 Charlotte Marsh, Laura Ainsworth and Mary Leigh were arrested while disrupting a public meeting being held by Herbert Asquith. As Michelle Myall has pointed out: "The police attempted to move the two women by, among other methods, turning a hosepipe on them and throwing stones. However, Charlotte Marsh and Mary Leigh proved to be formidable opponents and were only brought down from the roof when three policeman dragged them down."
Marsh, Ainsworth and Leigh were all sentenced to two weeks' imprisonment. They immediately decided to go on hunger-strike, a strategy developed by Marion Wallace-Dunlop a few weeks earlier. Wallace-Dunlop had been immediately released when she had tried this in Holloway Prison, but the governor of Winson Green Prison, was willing to feed the three women by force.
C.P. Scott wrote to Asquith complaining of the "substantial injustice of punishing a girl like Miss Marsh with two months hard labour plus forcible feeding." According to Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999): "The Prison Visiting Committee reported that at first she had to be fed by placing food in the mouth and holding the nostrils, but that she later took food from a feeding cup." Votes for Women, on her release, reported that Charlotte Marsh had been fed by tube 139 times.
Mary Leigh, one of the three women in Winson Green Prison, described what it was like to be force-fed: "On Saturday afternoon the wardress forced me onto the bed and two doctors came in. While I was held down a nasal tube was inserted. It is two yards long, with a funnel at the end; there is a glass junction in the middle to see if the liquid is passing. The end is put up the right and left nostril on alternative days. The sensation is most painful - the drums of the ears seem to be bursting and there is a horrible pain in the throat and the breast. The tube is pushed down 20 inches. I am on the bed pinned down by wardresses, one doctor holds the funnel end, and the other doctor forces the other end up the nostrils. The one holding the funnel end pours the liquid down - about a pint of milk... egg and milk is sometimes used." Leigh's graphic account of the horrors of forcible feeding was published while she was still in prison. Afraid that she might die and become a martyr, it was decided to release her.
A few days after leaving prison, Mary Leigh, along with Emily Davison and Constance Lytton were caught throwing stones at a car taking David Lloyd George to a meeting in Newcastle. The stones were wrapped in Emily's favourite words: "Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God." The women were found guilty and sentenced to one month's hard labour at Strangeways Prison. The women went on hunger strike but once again the prison authorities decided to force-feed the women. The WSPU initiated legal proceedings against the home secretary, prison governor, and prison doctor on Mary Leigh's behalf, opening a defence fund in her name. The case was brought to trial in December 1909, and the jury found for the defence, upholding the defence's claim that forcible feeding had been necessary to preserve life and that minimum force had been used.
Emmeline Pankhurst's sister, Mary Clarke, was the organiser of the WSPU in Brighton. According to Sylvia Pankhurst: "Facing the rude violence of the seaside rowdies at Brighton, where she was stationed, she displayed a quiet, persistent courage, which made peculiarly large demands on one so sensitive. Exerting her frail physique to its utmost, she was grievously ill on the eve of Black Friday, and her Brighton comrades had begged her not to go. She had promised to take the easier course of arrest for window-breaking, and had telegraphed to Brighton from the police court."
Clarke was arrested and sent to Holloway Prison, where she endured a hunger-strike and forced-feeding. She was released on 22nd December, 1924 but two days later Emmeline Pankhurst found her unconcious and she died soon afterwards as a result of a burst blood vessel on the brain.Clarke, like several suffragettes, probably died as a result of being forced fed in prison.
In 1912 the WSPU organised a new campaign that involved the large-scale smashing of shop-windows. Frederick Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence both disagreed with this strategy but Christabel Pankhurst ignored their objections. As soon as this wholesale smashing of shop windows began, the government ordered the arrest of the leaders of the WSPU. Christabel escaped to France but Frederick and Emmeline were arrested, tried and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. They were also successfully sued for the cost of the damage caused by the WSPU.
A drawing from the WSPU newspaper, The Suffragette in 1909
Frederick Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence both went on hunger strike and had to face the full rigours of forcible feeding twice a day for several days. He later recalled the experience in his memoirs, Fate Has Been Kind (1943): "The head doctor, a most sensitive man, was visibly distressed by what he had to do. It certainly was an unpleasant and painful process and a sufficient number of warders had to be called in to prevent my moving while a rubber tube was pushed up my nostril and down into my throat and liquid was poured through it into my stomach. Twice a day thereafter one of the doctors fed me in this way. I was not allowed to leave my cell in the hospital and for the most part I had to stay in bed. There was nothing to do but to read; and the days were very long and went very slowly."
Christabel Pankhurst later recorded: "Mother and Mr. and Mrs. Pethick Lawrence went on hunger-strike. The Government retaliated by forcible feeding. This was actually carried out in the case of Mr. and Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence. The doctors and wardresses came to Mother's cell armed with forcible-feeding apparatus. Forewarned by the cries of Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence Mother received them with all her majestic indignation. They fell back and left her. Neither then nor at any time in her log and dreadful conflict with the government was she forcibly fed."
Anti-suffragette postcard (1909)
Dr. Charles Mansell-Moullin joined forces with Sir Victor Horsley and Dr. Agnes Savill to write a report on the impact of the forced-feeding of suffragettes. In a speech on 13th March, 1913 he argued that Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary, had been making misleading statements to the House of Commons: "Now Mr. McKenna has said time after time that forcible feeding, as carried out in His Majesty's prisons, is neither dangerous nor painful. Only the other day he said, in answer to an obviously inspired question as to the possibility of a lady suffering injury from the treatment she received in prison, "I must wait until a case arises in which any person has suffered any injury from her treatment in prison."... He relies entirely upon reports that are made to him - reports that must come from the prison officials, and go through the Home Office to him, and his statements are entirely founded upon those reports. I have no hesitation in saying that these reports, if they justify the statements that Mr. McKenna has made, are absolutely untrue. They not only deceive the public, but from the persistence with which they are got up in the same sense, they must be intended to deceive the public."
Kitty Marion was a leading figure in the WSPU arson campaign and she was responsible for setting fire to Levetleigh House at St Leonards (April 1913), the Grandstand at Hurst Park racecourse (June 1913) and various houses in Liverpool (August, 1913) and Manchester (November, 1913). These incidents resulted in a series of further terms of imprisonment during which force-feeding occurred followed by release under the Cat & Mouse Act. It has been calculated that Marion endured 200 force-feedings in prison while on hunger strike.
Sylvia Pankhurst recovering from hunger strike in July 1913.
In 1913 the WSPU increased its campaign to destroy public and private property. The women responsible were often caught and once in prison they went on hunger-strike. Determined to avoid these women becoming martyrs, the government introduced the Prisoner's Temporary Discharge of Ill Health Act. Suffragettes were now allowed to go on hunger strike but as soon as they became ill they were released. Once the women had recovered, the police re-arrested them and returned them to prison where they completed their sentences. This successful means of dealing with hunger strikes became known as the Cat and Mouse Act.
(1) In her book Memories of a Militant, Annie Kenney explained the use of the hunger strike.
In 1909 Wallace Dunlop went to prison and defied the long sentences that were being given by adopting the hunger-strike. 'Release or Death' was her motto. From that day, July 5th, 1909, the hunger-strike was the greatest weapon we possessed against the Government before long all Suffragette prisoners were on hunger-strike, so the threat to pass long sentences on us had failed. Sentences grew shorter.
(2) Joseph Lennon, Times Literary Supplement (22nd July, 2009)
One hundred years ago this month, Marion Wallace-Dunlop (1864–1942) became the first modern hunger striker. She came to her prison cell as a militant suffragette, but also as a talented artist intent on challenging contemporary images of women. After she had fasted for ninety-one hours in London’s Holloway Prison, the Home Office ordered her unconditional release on July 8, 1909, as her health, already weak, began to fail. Her strike influenced those of Mohandas Gandhi, James Connolly and others who followed her example. Thousands of other strikes have moved the practice in new directions, but we should acknowledge its originator....
“Hunger strike” needs to be modified by “modern” because similar practices had existed before 1909 in Ireland, India and Russia, yet in different circumstances, for other reasons and narrower “audiences” – and none of these fasts directly influenced Wallace-Dunlop’s. Modern hunger strikes differ from earlier ones because they aim to influence public opinion and governance, rather than merely appeal to the humanity of jailers or protest a prisoner’s innocence. The best example of an earlier hunger strike is the golodovka of Russian political prisoners in Siberia in the 1870s – these refused food in protest at their inhuman treatment. (George Kennan, an American travel writer, wrote influential accounts of these strikes in the 1880s in Century Magazine.) Public fasts had occurred intermittently in Ireland and India since at least early medieval times, but for reasons – in Ireland, legal, in India, religious – other than political ones. These influenced works such as W. B. Yeats’s play The King’s Threshold (1904), in which a poet fasts in protest against a king because he has lost his seat at the royal table. In the first decade of the twentieth century, hunger strikes were in tune with new ideas about hunger, vitamins and famine, as well as with the prison reform movement, which had progressed since the 1890s and achieved the landmark 1898 Prisons Act. But what most distinguishes the suffragette hunger strike campaign, beginning with WallaceDunlop’s, was the calculated use of the press, especially after the government began to force-feed suffragettes. In reporting stories of determined women prisoners, newspapers presented a challenge, for millions of voters, to more docile images of women.
Wallace-Dunlop’s innovation was to create a kind of political theatre in a prison cell, its impact more dramatic than any she could have made on the image of women in art...
The suffragette strikes influenced nationalists in both Ireland and India, whence the hunger strike spread around the world. James Connolly, the Irish nationalist and socialist, specifically credited the suffragette strikes with the inspiration for his strike in 1913, the first by an Irish nationalist. Mohandas Gandhi also learned from the suffragette strikes years before his first strike in 1918. Just three weeks after Wallace-Dunlop’s release, he was in London and came to a WSPU meeting honouring the hunger strikers and crediting Wallace-Dunlop as “the founder”. He noted the next day in a letter: “I attended a great suffragette meeting last night; met Mrs. Pankhurst also... We have a great deal to learn from these ladies and their movement”. In a subsequent article, Gandhi began to draw pointed lessons from women’s protests: “If we want freedom, we shall not gain it by killing or injuring others (i.e., by the use of brute force) but by dying or submitting ourselves to suffering (i.e., by the use of soul force)”.
(3) Christabel Pankhurst, Unshackled (1959)
Miss Wallace Dunlop, taking counsel with no one and acting entirely on her own initiative, sent to the Home Secretary, Mr. Gladstone, as soon as she entered Holloway Prison, an application to be placed in the first division as befitted one charged with a political offence. She announced that she would eat no food until this right was conceded. Mr. Gladstone did not reply, but after she had fasted ninety-one hours, Miss Wallace Dunlop was set free. She was in an exhausted state, having refused every threat and appeal to induce her to break her fast.
(4) Mary Leigh was forced-fed in September, 1909. The WSPU was able to get her account published in a pamphlet while she was still in prison.
I was then surrounded and forced back onto the chair, which was tilted backward. There were about ten persons around me. The doctor then forced my mouth so as to form a pouch, and held me while one of the wardresses poured some liquid from a spoon; it was milk and brandy. After giving me what he thought was sufficient, he sprinkled me with eau de cologne, and wardresses then escorted me to another cell on the first floor, where I remained two days. On Saturday afternoon the wardresses forced me onto the bed and the two doctors came in with them. While I was held down a nasal tube was inserted. It is two yards long, with a funnel at the end; there is a glass junction in the middle to see if the liquid is passing. The end is put up the right and left nostril on alternate days. Great pain is experienced during the process, both mental and physical. One doctor inserted the end up my nostril white I was held down by the wardresses, during which process they must have seen my pain, for the other doctor interfered (the matron and two of the wardresses were in tears), and they stopped and resorted to feeding me by the spoon, as in the morning. More eau dc cologne was used. The food was milk. I was then put to bed in the cell, which is a punishment cell on the first floor. The doctor felt my pulse and asked me to take food each time, but I refused.
On Sunday he came in and implored me to lie amenable and have food in the proper way. I still refused. I was fed by the spoon up to Saturday, October 2, three times a day. From four to five wardresses and the two doctors were present on each occasion. Each time the same doctor forced my mouth, while the other doctor assisted, holding my nose on nearly every occasion. On Monday, September 27, I was taken to a hospital cell, where I was fed by spoon in similar fashion. On Tuesday, the twenty-eighth, a feeding cup was used for the first time, and Benger's Food poured into my mouth for breakfast and supper, and beef-tea mid-day.
On Tuesday afternoon I overheard Miss Edwards, on issuing from the padded cell opposite, call out, "Locked in a padded cell since Sunday." I called out to her, but she was rushed into it. I then applied (Tuesday afternoon) to see the visiting magistrates. I saw them, and wished to know if one of our women was in a padded cell, and, if so, said she must be allowed out. I knew she had a weak heart and was susceptible to excitement, and it would be very bad for her if kept there longer. I was told no prisoner could interfere on behalf of another; any complaint on my own behalf would be listened to. I then said this protest of mine must be made on behalf of this prisoner, and if they had no authority to intervene on her behalf, it was no use applying to them for anything. After they had gone I made my protest by breaking eleven panes in my hospital cell. I was then fed in the same way by the feeding cup and taken to the padded cell, where I was stripped of all clothing and a night dress and bed given to me. As they took Miss Edwards out they put me into her bed, which was still warm. The cell is lined with some padded stuff-india-rubber or something. There was no air, and it was suffocating. This was on Tuesday evening.
I remained there until the Wednesday evening, still being fed by force. I was then taken back to the same hospital cell, and remained there until Saturday, October 2, noon, feeding being continued in the same way. On Saturday, October 2, about dinner time, I determined on stronger measures by barricading my cell. I piled my bed, table, and chair by jamming them together against the door. They had to bring some men warders to get in with iron staves. I kept them at bay about three hours. They threatened to use the fire hose. They used all sorts of threats of punishment. When they got in, the chief warder threatened me and tried to provoke me to violence. The wardresses were there, and he had no business to enter my cell, much less to use the threatening attitude. I was again placed in the padded cell, where I remained until Saturday evening. I still refused food, and I was allowed to starve until Sunday noon. Food was brought, but not forced during that interval.
Sunday noon, four wardresses and two doctors entered my cell and forcibly fed me by the tube through the nostrils with milk. Sunday evening, I was also fed through the nostril. I remained in the padded cell until Monday evening, October 4. Since then I have been fed through the nostril twice a day.
The sensation is most painful - the drums of the ears seem to be bursting and there is a horrible pain in the throat and the breast. The tube is pushed down 20 inches. I am on the bed pinned down by wardresses, one doctor holds the funnel end, and the other doctor forces the other end up the nostrils. The one holding the funnel end pours the liquid down - about a pint of milk... egg and milk is sometimes used.
(5) Constance Lytton was force-fed in October 1909. An account of her experiences was included in her book Prison and Prisoners.
Two of the wardresses took hold of my arms, one held my head and one my feet. The doctor leant on my knees as he stooped over my chest to get at my mouth. I shut my mouth and clenched my teeth The doctor seemed annoyed at my resistance and he broke into a temper as he pried my teeth with the steel implement. The pain was intense and at last I must have given way, for he got the gap between my teeth, when he proceeded to turn it until my jaws were fastened wide apart. Then he put down my throat a tube, which seemed to me much too wide and something like four feet in length. I choked the moment it touched my throat. Then the food was poured in quickly; it made me sick a few seconds after it was down. I was sick all over the doctor and wardresses. As the doctor left he gave me a slap on the cheek. Presently the wardresses left me. Before long I heard the sounds of the forced feeding in the next cell to mine. It was almost more than I could bear, it was Elsie Howley. When the ghastly process was over and all quiet. I tapped on the wall and called out at the top of my voice. 'No Surrender', and then came the answer in Elsie's voice, "No Surrender".
(6) Letter to The Times signed by Kitty Marion, Constance Lytton and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (10th October, 1909)
We want to make it known that we shall carry on our protest in our prison cells. We shall put before the Government by means of the hunger-strike four alternatives: to release us in a few days; to inflict violence upon our bodies; to add death to the champions of our cause by leaving us to starve; or, and this is the best and only wise alternative, to give women the vote.
We appeal to the Government to yield, not to the violence of our protest, but to the reasonableness of our demand, and togrant the vote to the duly qualified women of the country. We shall then serve our full sentence quietly and obediently and without complaint. Our protest is against the action of the Government in opposing woman suffrage, and against that alone. We have no quarrel with those who may be ordered to maltreat us.
(7) Emily Davison was sent to Strangeways Goal in September 1909, for throwing stones at the windows of the Liberal Club. Emily decided to go on hunger strike. This account was included in a letter that she wrote to a friend in Switzerland.
In the evening the matron, two doctors, and five or six wardresses entered the cell. The doctor said "I am going to feed you by force." The scene, which followed, will haunt me with its horror all my life, and is almost indescribable. While they held me flat, the elder doctor tried all round my mouth with a steel gag to find an opening. On the right side of my mouth two teeth are missing; this gap he found, pushed in the horrid instrument, and prised open my mouth to its widest extent. Then a wardress poured liquid down my throat out of a tin enamelled cup. What it was I cannot say, but there was some medicament, which was foul to the last degree. As I would not swallow the stuff and jerked it out with my tongue, the doctor pinched my nose and somehow gripped my tongue with the gag. The torture was barbaric.
(8) On June 19th 1909 Emily Davison decided to make a protest against forcible feeding. Emily explained her actions in a statement issued by the WPSU.
In my mind was the thought that some desperate protest must be made to put a stop to the hideous torture, which was now our lot. Therefore, as soon as I got out I climbed on to the railing and threw myself out to the wire-netting, a distance of between 20 and 30 feet. The idea in my mind was "one big tragedy may save many others". I realised that my best means of carrying out my purpose was the iron staircase. When a good moment came, quite deliberately I walked upstairs and threw myself from the top, as I meant, on to the iron staircase. If I had been successful I should undoubtedly have been killed, as it was a clear drop of 30 to 40 feet. But I caught on the edge of the netting. I then threw myself forward on my head with all my might. I know nothing more except a fearful thud on my head. When I recovered consciousness, it was to a sense of acute agony. When I recovered consciousness, it was to a sense of acute agony.
(9) Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story (1914)
The hunger-strike I have described as a dreadful ordeal, but it is a mild experience compared with the thirst-strike, which is from beginning to end simple and unmitigated torture. Hunger-striking reduces a prisoner's weight very quickly, but thirst-striking reduces weight so alarmingly fast that prison doctors were at first thrown into absolute panic of fright. Later they became somewhat hardened, but even now they regard the thirst-strike with terror. I am not sure that I can convey to the reader the effect of days spent without a single drop of water taken into the system. The body cannot endure loss of moisture. It cries out in protest with every nerve. The muscles waste, the skin becomes shrunken and flabby, the facial appearance alters horribly, all these outward symptoms being eloquent of the acute suffering of the entire physical being. Every natural function is, of course, suspended, and the poisons which are unable to pass out of the body are retained and absorbed. The body becomes cold and shivery, there is constant headache and nausea, and sometimes there is fever. The mouth and tongue become coated and swollen, the throat thickens, and the voice sinks to a thready whisper.
When, at the end of the third day of my first thirst-strike, I was sent home, I was in a condition of jaundice from which I have never completely recovered. So badly was I affected that the prison authorities made no attempt to arrest me for nearly a month after my release.
(10) In 1912 Frederick Pethick-Lawrence was arrested and imprisoned for conspiracy.
I too adopted the hunger-strike. The first day I was all hot and bothered about it and got a headache and slept badly. The second day I took myself in hand and found out that what usually passes for hunger is better described as the 'food habit', and that if not appeased it soon passes away. I slept well that night. The third day the authorities discovered what I was doing and carried me away to hospital and told me that they were going to feed me by force.
The head doctor, a most sensitive man, was visibly distressed by what he had to do. It certainly was an unpleasant and painful process and a sufficient number of warders had to be called in to prevent my moving while a rubber tube was pushed up my nostril and down into my throat and liquid was poured through it into my stomach. Twice a day thereafter one of the doctors fed me in this way. I was not allowed to leave my cell in the hospital and for the most part I had to stay in bed. There was nothing to do but to read; and the days were very long and went very slowly.
(11) James Keir Hardie, letter in the Daily News (27th September, 1909)
In reply to a question of mine today, Mr. Masterman, speaking on behalf of the Home Secretary, admitted that some of the nine prisoners now in Winston Green Gaol, Birmingham, had been subjected to "hospital treatment", and admitted that this euphemism meant administering food by force. The process employed was the insertion of a tube down the throat into the stomach and pumping the food down. To do this, I am advised, a gag has to be used to keep the mouth open.
That there is difference of opinion concerning the horrible brutality of this proceeding? Women worn and weak by hunger, are seized upon, held down by brute force, gagged, a tube inserted down the throat, and food poured or pumped into the stomach. Let British men think over the spectacle.
(12) Sylvia Pankhurst, The Suffrage Movement (1931)
Amongst the seventy-five Suffragettes now in Holloway was Mrs. Pankhurst's sister, Mary Clarke. On ceasing to be Mrs. Pankhurst's deputy in the Registrarship, she had become an organiser for the W.S.P.U., and thereby found release from the regretful memories of an unhappy marriage. Facing the rude violence of the seaside rowdies at Brighton, where she was stationed, she displayed a quiet, persistent courage, which made peculiarly large demands on one so sensitive. Exerting her frail physique to its utmost, she was grievously ill on the eve of Black Friday, and her Brighton comrades had begged her not to go. She had promised to take the easier course of arrest for window-breaking, and had telegraphed to Brighton from the police court: "One month: I am content to pay the price of victory."
Preparing to leave for America, and revising the final chapters of The Suffragette, I spent Christmas alone at Linden Gardens. Early on the morning of Boxing Day I saw at the window my mother's face, haggard and drawn. I ran to admit her: "Something has happened!" "Aunt Mary is not very well," she faltered. "She is dead, I know."
Yes; she was dead, our gentle confidante, too frail to weather this rude tide of militant struggle. Released from prison two days before, she had spoken at the welcome luncheon in London, hastened to Brighton to address a welcome meeting there the same night, and returned on Christmas Eve to her brother's house in London. She was with Mrs. Pankhurst and others of the family at the mid-day Christmas dinner, and quietly left the table. When Mrs. Pankhurst went to look for her she found her unconscious. She had burst a blood vessel on the brain.
(13) Charles Mansell-Moullin, speech at Kingway Hall (18th March, 1913)
Last summer there were 102 Suffragettes in prison; 90 of those were being forcibly fed. All sorts of reports were being spread about what was being done to them. We got up a petition to the Home Secretary, we wrote him letters, we interviewed him so far as we could. We got absolutely no information of any kind that was satisfactory; nothing but evasion. So three of us formed ourselves into a committee - Sir Victor Horsley, Dr. Agnes Savill, and myself, and we determined that we would investigate these cases as thoroughly as we could. I don't want to be conceited, but we had the idea that we had sufficient experience in public and hospital practice and in private practice to be able to examine those persons, to take their evidence, to weigh it fully, and to consider it. And we drew up a report, and that report was published in The Lancet and in the British Medical, at the end of August last year.
We stand by that report. There is not a single thing in that report that we wish to withdraw. There are some few things that we might put more strongly now than we did then. Everything that has happened since has merely strengthened what we said, and has confirmed what we predicted would happen.
Now Mr. McKenna has said time after time that forcible feeding, as carried out in His Majesty's prisons, is neither dangerous nor painful. Only the other day he said, in answer to an obviously inspired question as to the possibility of a lady suffering injury from the treatment she received in prison, "I must wait until a case arises in which any person has suffered any injury from her treatment in prison." I got those words from The Times - of course, they may not be correctly reported. Well, of course, Mr. McKenna has no personal knowledge. Mr. McKenna has never, as far as I know, made any enquiry for himself, nor do I think if he did it would have had any effect one way or the other. He relies entirely upon reports that are made to him - reports that must come from the prison officials, and go through the Home Office to him, and his statements are entirely founded upon those reports. I have no hesitation in saying that these reports, if they justify the statements that Mr. McKenna has made, are absolutely untrue. They not only deceive the public, but from the persistence with which they are got up in the same sense, they must be intended to deceive the public.
I don't wish to exonerate Mr. McKenna in the least. He has had abundant opportunity - in fact, it has been forced upon his notice - of ascertaining the falsehood of these statements, and if he goes on repeating them after having been told time after time by all sorts of people that they are not correct, he makes himself responsible for them whether they are true or not. And in his own statements in the House of Commons he has given sufficient evidence of his frame of mind with regard to this subject. Time after time has he told the Members of the House that there was no pain or injury, and almost in the same breath - certainly in the same evening - he has told how one of these prisoners has had to be turned out at a moment's notice, carried away in some vehicle or other, and attended by a prison doctor, to save her life. One or other of these statements must be absolutely untrue.
Now I come to the question of pain. Mr. McKenna says that there is none. Let me read you an account of how they manage. Of course, the prison cells are ranged down either side of a corridor. All the doors are opened when this business is going to begin, so that nothing may be lost. "From 4:30 until 8:30 I heard the most dreadful screams and yells coming from the cells." This is the statement of a prisoner whom I know and who I know does not exaggerate: "I had never heard human beings being tortured before... I sat on my chair with my fingers in my ears for the greater part of that endless four hours. My heart was thumping against my ribs, as I sat listening to the procession of the doctors and wardresses as they came to and fro, and passed from cell to cell, and the groans and cries of those who were being fed, until at last the procession paused at my door. My turn had come."
That is a statement. I hope none of you has ever been so unfortunate as to be compelled to listen to the screams of a person when you are yourself in perfect health - the screams of a person in agony, screams gradually getting worse and worse, and then, at last, when the person's strength is becoming exhausted, dying down and ending in a groan. That is bad enough when you are strong and well, but if you come to think that these prisoners hear those screams in prison, that they are the screams of their friends, that they are helpless, that they know those screams are being caused by pain inflicted without the slightest necessity - I am not exaggerating in the least, I am giving you a plain statement of what goes on in His Majesty's prisons at the present time - then it becomes a matter upon which it is exceedingly difficult to speak temperately.
Then they say there is no danger. In one instance - that of an unresisting prisoner in Winson Gaol, Birmingham - there is no question but that the food was driven down into the lungs. The operation was
stopped by severe choking and persistent coughing. All night the prisoner could not sleep or lie down on account of great pain in her chest. She was hastily released next day, so ill that the authorities when discharging her obliged her to sign a statement that she left the prison at her own risk. On reaching home she was found to be suffering from pneumonia and pleurisy, caused from fluid being poured into her lungs. The same thing happened only the other day in the case of Miss Lenton. Fortunately, she is steadily recovering, and the Home Secretary may congratulate himself that these two cases - there have been others - are recovering, and that there will not have to be an inquest.
Then with regard to Miss Lenton. The Home Secretary wrote that she was reported by the medical officer of Holloway Prison to be in a state of collapse, and in imminent danger of death consequent upon her refusal to take food. This statement is not true. "Three courses were open - to leave her to die; to attempt to feed her forcibly, which the medical officer advised would probably entail death; and to release her on her undertaking to surrender herself at the further hearing of her case." That implied that she was not forcibly fed. She had been, but that fact was suppressed - suppressed by the Home Secretary in the statement he published in the newspapers, suppressed because the cause of her illness was forcible feeding. That has been proved absolutely.
As regards the moral and mental deterioration that has been already alluded to by Mr. Forbes Robertson and Mr. Bernard Shaw, I will only say this one thing. It shows itself everywhere where forcible feeding is practised. It shows itself in the prisons, where the medical officers, I am sorry to say, have on more than one occasion laughed and made stupid jokes about "stuffing turkeys at Christmas." It shows itself in the prison officials, in the reports they have drawn up. It shows itself in the Home Secretary in the untrue statements that he has published and the evasions that he has made; and it shows itself, too, in the ribald laughter and obscene jokes with which the so-called gentlemen of the House of Commons received the accounts of these tortures.