|Women’s Suffrage in the UK||Women Suffrage in the USA||Parliamentary Reform|
Christabel Pankhurst, the eldest daughter of Richard Pankhurst and Emmeline Pankhurst, was born at Drayton Terrace, Old Trafford, Manchester on 22nd September, 1880. Her father was a committed socialist and a strong advocate of women's suffrage. He had been responsible for drafting an amendment to the Municipal Franchise Act of 1869 that had resulted in unmarried women householders being allowed to vote in local elections. Richard also served on the Married Women's Property Committee (1868-1870) and was the main person responsible for the drafting of the women's property bill that was passed by Parliament in 1870.
In 1886 the family moved to London where their home in Russell Square became a centre for gatherings of socialists and suffragists. They were also both members of the Fabian Society. At a young age Christabel was encouraged to attend these meetings. This had a major impact on her political views. As June Purvis has pointed out: "Such experiences had a decisive effect on Christabel. Nothing she learned from the inadequate education offered by governesses or, when the family moved back to the north in 1893, at the high schools she attended - first in Southport and then in Manchester - compared with the political education she received at home."
During these years Richard and Emmeline continued their involvement in the struggle for women's rights and in 1889 helped form the pressure group, the Women's Franchise League. The organisation's main objective was to secure the vote for women in local elections. In 1893 Richard and Emmeline Pankhurst returned to Manchester where they formed a branch of the new Independent Labour Party (ILP). In the 1895 General Election, Pankhurst stood as the ILP candidate for Gorton, an industrial suburb of the city, but was defeated.
In 1894 Emmeline Pankhurst became a Poor Law Guardian. This involved regular visits to the Chorlton Workhouse and she was deeply shocked by the misery and suffering of the inmates. She became particularly concerned about the way women were treated and it reinforced her belief that women's suffrage was the only way these problems would be solved.
Richard Pankhurst died of a perforated ulcer in 1898. "Faithful and True My Loving Comrade", a quote from Walt Whitman, were the words she choose for his gravestone. Without her husband's income, Emmeline had to sell their home and move to a cheaper residence at 62 Nelson Street, Manchester. She was also forced to accept the post of registrar of births and deaths.
After leaving Manchester High School Christabel attended lectures at Manchester University. While there she met Esther Roper and Eva Gore-Booth, who were trying to persuade working class women in Manchester to join the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). In 1901, Christabel joined their women's trade union campaign and also became a member of the Independent Labour Party.
The author of Freedom's Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003), has argued that: "Christabel Pankhurst had formed a close friendship with Esther Roper and Eva Gore-Booth, suffrage campaigners who lived together in Manchester. Her relationship with Eva, in particular, had become intense enough to excite a great deal of comment from her family." Sylvia Pankhurst also made comments on this: "Eva Gore-Booth had a personality of great charm... Christabel adored her, and when Eva suffered from neuralgia, as often happened, would sit with her for hours massaging her head. To all of us at home this seemed remarkable indeed, for Christabel had never been willing to act the nurse to any other human being."
The Pankhursts became frustrated by the lack of success of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and in 1903 they established the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). At first the main aim of the organisation was to recruit more working class women into the struggle for the vote. As well as her involvement in the WSPU, Christabel also began studying for a law degree at Owens College in Manchester.
On the 16th December 1904 The Clarion published a letter from Ada Nield Chew, a leading figure in the Independent Labour Party, attacking WSPU policy: "The entire class of wealthy women would be enfranchised, that the great body of working women, married or single, would be voteless still, and that to give wealthy women a vote would mean that they, voting naturally in their own interests, would help to swamp the vote of the enlightened working man, who is trying to get Labour men into Parliament."
The following month Christabel Pankhurst replied to the points that Ada Nield Chew made: "Some of us are not at all so confident as is Mrs Chew of the average middle class man's anxiety to confer votes upon his female relatives." A week later Ada Nield Chew retorted that she still rejected the policies in favour of "the abolition of all existing anomalies... which would enable a man or woman to vote simply because they are man or woman, not because they are more fortunate financially than their fellow men and women". As the authors of One Hand Tied Behind Us (1978) pointed out: "The fiery exchange ran on through the spring and into March. The two women both relished confrontation, and neither was prepared to concede an inch. They had no sympathy for the other's views, and shared no common experiences that might help to bridge the chasm."
The WSPU was often accused of being an organisation that existed to serve the middle and upper classes. As Annie Kenney was one of the organizations few working class members, when the WSPU decided to open a branch in the East End of London, she was asked to leave the mill and become a full-time worker for the organisation. Annie joined Sylvia Pankhurst in London and they gradually began to persuade working-class women to join the WSPU.
By 1905 the media had lost interest in the struggle for women's rights. Newspapers rarely reported meetings and usually refused to publish articles and letters written by supporters of women's suffrage. In 1905 the WSPU decided to use different methods to obtain the publicity they thought would be needed in order to obtain the vote.
On 13th October 1905, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney attended a meeting in London to hear Sir Edward Grey, a minister in the British government. When Grey was talking, the two women constantly shouted out, "Will the Liberal Government give votes to women?" When the women refused to stop shouting the police were called to evict them from the meeting. Pankhurst and Kenney refused to leave and during the struggle a policeman claimed the two women kicked and spat at him. Pankhurst and Kenney were arrested and charged with assault.
Pankhurst and Kenney were found guilty of assault and fined five shillings each. When the women refused to pay the fine they were sent to prison. The case shocked the nation. For the first time in Britain women had used violence in an attempt to win the vote. Members of the WSPU now became known as suffragettes.
In her autobiography, Memories of a Militant (1924) Annie Kenney described what it was like to be in prison with Christabel: "Being my first visit to jail, the newness of the life numbed me. I do remember the plank bed, the skilly, the prison clothes. I also remember going to church and sitting next to Christabel, who looked very coy and pretty in her prison cap... I scarcely ate anything all the time I was in prison, and Christabel told me later that she was glad when she saw the back of me, it worried her to see me looking pale and vacant.
Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence argued that Kenney was a devoted follower of Christabel Pankhurst. "Annie's... devotion took the form of unquestioning faith and absolute obedience... Just as no ordinary Christian can find that perfect freedom in complete surrender, so no ordinary individual could have given what Annie gave - the surrender of her whole personality to Christabel." Annie admitted that: "For the first few years the militant movement was more like a religious revival than a political movement. It stirred the emotions, it aroused passions, it awakened the human chord which responds to the battle-call of freedom... the one thing demanded was loyalty to policy and unselfish devotion to the cause."
Fran Abrams the author of Freedom's Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003), has argued that Annie Kenney had a series of romantic attachments with other suffragettes: "The relationship (with Christabel Pankhurst) would be mirrored, though never matched in its intensity, by a number of later relationships between Annie and other suffragettes. The extent of their physical nature has never been revealed, but it is certain that in some sense these were romantic attachments. One historian who argues that Annie must have had sexual feelings for other women adds that lesbianism was barely recognised at the time. Such relationships, even when they involved sharing beds, excited little comment. Already, Christabel had formed a close friendship with Esther Roper and Eva Gore-Booth, suffrage campaigners who lived together in Manchester. Her relationship with Eva, in particular, had become intense enough to excite a great deal of comment from her family - according to Sylvia."
In April 1907 Mary Sheepshanks, the vice-principal of Morley College for Working Men and Women, invited Christabel Pankhurst to speak in a debate on women's suffrage. During the debate she argued: "We are absolutely determined to have our way, and to have our say in the government of affairs. We are going to develop on our own lines and listen to the pleadings of our inner nature. We shall think our own thoughts and strengthen our own intelligence. We want the abolition of sex in the choice of legislative power as well as privilege. For the present we want the woman to have what the men have."
Christabel obtained her degree in 1907 but her gender prevented her from developing a career as a barrister. Christabel decided to leave Manchester and join the suffragette campaign in London where she lived in the home of Frederick Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence. Christabel was appointed as the WSPU's chief organizer on a salary of £2 10s. per week.
Christabel disagreed with the way the campaign was being run. The initial strategy of the WSPU had been to recruit the support of working class women. Christabel advocated a campaign that would appeal to the more prosperous members of society. Whereas Sylvia Pankhurst and Charlotte Despard argued for the vote for all adults, Christabel favoured limited suffrage, a system that would only give the vote to women with money and property. Christabel pointed out that the WSPU relied heavily on the money supplied by wealthy women.
Emmeline Pankhurst supported her daughter in this stance but it was opposed by Sylvia Pankhurst and Adela Pankhurst. In September 1907 both Christabel and Emmeline resigned their membership of the Independent Labour Party, who had been arguing that votes for women on the same terms as men would only enfranchise middle-class women who would probably vote for the Conservative Party.
In 1907 some leading members of the Women's Social and Political Union began to question the leadership of Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst. These women objected to the way that the Pankhursts were making decisions without consulting members. They also felt that a small group of wealthy women like Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence were having too much influence over the organisation. In the autumn of 1907, Teresa Billington-Greig, Elizabeth How-Martyn, Dora Marsden, Helena Normanton, Margaret Nevinson and Charlotte Despard and seventy other members of the WSPU left to form the Women's Freedom League (WFL).
During the summer of 1908 the WSPU introduced the tactic of breaking the windows of government buildings. On 30th June suffragettes marched into Downing Street and began throwing small stones through the windows of the Prime Minister's house. As a result of this demonstration, twenty-seven women were arrested and sent to Holloway Prison.
On the 13th October, 1908 the WSPU held a large demonstration in London and then tried to enter the House of Commons. There were violent clashes with the police and 24 women were arrested, including Emmeline Pankhurst, who was sentenced to three months in prison.
In 1910 Christabel began to support those members of the WSPU who were arguing that the strategy of passive resistance should be replaced by more militant action such as stone-throwing and the destruction of property. Some members of the WSPU, including Adela Pankhurst became concerned about the increase in the violence as a strategy. She later told fellow member, Helen Fraser: "I knew all too well that after 1910 we were rapidly losing ground. I even tried to tell Christabel this was the case, but unfortunately she took it amiss." After arguing with Emmeline Pankhurst about this issue she left the WSPU in October 1911. Sylvia Pankhurst was also critical of this new militancy. Christabel replied that "I would not care if you were multiplied by a hundred, but one of Adela is too many."
When Christabel Pankhurst fled to France to avoid arrest in 1912, Annie Kenney was put in charge of the WSPU in London. Every week Annie travelled to Paris to receive Christabel's latest orders. Fran Abrams has pointed out: "It was the start of a cloak-and-dagger existence that lasted for more than two years. Each Friday, heavily disguised, Annie would take the boat-train via La Havre. Sundays were devoted to work but on Saturdays the two would walk along the Seine or visit the Bois de Boulogne. Annie took instructions from Christabel on every little point - which organiser should be placed where, circular letters, fund-raising, lobbying MPs... During the week Annie worked all day at the union's Clement's Inn headquarters, then met militants at her flat at midnight to discuss illegal actions. Christabel had ordered an escalation of militancy, including the burning of empty houses, and it fell to Annie to organise these raids. She did not enjoy this work, nor did she agree with it. She did it because Christabel asked her to, she said later."
In 1912 the WSPU began a campaign to destroy the contents of pillar-boxes. By December, the government claimed that over 5,000 letters had been damaged by the WSPU. The WSPU also began a new arson campaign. Under the orders of Christabel Pankhurst, attempts were made by suffragettes to burn down the houses of two members of the government who opposed women having the vote.
Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence had disagreed with this strategy but Christabel Pankhurst ignored her 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 Pethick-Lawrence were arrested, tried and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. They were also successfully sued for the cost of the damage caused by the WSPU.
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."
After Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence were released from prison they began to speak openly about the possibility that this window-smashing campaign would lose support for the WSPU. At a meeting in France, Christabel Pankhurst told Emmeline and Frederick about the proposed arson campaign. When Emmeline and Frederick objected, Christabel arranged for them to be expelled from the the organisation. Emmeline later recalled in her autobiography, My Part in a Changing World (1938): "My husband and I were not prepared to accept this decision as final. We felt that Christabel, who had lived for so many years with us in closest intimacy, could not be party to it. But when we met again to go further into the question Christabel made it quite clear that she had no further use for us."
Annie Kenney was charged with "incitement to riot" in April 1913. She was found guilty at the Old Bailey and was sentenced to eighteen months in Maidstone Prison. Grace Roe now became head of operations in London. She immediately went on hunger strike and became the first suffragette to be released under the provisions of the Cat and Mouse Act. Kenney went into hiding until she was caught once again and returned to prison. That summer she escaped to France during a respite and went to live with Christabel Pankhurst in Deauville.
In 1913 Christabel Pankhurst published The Great Scourge and How to End It. She argued that most men had venereal disease and that the prime reason for opposition to women's suffrage came from men concerned that enfranchised women would stop their promiscuity. Until they had the vote, she suggested that women should be wary of any sexual contact with men. Dora Marsden criticised Pankhurst for upholding the values of chastity, marriage and monogamy. She also pointed out in The Egoist on 2nd February 1914 that Pankhurst's statistics on venereal disease were so exaggerated that they made nonsense of her argument. Marsden concluded the article with the claim: "If Miss Pankhurst desires to exploit human boredom and the ravages of dirt she will require to call in the aid of a more subtle intelligence than she herself appears to possess." Other contributors to the journal joined in the attack on Pankhurst. The Canadian feminist, R. B. Kerr argued that "her obvious ignorance of life is a great handicap to Miss Pankhurst" (16th March, 1914) whereas Ezra Pound suggested that she "has as much intellect as a guinea pig" (1st July, 1914).
On 4th August, 1914, England declared war on Germany. Two days later the NUWSS announced that it was suspending all political activity until the war was over. The leadership of the WSPU began negotiating with the British government. On the 10th August the government announced it was releasing all suffragettes from prison. In return, the WSPU agreed to end their militant activities and help the war effort.
Emmeline Pankhurst announced that all militants had to "fight for their country as they fought for the vote." Ethel Smyth pointed out in her autobiography, Female Pipings for Eden (1933): "Mrs Pankhurst declared that it was now a question of Votes for Women, but of having any country left to vote in. The Suffrage ship was put out of commission for the duration of the war, and the militants began to tackle the common task."
Annie Kenney reported that orders came from Christabel Pankhurst: "The Militants, when the prisoners are released, will fight for their country as they have fought for the Vote." Kenney later wrote: "Mrs. Pankhurst, who was in Paris with Christabel, returned and started a recruiting campaign among the men in the country. This autocratic move was not understood or appreciated by many of our members. They were quite prepared to receive instructions about the Vote, but they were not going to be told what they were to do in a world war."
In September, 1914, Christabel Pankhurst returned to England to join the campaign in favour of Britain's involvement in the First World War. After receiving a £2,000 grant from the government, the WSPU organised a demonstration in London. Members carried banners with slogans such as "We Demand the Right to Serve", "For Men Must Fight and Women Must work" and "Let None Be Kaiser's Cat's Paws". At the meeting, attended by 30,000 people, Emmeline Pankhurst called on trade unions to let women work in those industries traditionally dominated by men.
In October 1915, The WSPU changed its newspaper's name from The Suffragette to Britannia. Emmeline's patriotic view of the war was reflected in the paper's new slogan: "For King, For Country, for Freedom". In the newspaper anti-war activists such as Ramsay MacDonald were attacked as being "more German than the Germans". Another article on the Union of Democratic Control carried the headline: "Norman Angell: Is He Working for Germany?" Mary Macarthur and Margaret Bondfield were described as "Bolshevik women trade union leaders" and Arthur Henderson, who was in favour of a negotiated peace with Germany, was accused of being in the pay of the Central Powers.
The Britannia also attacked politicians and military leaders for not doing enough to win the war. In one article, Christabel accused Sir William Robertson, Chief of Imperial General Staff, of being "the tool and accomplice of the traitors, Grey, Asquith and Cecil".
In 1917 Christabel and her mother formed the The Women's Party. Its twelve-point programme included: (1) A fight to the finish with Germany. (2) More vigorous war measures to include drastic food rationing, more communal kitchens to reduce waste, and the closing down of nonessential industries to release labour for work on the land and in the factories. (3) A clean sweep of all officials of enemy blood or connections from Government departments. Stringent peace terms to include the dismemberment of the Hapsburg Empire."
The The Women's Party also supported: "equal pay for equal work, equal marriage and divorce laws, the same rights over children for both parents, equality of rights and opportunities in public service, and a system of maternity benefits." Christabel and Emmeline had now completely abandoned their earlier socialist beliefs and advocated policies such as the abolition of the trade unions.
After the passing of the Qualification of Women Act in 1918, Christabel became one of the seventeen women candidates that stood in the post-war election. Christabel represented the The Women's Party in Smethwick, but despite the fact that the Conservative Party candidate agreed to stand down, she lost a straight fight with the representative of the Labour Party by 775 votes.
In 1921 Christabel went to live in the United States where she became a prominent member of Second Adventist Movement. Christabel lectured and wrote books on the Second Coming. Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst decided to run a tea-shop on the French Riviera in 1925, but the venture was unsuccessful and they returned to England in the spring of 1926.
Christabel Pankhurst launched a new adventist monthly journal, Present and Future, in May 1934. It was not a success and only lasted for seven months. In the 1936 new year honours list she was created DBE for her services to women's suffrage.
In 1939 Christabel returned to the USA where she continued her career as an author and lecturer on religion. As June Purvis has pointed out: "On 5 May 1953, Sylvia's birthday, Christabel renewed contact with her sister, writing her a warm letter and wishing her well after her recent heart attack. The correspondence between the two sisters continued intermittently until Christabel's death at her home in Santa Monica on 13th February 1958 from a heart attack. The manuscript of her memoirs, discovered by Grace Roe, was published as Unshackled: the Story of how we Won the Vote.
BBC Radio and Television Archive
Grace Roe and the WSPU (1968)
(1) In her book Unshackled: the Story of how we Won the Vote, Christabel Pankhurst described her relationship with her mother and father.
The picture now in my mind of those Manchester days is of the library, with flowered gold-and-brown paper and book-lined walls. Mother reading, writing or sewing on one side of the big, glowing fire. Father at the other side, deep in a book. He stretches out his fine sensitive hand, now and again, to show that he is thinking of us all and enjoying our companionship. We schoolchildren had leave to do our homework at the big table and suddenly one or another would ask: "Father, what is such and such?" or "Who was so and so?" He was roused at once. Books were taken from the shelves, references and authorities were shown. The subjected was illuminated in all its ramifications.
(2) Annie Kenney joined the WSPU after hearing Christabel Pankhurst and Teresa Billington speak on Women's Suffrage in Manchester in 1905.
The Oldham Trades Council invited Christabel Pankhurst and Teresa Billington to speak on Women's Suffrage. I had never heard of "Votes for Women". Politics did not interest me in the least. Miss Pankhurst was more hesitating, more nervous than Miss Billington. She impressed me, though. She was more impersonal and full of zeal. Miss Billington used a sledge-hammer of logic and cold reason When the meeting was over I drifted towards Miss Pankhurst. Before I knew what I done I had promised to organise a meeting for Miss Pankhurst among factory-women of Oldham.
(3) Christabel Pankhurst, speech at Morley College for Working Men and Women (April 1907)
We are absolutely determined to have our way, and to have our say in the government of affairs. We are going to develop on our own lines and listen to the pleadings of our inner nature. We shall think our own thoughts and strengthen our own intelligence. We want the abolition of sex in the choice of legislative power as well as privilege. For the present we want the woman to have what the men have. When the men have adult suffrage, then we shall want the same... We have only to look back to such characters as Joan of Arc, the revolutionary movement in Russia, the Boer women and the like to see who can do the dangerous work.
(4) Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, My Part in a Changing World (1938)
Christabel's devotee (Annie Kenney) in a sense that was mystical... she neither gave nor looked to receive any expression of personal tenderness: her devotion took the form of unquestioning faith and absolute obedience... Just as no ordinary Christian can find that perfect freedom in complete surrender, so no ordinary individual could have given what Annie gave - the surrender of her whole personality to Christabel. That surrender endowed her with fearlessness and power that was not self limited and was therefore incalculable.
(5) In her book Women's Suffrage published in 1911, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, leader of the NUWSS passed comment on the WSPU.
The Women's Social and Political Union was formed by Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst and Miss Christabel Pankhurst in 1903, but the "militant movement" with which its name will always be associated, had not attracted any public notice till the end of 1905 By adopting novel and startling methods they succeeded in drawing a far larger amount of public attention to the claims of women to representation than ever had been given to the subject below.
Minor breaches of the law, such as waving flags and making speeches in the lobbies of the Houses of Parliament, were treated more severely than serious crime on the part of men has often been. The turning of the hose upon a suffrage prisoner in her cell in a midwinter night, and all the anguish of the hunger strike and forcible feeding are other examples.
In 1907 the militant groups abandoned the plan upon which for the first few years they had worked - that of suffering violence, but using none. Stone-throwing and personal attacks on Ministers of the Crown were attempted. These new developments necessitated, in the opinion of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, the publication of protests expressing their grave and strong objection to the use of personal violence as a means of political propaganda.
The relationship would be mirrored, though never matched in its intensity, by a number of later relationships between Annie Kenney and other suffragettes. The extent of their physical nature has never been revealed, but it is certain that in some sense these were romantic attachments. One historian who argues that Annie must have had sexual feelings for other women adds that lesbianism was barely recognised at the time. Such relationships, even when they involved sharing beds, excited little comment Already, Christabel had formed a close friendship with Esther Roper and Eva Gore-Booth, suffrage campaigners who lived together in Manchester. Her relationship with Eva, in particular, had become intense enough to excite a great deal of comment from her family - according to Sylvia.
Christabel was emphatically not a woman who let her emotions run away with her, and she did not do so in Annie's case. But their first meeting set a pattern that would govern every sphere of Annie's existence for the next fifteen years.
(7) Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence joined the Women's Social and Political Union in 1905. In her book My Part in a Changing World she described some of the leading personalities in the WSPU at that time.
Christabel Pankhurst was cut out for public life. Her chosen career, that of Barrister-at-law, had been checked by the refusal of the Benchers of Lincoln's Inn to admit a woman as a student, so that the career of a political pioneer offered to her the finest kind of self-expression. Like all the Pankhursts she had great courage. She had a cool, logical mind, and a quick, ready wit. She was young and attractive, graceful on the platform, with a singularly clear and musical voice. She had none of Sylvia's passion of pity - on the contrary, she detested weakness, which was discouraged in her presence.
(8) In 1905 a proposed Women's Suffrage Bill was "talked out". In her book Unshackled, Christabel Pankhurst explains how the WSPU reacted to this news.
The Bill was talked out! Peaceful methods had failed . As the year 1905 went on, the Liberal leaders counted upon early political office. Manchester - the Free Trade Hall - was again to be the scene of a rally at which the Liberal Party would utter their war cry for the General Election. Here was my chance! Now there should be an act the effect of which would remain, a protest not of word but of deed. Prison this time! Prison would mean a fact that could not fade from the record.
(9) Christabel Pankhurst asked Annie Kenney to accompany her to the Free Trade Hall. Annie Kenney explained the reasons for their actions in her book Memories of a Militant.
Christabel Pankhurst decided that she and I would go the Free Trade Hall meeting, wait until question time (quite a legitimate way of getting answers to problems perplexing voters), then rise and put the question to Mr. Churchill: "If you are elected, will you do your best to make Woman Suffrage a Government measure?" Instinctively she knew that the question would never be answered, for two reasons: had he said Yes, the Cabinet would have practically been committed to carry it out; had he said No, the Liberal women would have pricked up their ears.
(10) Christabel Pankhurst described her arrest at the Free Town Hall on 13th October 1905 in her book Unshackled: the Story of how we Won the Vote.
I was in the grip of a policeman and surrounded by stewards. I thought I must bring the matter into Court, into prison. For simply disturbing the meeting I should not be imprisoned. I must "assault the police". But how was I to do it? The police seemed to be skilled to frustrate my purpose. I could not strike them, my arms being held. I could not even stamp on their toes. Yet I must be arrested. The vote depended on it. With my limbs helpless. I decided to be arrested for spitting at a policeman." It was not a real spit but only, shall we call it, a "pout", a dry purse of the mouth.
(11) The Manchester Evening Chronicle described what happened at the Liberal Party meeting at the Free Town Hall on 20th October 1905.
Miss Christabel Pankhurst and Miss Annie Kenney were ejected and later arrested for obstruction outside the building. At the police court Miss Pankhurst was fined half a guinea for assaulting the police officers by hitting them in the mouth and spitting in their faces, and five shillings for obstruction, or in default seven days. Miss Kenney was fined five shillings, or three days. Rather than pay the fine the ladies elected to undergo the imprisonment.
Miss Kenney was released on Monday morning. Miss Pankhurst period expired this morning. By seven o'clock about two hundred people had collected outside the gates of Strangeways Gaol. When Miss Christabel appeared she was hailed with a great cheer and instantly surrounded by a host of male and female admirers. The first to greet and embrace the prisoner was her mother, Miss Pankhurst. Miss Pankhurst fell into the arms of her mother, and the two wept for joy after having been parted for a whole week. As soon as she could break away from her admirers Miss Pankhurst called out, "I will go in again for the same cause. Don't forget the vote for women."
(12) On 8th October 1909, Constance Lytton committed her first violent act as a member of the WSPU.
On Friday, 8th October 1909, Christabel Pankhurst and I were on our way to Newcastle. I had made up my mind that I was going to throw a stone. We went to the Haymarket where the car with Mr. Lloyd George (a government minister) would probably pass. As the motor appeared I stepped out into the road, stood straight in front of the car, shouted out, "How can you, who say you back the women's cause, stay on in a government which refuses them the vote, and is persecuting them for asking it," and threw a stone at the car. I aimed low to avoid injuring the chauffeur or passengers.
(13) In her book Unshackled: the Story of how we Won the Vote, Christabel Pankhurst described the situation in March 1912.
Eighty-one women were still in prison, some for terms of six months 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.
(14) In 1907 Teresa Billington-Greig, Charlotte Despard and Edith How-Martyn made attempts to make the Women's Political and Social Union more democratic. When Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst responded by cancelling the proposed meeting to discuss the constitution, about seventy women left the WSPU and formed the Women's Freedom League. Teresa Billington Greig described her feelings about this conflict in her book The Militant Suffrage Movement.
In September, about a month before the date arranged for the gathering, Mrs Pankhurst, ignoring the Honorary Secretary, called a Committee meeting, declared the Conference annulled, the Constitution cancelled, and the rights of the members abolished, and proclaimed herself as sole dictator of the movement. She appointed herself secretary, Mrs. Pethick Lawrence treasurer, and Miss Christabel Pankhurst organising secretary. She chose for herself a committee consisting of paid organisers and two or three women who were willing to lend their names to this purpose.
The clumsy declaration of autocracy broke the spell of many who would willingly have voted away their rights. Those who stuck to the Constitution formed the Women's Freedom League This reversion to autocracy, this denial of suffrage in their own society to women seeking suffrage in the State, brought to a sudden close to this stage in the progress of militancy.
(15) On 18th October 1912 the WSPU issued a statement.
Mrs. Pankhurst and Miss Christabel Pankhurst outlined a new militant policy which Mr. and Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence found themselves altogether unable to approve. Mrs. Pankhurst and Miss Christabel recommended that Mr. and Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence should leave the Women's Social and Political Union.
(16) Fran Abrams, Freedom's Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003)
It was the start of a cloak-and-dagger existence that lasted for more than two years. Each Friday, heavily disguised, Annie would take the boat-train via La Havre. Sundays were devoted to work but on Saturdays the two would walk along the Seine or visit the Bois de Boulogne. Annie took instructions from Christabel on every little point - which organiser should be placed where, circular letters, fund-raising, lobbying MPs. When she arrived back in London a bulky letter would already be on its way to her with yet more instructions. There was such resentment within the union about Annie's new position that she earned herself the nickname "Christabel's Blotting Paper". Annie found this amusing, and took to signing her letters to Christabel, "The Blotter".
During the week Annie worked all day at the union's Clement's Inn headquarters, then met militants at her flat at midnight to discuss illegal actions. Christabel had ordered an escalation of militancy, including the burning of empty houses, and it fell to Annie to organise these raids. She did not enjoy this work, nor did she agree with it. She did it because Christabel asked her to, she said later. None the less, it fell to her to ensure that each arsonist left home with the proper equipment - cotton wool, a small bottle of paraffin, wood shavings and matches. "Combustibles" were stored by Annie in hiding places from where they could be retrieved when needed, and a sympathetic analytical chemist, Edwy Clayton, was engaged to advise on suitable places for attack. In addition to supplying a list of government offices, cotton mills and other buildings, he carried out experiments for the women on chemicals suitable for making explosives. Annie was very upset when he was later arrested and convicted of conspiracy on the basis of papers he had sent to her sister Jessie.
The fun was going out of the movement for Annie. Christabel had left a gap in her life, and the departure of the Pethick-Lawrences soon afterwards in a dispute over the direction of the union was a further blow. Annie was forced to choose between two people she loved more than any others - Christabel and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence. She followed Christabel, as she always had.
(17) Christabel Pankhurst, Unshackled: the Story of how we Won the Vote (1959)
War was the only course for our country to take. This was national militancy. As Suffragettes we could not be pacifists at any price. Mother and I declared support of our country. We declared an armistice with the Government and suspended militancy for the duration of the war. We offered our service to the country and called upon all members to do likewise. As Mother said, 'What would be the good of a vote without a country to vote in!'. Mother seemed for the time to dismiss her ill-health in her ardour for the national cause. She spoke to Servicemen on the war front and to Servicewomen on the home front. She called for wartime military conscription for men, believing that this was democratic and equitable, and that it would enable a more ordered and effective use of the nation's man power.