Mistreatment of Suffragettes

Women’s suffrage was newsworthy and accounts of suffragette militant exploits were often reported nationally, usually negatively.  The cruel treatment of those suffragists engaged in acts of peaceful protest is often conveniently forgotten.  The two accounts below, taken from The Framlingham News, portray the shocking treatments suffragettes were subjected to in the course of their fight for the vote.

Framlingham Weekly News 10th Oct 1908 The Suffragette

Suffragettes Ill-treated

Mrs. Despard and Miss Margaret Sidley, who visited Maidstone in the Suffragist van on Wednesday evening, were subjected to brutal treatment.  They had announced an open-air meeting, and a crowd of 3,000 assembled.  The Suffragettes were received with showers of granite chippings with which the road was being repaired.  A stone struck Mrs. Despard on the forehead, inflicting a nasty abrasion.  She pluckily mounted a chair and faced the crowd, who pushed her off the chair and smashed it.  When the van arrived the suffragists abandoned the attempt to speak, and barricaded themselves within.

Deliberate attempts were then made to over-throw the van, which was pushed uphill and allowed to descend by its own momentum.  Only by the narrowest shave was disaster averted.  The windows of the vehicle were smashed, the tailboard was wrenched off, rotten eggs and other missiles were flung, the imprisoned ladies being kept in a state of terror.  At length the police intervened, and amid much booing the van was driven away.

Framlingham Weekly news 8th March 1913

In Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon Mrs. Flora Drummond and several other members of the women’s Social and Political Union were made the object of hostile attentions of a huge crowd and were persistently pelted with pieces of turf.

Members of the crowd sang, danced, waved sticks, cheered and hooted in turn, and the statements of the speakers were greeted with cries of “You ought to be tarred and feathered,” and other similar taunts.

One suffragette was struck in the eye and another in the mouth.  Mrs. Drummond’s hat was disturbed with a walking-stick, which became entangled in her hair.

Another speaker had a fierce tussle with a member of the audience who attempted to board the platform.  Later the same woman injured her wrist in a tug-of-war for possession of a spectator’s stick.

At the close a formidable rush was broken by the police escort.

On Sunday afternoon an attempt by suffragettes to hold a meeting on Wimbledon Common led to disorderly scenes.

After the speakers had vainly endeavoured for half an hour to obtain a hearing, amid the blowing of motor horns and the singing of popular songs, the crowd closed in on the platform, the suffragettes were dragged off and despite efforts of the police to protect them, three of the women were knocked down.

An exciting scene was witnessed in Oxford-street on Saturday afternoon, when two suffragists, who during the morning had been playing a piano in the West End, were attacked by a couple of men, and in the skirmish which ensued the piano organ was upset and considerably damaged.

The women, both of whom are London members of the Women’s Social and Political Union, were engaged in the week’s self-denial campaign, which opened that day, and were thus engaged with the object of gathering funds on behalf of their union.

In the face of such hostility, it is easy to imagine why some women felt they could not expect to advance their cause through peaceful demonstration.

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