Caxton Hall was filled yesterday afternoon with suffragists who were awaiting Mr. Asquith’s statement in answer to Mr. Keir Hardie’s question as to “what action the Government proposed to take in connexion with a measure for the enfranchisement of women.” Mr. Asquith’s answer was considered so unsatisfactory that it was decided that active hostilities should be undertaken, and a column of militant suffragists over a hundred strong left Caxton Hall for the Prime Minister’s residence in Downing-street to carry out Miss Pankhurst’s promise that the pacific attitude of the Home Office in regard to the disturbance of Friday last would fail to mollify her militant followers.

As the House had risen before the column started the law which forbids a procession from approaching within one mile of the precincts of the House of Commons while the House is sitting was in abeyance, and the suffragists proceeded through Parliament-square into Whitehall without interference from the police. As they were nearing the entrance to Downing street a squad of about 15 constables made their way rapidly from the direction of Scotland Yard to the entrance of Downing-street, which they reached a few seconds before the head of the suffragist column swung round the corner of Whitehall. The appearance of the suffragists in Parliament-square had attracted a large number of spectators, who crowded round and followed close on their heels. The single line of police could not be expected to withstand the impact of the attacking force, and in Downing-street there was at once a seething mass of spectators and struggling police and suffragists. Reinforcements of police quickly arrived, and the process of clearing the street began. The fight was short, sharp, and decisive, and lasted only ten minutes, although there was such a wealth of incident that the struggle seemed to be of much longer duration.

The women fought much more viciously than on Friday, and their increased fierceness may be accounted for by the fact that some of them have vowed to go to prison for the cause, and are prepared to commit increasingly serious breaches of the law to achieve this object. The rioters yesterday appeared to have lost all control of themselves. Some shrieked, some laughed hysterically, and all fought with a dogged but aimless pertinacity. Some of the rioters appeared to be quite young girls, who must have been the victims of hysteria rather than of deep conviction.


A woman dressed in the uniform of a hospital nurse threw a missile through a window of the Colonial Office. Some of the suffragists carried banners, which were quickly torn down by police, but if the bearer managed to retain the bamboo handle she used it to belabour the nearest constable. The women behaved like demented creatures, and it was evident that their conduct completely alienated the sympathy of the crowd. Two suffragists jumped over the wall parapet into the area of the building where the Judicial Committee sits, and others broke windows of the Home Office with metal weights and other missiles.

When Downing-street was cleared the ground was littered with broken banners and other débris. Some American bluejackets carried away fragments of banners and other souvenirs of the scene. A strong body of police, some five rows deep, was drawn up across the entrance of Downing-street and nobody was allowed to enter the street unless satisfactory credentials were produced. Three ladies in a private motor-car, who were allowed to pass through the constables, were turned back by the order of Commander Wells, whom they failed to satisfy.

Shortly after the street had been cleared Mrs. Asquith drove by in a motor-car, and shared the disagreeable experience of the Prime Minister, who had been recognized and mobbed by the suffragists in Parliament-square, and who sought escape in a motor-car, the window of which a rioter succeeded in breaking before Mr. Asquith got safely away. Mr. Birrell, who was making his way from the House, was mobbed when he reached St. James’s Park. The women knocked his hat over his eyes and hustled him and one of them kicked him on the shin.

During the fighting in Downing-street a large crowd had collected in Whitehall, and a strong force of police was required to relieve the congestion of the traffic. Occasionally a woman would break away from the crowd and hurl herself in vain against the solid wall of police drawn up across Downing-street, but with the help of a few mounted constables the police gradually moved the crowd along Whitehall in the direction of Trafalgar-square. Opposite the Admiralty a suffragist who had fainted lay on the pavement for some minutes tended by her friends. The police behaved with self-control and good humour under the greatest provocation. It may be mentioned that as a result of last Friday’s fight six policemen had to go on the sick list with bites and scratches. Yesterday some of the rioters openly said that they would soon have resort to bomb.

Attacks were made, some time after the disturbances in Downing-street on the houses of Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Churchill, Mr. Harcourt, and Mr. Burns, and several women will be charged to-day with breaking windows or otherwise damaging the buildings.


Lord Lytton has made a statement in which, referring to the Prime Minister’s reply to Mr. Keir Hardie in the House of Commons, he says:–

“In two vital particulars the undertaking fails to satisfy the request of the conciliation committee. In the first place, Mr. Asquith’s promise applies not to our Bill specifically but generally to a Bill so framed as to admit of free amendment.... We had asked for a promise for some Bill in some Session of the next Parliament. No Government can control what the Prime Minister has called ‘the dim and speculative future.’”

The Women’s Social and Political Union has issued a statement in which it says:– “As the Prime Minister will not give us the assurance that women shall be enfranchised next year, we revert to a state of war.”

The Women’s Freedom League, referring to Mr. Asquith’s reply to the suffragists, says:– “We are therefore forced into resuming our ‘vigorous agitation upon lines justified by the position of outlawry to which women are at present condemned.’ The members of the league will pursue their anti-Government policy of opposing Liberal candidates, with the exception of tried friends.”

Among those arrested was an elderly lady in a self-propelled invalid chair.

The total number of persons arrested yesterday was 156. All the women – 153 – were released on bail.

The Times, 23 November 1910, page 8

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