The Women’s Social and Political Union carried out last night the threat “to demonstrate” which was promptly made after the meeting with the Prime Minister and Mr. Lloyd George on Friday to discuss the position created by the Government’s promised electoral reform Bill.

The demonstration followed on lines similar to others in times past, with Caxton Hall as the starting place and the Houses of Parliament as the goal of a “deputation” that desired to lodge its protest on the floor of the House. It’s result was also much the same. The ranks of the deputation were broken and its members scattered into small groups almost as soon as they left the hall, and afterwards a series of scrambles took place in Parliament-square. There was a good deal of window-smashing in the course of the evening, and the numerous incidents were followed by an immense crowd of people. In all about 220 arrests were made, among those taken into custody being Mrs. Pethick Lawrence, Lady Constance Lytton, the Hon. Evolina Haverfeld, Mrs. Brailsford, Hampstead and Miss Ethel Tollemache, Bath. After the House had risen the prisoners, who included a few men, were released on bail, Mr. Pethick Lawrence and other sympathizers becoming sureties for them.


The meeting at Caxton Hall was expected to begin at half-past 7, but some delay was caused in arranging for the departure of a section of the supporters of the deputation, who were instructed to take up places at convenient points of the route and be in readiness to act with members of the deputation.

Miss PANKHURST, who presided, described the Government’s pronouncement as a trap which the suffragists declined to enter. The Government were trying to befool the suffragists with the assertion that there was no practical difference between what they were asking for and what the Government were offering. If there was no difference why were they told in the same breath that if they proceeded in their claim the result would be to split the Cabinet? She moved the following resolution:– “This meeting condemns the Government’s announcement of a Manhood Suffrage Bill as a grave and unpardonable insult to women; firmly refuses to allow the political enfranchisement of women to depend upon a mere amendment to the Manhood Suffrage Bill; demands that the Government abandons the Manhood Suffrage Bill and introduce and carry in the next Session of Parliament a measure giving precisely equal franchise rights to men and women. And further the meeting declares its resolve to enforce this reasonable demand upon the attention of the Government and of the electors by vigorous and determined militant action.”

Mrs. PETHICK LAWRENCE said that the objective of the deputation was to protest on the floor of the House of Commons, in the presence of all the members, against the deep insult of manhood suffrage that had been offered to the womanhood of the country. Nothing would make them turn their backs except, of course, physical force. She warned the Government and the authorities that if any attempt were made to follow out the treatment of “Black Friday” the consequence would be upon their own heads. “We who are on this deputation to-night,” continued Mrs. Pethick Lawrence, “are already outside our body. We know that our hands, our feet, and all that we have are being used by the great Spirit to carry out the great purpose of His will. It is that which destroys any possibility of anxiety or fear or consciousness of pain. We know that here we offer and present ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a living sacrifice for all those great sins of the world whose taproot is in sex domination. We go to-night not only to fight for the freedom of the women of our own country, but to carry a message of deliverance to the whole world.”

As soon as she had finished her speech Mrs. Pethick Lawrence led the way out of the building at the head of the deputation, which included Lady Sybil Smith and Mrs. Cobden Sanderson.


On leaving the hall the women made their way as quickly as possible to Parliament-square, but the procession was broken up long before the square was reached.

About a dozen women belonging to the deputation succeeded in reaching the cordon of police drawn up across the roadway opposite St. Margaret’s Church. The inspector in charge advised the women not to be foolish and to go away. They declined to take the advice and tried to break through the cordon, whereupon an order was given for their arrest, and several women were at once taken into custody and conducted, amid the jeers of the crowd, to Cannon-row Police station. Meanwhile three of the women had climbed the railings of the gardens in Parliament-square, and succeeded in crossing the lawn as far as the Beaconsfield monument before they were arrested.

The police had wisely determined not to stop the traffic, and the constant passage of omnibuses, motor-cabs, and other vehicles helped to break up the crowd, who thronged the roadways and pavements alike. One woman almost managed to get into Parliament-square by hanging like a street boy on to the back of a taxi-cab. A number of the women chained themselves to the iron railings surrounding Parliament-square. Only one woman succeeded in reaching the St. Stephen’s entrance, and she was a cripple riding a tricycle bearing the inscription “Votes for Women.” The police, in order that she should not receive any injury, allowed her to pass through their lines, where she was detained.


There was evidently a preconcerted arrangement for the breaking of windows. The window-breakers were not members of the Caxton Hall deputation, but women who were evidently out for that purpose only. The went about singly, and in one instance at least a window was broken with a hammer, and the offender calmly waited for the police to arrest her. Most of the damage was done with stones tied up in handkerchiefs attached to a piece of tape or string. Of the Government buildings the Local Government Offices suffered the most; but windows were also smashed at the Treasury, the Scottish Education Offices, and the Home Office. Other buildings attacked included Somerset House, the National Liberal Club, the Strand Post Office, and other buildings in the Strand, the offices of the Midland Railway Company in Great George-street, the London and North-Western Railway and the Post Office in Parliament-street. Messrs. S. Pearson and Company’s premises at the corner of Derby-street and the Westminster Palace Hotel. Newspaper offices also suffered, windows being damaged at Carmelite House, the Daily Mail headquarters, and at the offices of the Daily News in Bouverie-street.

On seeing in the Press the statement that Mr. Lloyd George is willing to take a prominent part in the advocacy of Women’s Suffrage “inside the House and outside the House, by speech and influence,” the officers of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies asked him to speak at their demonstration at the Albert Hall on Friday, February 23, and he consented to do so.

The Times, 22 November 1911, page 8

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