The Lost World of the Suffragettes

There was a great ‘Archive on 4’ programme on last night, the Lost World of the Suffragettes. Professor Sir Brian Harrison had the foresight to do oral history recordings in the 1970s with survivors of the women’s suffrage campaign, the tapes of which are now held at The Women’s Library. There were some very interesting reminiscences by women who had done all sorts of things; all very lucid and real, even though they were in their eighties, nineties or older by the time they were interviewed.

Grace Before Meat
Grace Before Meat: Parliamentary Archives, HC/SA/SJ/3/11

The ‘highlight’ of the programme, if it can be called that, was the extract from Maude Kate Smith’s interview about forcible feeding in Winson Green prison, Birmingham: how she was held down and force-fed three times a day; uncooked, unsoftened food was put down the tube down her throat; resisting until she could no more, and became docile; intending not to make a sound until she found she had been screaming; the anguish, pain, colitis, damage done to her nose; wishing that the morning might not come so she would not have to endure it again.

You can Listen Again for the next seven days.

Militant Suffragette incendiary devices
Militant Suffragette incendiary devices, City of London Police Museum
Early City of London Police Box
Early City of London Police Box, City of London Police Museum

On a related note I had the opportunity to visit the tiny City of London Police Museum recently and was delighted to find they had two ‘Militant Suffragette incendiary devices, defused in 1913’, made from old food cans including a tin of mustard. The little brown truncheon, also pictured, is the type that used to be given to women police officers.

And it was great fun to see this early City police box, so different to the Tardis from Doctor Who.  This light blue is the original colour of police boxes in the City of London proper (the Square Mile, that is).

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