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A leaflet describing the force-feeding of suffragettes at Walton Gaol, Liverpool, December 1909
(Catalogue ref: HO 144/1052/187234)

Source 1a


The Women's Social and Political Union

Head Office: 4, Clements Inn, Strand, W.C.

Telegraphic Address: "Wospolu, London."
Telephone No. 2724 Holborn (three lines).
Founder and Hon. Secretary - Mrs. Pankhurst.
Hon. Treasurer - Mrs. Pethick Lawrence.
Joint Hon. Secretary - Mrs. Tuke.
Organising Secretary - Miss Christabel Pankhurst, LL.B.
Publishing Office - The Woman’s Press.
Newspaper - Votes For Women.
Bankers - Messrs. Barclay & Co., Fleet Street, E.C.
Colours - Purple, White & Green.


Two Englishwomen, unconvicted prisoners on remand in an English prison (Walton Gaol, Liverpool), have been assaulted, knocked down, gagged, fed by force, kept for consecutive days and nights in irons. One of them has been frog-marched . Frog-marched! What does that mean? Read the story.

The Facts.

On December 20th Miss Selina Martin and Miss Leslie Hall were arrested in Liverpool, and were remanded for one week, bail being refused.

Accordingly, while still unconvicted prisoners, they were sent to Walton Gaol, Liverpool. There, contrary to regulations, intercourse with their friends was denied to them. As unconvicted prisoners they refused to submit to the prison discipline or to take the prison food. Forcible feeding was threatened and Miss Martin therefore barricaded her cell. The officials, however, effected an entrance, fell upon her and handcuffed her, dragged her to a punishment cell and flung her on the floor, with her hands tightly fastened together behind her back.

Source 1b


All that night she was kept in irons. Next day her cell was entered, she was seized, thrown down, rolled over with her face upon the floor. In this position, face downwards, her arms and legs were dragged up behind her till she was lifted from the ground. Her hair was seized by another wardress. In this way she was "frog-marched" up the steps to the doctor’s room, her head bumping on the stone stairs. In the doctor’s room the operation of forcible feeding was performed - causing intense suffering - and then this tortured girl, in a terrible state of physical and mental distress, was handcuffed again, and flung down the steps and pushed and dragged back into her cell. Her companion, Leslie Hall, was kept in irons for two and a half consecutive days and nights.

What was the Charge against Miss Martin?

What terrible crime had Miss Martin done? She had dared to protest against the political slavery of her sex; against the refusal of the Prime Minister to receive any Deputation from women; and against the exclusion of women from political meetings. The charge against Miss Martin was that she had thrown an empty ginger-beer bottle at an empty motor-car – the car that had taken Mr. Asquith to the meeting. But when she was treated in this terribly cruel way these charges had not been proved, she was “on remand,” and by the theory of English law presumed innocent. Bail had been offered, she was ready to give an undertaking that no disturbance should take place during the week for which the case was remanded. Bail was arbitrarily refused in spite of the fact that though there have been hundreds of Suffragette prisoners, they have never attempted to escheat their bail.

The frog march, and the other assaults and cruelties, the brutal feeding by force, were resorted to during this week of remand, while she was an unconvicted prisoner. Prison officials, encouraged by the Government, have cast aside both law and humanity in dealing with women political prisoners.

Source 1c

Is this England?

If such deeds were done in Russia there would be an outcry in this country. Are they to be tolerated here?

Electors! You and you only can put a stop to this terrible injustice. These two women are in prison now. Miss Martin is sentenced to two months’ hard labour and Miss Hall to one month.

Electors! assert your will. Secure the release of these women who have already suffered such horrible torture. It can be done by voting against the Government which is responsible for this cruelty. The prison authorities are the tools of the Government, and act as they are bidden by the Home Office. Because women are making their cry heard for that political freedom which Liberals profess to hold so dear in the case of m[?] the Liberal Government is persecuting them with unheard of violence and cruelty.

Electors, vote against the Liberal Candidate in your Constituency, for if returned he will go into Parliament to support Mr. Asquith and his Government, who are the torturers of women.

Vote against the Government and keep the Liberal out!

Glossary  Transcript
Mrs. Pankhurst
Miss Christabel Pankhurst

Mother and daughter Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst were founders of the WSPU.

remanded sent back into custody by court order to wait for a trial
bail release from prison of an arrested person in exchange for security, usually a sum of money, to make sure they come back for their trial
intercourse communications
barricaded blocked access to; put up a barrier to
effected brought about; achieved
wardress woman guard
forcible feeding force feeding of someone who would not eat; in this case forcing a feeding tube up the nose, causing great pain
deputation person or group appointed to represent others
Mr. Asquith the Prime Minister
arbitrarily decided by the whim of an individual judge or court and not by a specific law or principle
escheat their bail forfeit their bail (if a person on bail did not return to court for their trial, they would forfeit or lose their bail money)
profess declare; claim
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