‘Hysterical women’

Extract from a police report on a suffragette meeting at Hampstead Town Hall with speakers including Emmeline Pankhurst, 14 February 1913 (Catalogue ref:  HO 45/10695/231366)


Metropolitan Police

Criminal Investigation Department, New Scotland Yard, 14th February 1913

Re Suffragette Meeting.

I beg to report having been present on the 13th.inst., in company with P.C.s Haines and Kitchener at a meeting held under the auspices of the Hampstead branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union at the Hampstead Town Hall, N.W.

The speakers were Mrs. Pankhurst, Miss Halliday, Mr. H.W. Nevinson (chair), and Mr. Joseph Clayton. The meeting commenced at 8.15 p.m., and the proceedings were opened by Mr. Nevinson, who in the course of his remarks briefly sketched the events which led to the withdrawal of the last Conciliation Bill. He considered that the women had been betrayed by the Government, but it might be suggested he said, that the ruling of the Speaker had come as a surprise to them as well as to other people. If such was the case it was clear that the Government were not a fit body of men to rule the country, and the sooner they were turned out of office the better it would be for all concerned. Lord Robert Cecil was right when he said that if men had been treated as women have been there would have been an insurrection.

He then introduced Mrs. Pankhurst, who said: – “I am glad that we have a resolution to-night, not because I think it will do any good, but because it puts in a few words the position of the members of the W.S.P.U. who are holding this meeting. The Government must introduce and carry through a Government measure giving votes to women next session, otherwise the Government must go. I am perfectly convinced that this Government is past the stage to be educated to do its duty on t[h]is question, and so there is nothing left for the W.S.P.U. but to work their very hardest to turn this Government out.

In regard to the political situation we have all along foreseen what was going to happen You remember how, quite a long time before the amendments to the Franchise Bill were due for consideration, we came to the conclusion that the Government having made up their minds that the amendments were never to be carried, it would be very convenient if they could say the amendments were defeated, not by the machinations in the lobbies but by we women through our militancy:

Continuing, she said, “Men do not seem to understand any methods of warfare except their own methods of shooting and killing people, which women think extremely wasteful. I don’t approve of the war in the Balkan States, I think that in the twentieth century more civilised ways of waging war should be found, and I claim that we have found them. When you read of the golf-greens having been destroyed, and the orchid destruction, you see how we are fighting. What we are doing is attacking the things you think most important; human beings are not of much importance, and it would be very wasteful warfare to wage war by injuring human beings. What you value is money and property, so if we can interfere with either of these things we are doing a very much better thing than we should if we kept your old-fashioned methods of warfare.

For nearly 50 years we had your sympathy and your support, and nothing happened, so then we took other things that you don’t like and you were alienated. We would rather have your disgust and have you thoroughly annoyed. Nothing can stop militancy now, and it is going on until we get the vote. We tried by constitutional ways to get you to give us the vote, but you did not do it. What can we do now but carry on this fight ourselves? And I want you, not to see these as isolated acts of hysterical women, but to see that it is being carried out on a plan and that it is being carried out with a definite intention and a purpose. It can only be stopped in one way: that is by giving us the vote.”

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