Suffragettes of Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill &
by Ruby Galili, 3 June 2012
Some years ago I read the following fascinating
article in an old newspaper at the Local History Unit, covering the
Palmers Green district of North London:
FOR PALMERS GREEN, WINCHMORE HILL AND SOUTHGATE.
JUNE 18th 1914. One Penny
SUFFRAGETTES MOBBED AT PALMERS GREEN.
Mrs. Pankhurst's Brother takes Refuge in Magistrate's House.
THERE were lively scenes at Palmers Green Triangle on Saturday
night, when a party of local suffragettes was mobbed, and prevented
from holding a meeting. Some of the London newspapers gave a rather
exaggerated account of the affair, but the experience was a
sufficiently unpleasant one for the suffragettes, and, but for the
intervention of the police, would probably have been even more
exciting. As it was, eggs and flour were thrown, Mr. Goulden,
ex-secretary of the Winchmore Hill Ratepayers' Association, and a
brother of Mrs. Pankhurst was knocked down, and one lady was roughly
handled. Altogether, it was something rather more lively than the
scenes to which staid and respectable Palmers Green is accustomed,
something of the sort might have been expected, for on the previous
Saturday, when the local members of the W.S.P.U. held a meeting the
speakers were howled down, their voices being drowned by the singing
of popular airs, including "Who killed Cock Robin?" and
"God save the King".
Moreover, threats were made that future meetings
would be prevented. The interrupters were as good as their word.
When the suffragette party, including Mr. Victor
Prout and Mr. Goulden, arrived at the Triangle on Saturday last, they
found a hostile reception awaiting them. The lady speaker who was to have
conducted the meeting was late in arriving, and while the party were
waiting, the crowd, which consisted largely of young men, began
booing and indulging in horse play.
Someone bought a copy of a suffragist publication from a lady on the
outskirts of the crowd, tore it up and jumped upon it. This caused a
disturbance, in the course of which Mr. Goulden's hat was knocked
off. Seeing Mr. Goulden bareheaded, the crowd closed upon him with
cries of "Mrs. Pankhurst's brother," and in the rush he was knocked
Several policemen, both in uniform and in plain clothes, were
present, and doubtless seeing that the crowd was bent on mischief, a
police sergeant came to Mr. Goulden's rescue, and escorted him in
the direction of Fox Lane, followed by a jeering mob.
Decimalisation in the UK
Creating London's GLA
RULERS OF BRITAIN:
House of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha
House of Windsor
Prime Ministers of Great Britain
National Union of Suffrage Societies
At the "Fox Tavern" Mr. Goulden boarded a tram car, followed by the
policeman, but the crowd was not so easily shaken off, and many
climbed on the tram, while others followed on bicycles. Meanwhile,
at the Triangle, the meeting had to be abandoned, and the ladies of
the suffragette party, guarded by police, took refuge in tram cars,
the crowd being so great as to cause a temporary suspension of
traffic. Mr. Goulden, on arriving at Winchmore Hill, parted company
with his police protector, but soon realised that his persecutors
had not been left behind. A large crowd soon gathered in the
Broadway, and Councillor Willis and Councillor Sadler, both
magistrates, appeared on the scene. Councillor Willis persuaded Mr.
Goulden, who bore marks of the fray in the shape of flour, to return
with him to his house in Station Road. Members of the crowd,
however, visited Radcliffe Road and made a demonstration in front of
Mr. Goulden's own house, hurling eggs through an open window. The
arrival of police prevented any further damage. Before 11 o'clock
the crowd melted away, and Mr. and Mrs. Goulden were able to return
to their home without further molestation. It is said that the
suffragettes will attempt to hold further meetings at the Triangle
in spite of their unpleasant experience.
The newspaper that reported this event was The
Recorder which was published from November 1907 until July 1916 when
it was suddenly discontinued without warning. It reported news from
Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill and Southgate, mostly monthly, but at
times fortnightly and was sold for 1d [one penny] throughout the whole period of
its existence. I have always been interested in the Suffragettes and
as these events happened almost one hundred years ago and as all the
venues are near to my home, I decided to investigate. I read and
reread all the articles relating to the Suffragette cause during
this period and was amazed that Southgate, Palmers Green and
Winchmore Hill were so heavily involved in the 'Votes for Women'
campaign. The Recorder's reporters seem to have become more
sympathetic to the cause as the years progressed.
Following the death of her husband in 1898, Mrs Pankhurst formed
the women-only Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU)
Eggs and flour were thrown,
Mr Goulden... brother of Mrs Pankhurst, was knocked down, and
one lady was roughly handled
The Recorder, 18 June 1914
The meetings, speeches and events were reported
extensively in The Recorder starting in November 1909 when it
Miss Ransom, of the London Society for Woman's
Suffrage, has been down to Southgate to plead for women having the
vote on the same terms as men. She astonished the mere men, gathered
in the village hall to hear and debate the subject, with her
eloquence, and deservedly earned loud applause.
The following year Miss Ransom read a paper entitled,
have the Vote? at a meeting of the Winchmore Hill Baptist Society
where one of the leading suffragettes, Lady Constance Lytton, spoke
at a lively meeting about the movement and her recent incarceration
in prison when she had been on hunger strike and was force fed.
Constance Lytton at this meeting told how prostrated she felt after
her prison fare. The sufferings she had undergone were written on
her pale and sad face. Before she spoke she had won the sympathy of
The Palmers Green Women's Liberal Association
discussed fully the married woman's right to have some of her
husband's earnings for herself. There were calls for a law for
widows to have right to as much as a quarter of their deceased
Advice to sympathisers as how to avoid complying with the 1911
census, as a protest was also offered; they were advised to stay out
all night on census night, or to spoil their ballot papers.
Not everyone was a supporter of the Suffrage
movement; there was considerable opposition;
Mr Clayden at one of
the meetings said that his experience was that the majority of women
did not want the vote. And if they got it, he thought ladies were
too sentimental to vote clearly. (The audience cheered ironically.)
This was typical of the male response. Many men were opposed. In
Palmers Green the most influential was Mr Atholl Robertson, a strong
opponent and worshipper at St George's Church, Fox Lane, who attended
and was often shouted down at the Suffragette meetings.
Other famous Suffragettes appeared and spoke in
this area in the years leading up to 1914 and were reported fully.
Many of the meetings were held in Avondale Hall (now part of Palmers
Green High School), which was a favourite venue for several local
societies' meetings at that period. Hazelwood School Hall was
another much used venue.
Mrs Henry Fawcett LL D speaks
The London Society for Women's Suffrage, which is a non-party and
non-militant organisation, held a splendid meeting at Hazelwood
School Hall on the 28th ult., when a crowded audience, consisting
chiefly of women, listened to the arguments of Mrs Henry Fawcett LL
D, and Miss J Hamilton Thomson BA, two clever speakers, who
won interest and support through the dignity and non-militant tones
of their speeches. Miss Thomson, in the course of an eloquent and
earnest speech, said she believed it would be better for the nation
if there was co-operation between the sexes, so that both the
qualities of the man and those of the woman could be made use of by
the Government. (Applause). Mrs Fawcett, who was received with loud
applause, explained the political position of the women, and dealt
more in detail with the progress of the cause than in generalities.
Mr Atholl Robertson did not like the speaker comparing New Zealand
(a country which had votes for women) with the United Kingdom. He
intimated it was right that New Zealand women should vote, because
women were in the minority there, but in the United Kingdom it was
unfair, because women were in the majority.
Mrs Fawcett replied that the fact that there were more women than
men in this country was all the more reason why they should have the
vote. (Someone calculated that there were 8 or 9 women for each man
in the area in this period in this area).
Another questioner wished to know whether women being allowed to
vote had the sanction of the Scriptures. (laughter) Mr. Carroll, the
chairman, (addressing Mrs. Fawcett): "Before you answer that
question, I should like to know whether voting by men has the
sanction of the Scriptures". (More laughter)
She next spoke of the deputation that was to meet Mr. Asquith, the
Prime Minister and said that upon his reply their actions depended.
They would say to the Government: "We shall be satisfied with
nothing less than a Reform Bill by which women shall be on equal
terms with men." (Applause.)
I have thrown my stone, and
I have done injury to a motor car, I am glad to say. But what
are the bodies of motor cars compared with the bodies of men and
She was asked: "Why do you throw stones?" The reason she said was
they felt no protest could be too strong to express their
earnestness, and there was nothing like stones for making people
move. (Laughter and applause.) "I have thrown my stone, and I have
done injury to a motor car, I am glad to say. But what are the
bodies of motor cars compared with the bodies of men and women?"
Mrs Henry Fawcett was Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929), who
while opposed to violence was a superb organiser and strong leader.
She was President, for more than twenty years, of the non-violent NUWSS
(National Union of Women Suffrage Societies). They were known as
Suffragists rather than the more extreme Suffragettes of the WSPU
(Women's Social and Political Union) led by the inspiring leader
Emmeline Pankhurst who also came to speak several times. Her
daughter Sylvia made a speech in St John's Hall in 1914.
Emmeline Pankhurst also came to Southgate for the
funeral of her sister.
January 5th 1911. Sister of Mrs. Pankhurst Buried at Southgate.
Set free from Holloway Prison a week last Friday, after having
served a month's imprisonment in connection with a suffragist
demonstration, Mrs Mary Clarke, a sister of Mrs Pankhurst, died at
Brighton, on Christmas Day. She had been staying at Radcliff Road,
Winchmore Hill, with her brother (Mr Herbert Brownridge Goulden), to
whose home she came after a luncheon had been given at the Criterion
Restaurant for released suffragist prisoners. It appears that she
was in the best of health on the Friday, and her death was quite
unexpected. The funeral took place at Southgate Cemetery, and many
beautiful wreaths covered the coffin. On one of the wreaths were
inscribed the words, "I gladly pay for the price of freedom," the
last words which left her lips after her sentence.
Edwardian methods of forcefeeding could be fairly brutal, and
often caused more harm than good, especially, it seems, in the
case of Mrs Mary Clarke
A local road with suffragette connections was
Stonnard Road which is next to St Monica's Catholic Church where
sisters, Hilda and Laura Gargett (and perhaps a third sister
Florence?) lived. The sisters, who were very strong supporters of
The Cause, lived at number 6. They opened their garden as the venue
for several meetings.
Next door lived Victor Prout and his wife in
'The Studio', 4 Stonnard
Road, where several WSPU meetings were held. Victor Prout was a well
known book illustrator. Hilda Gargett also illustrated books and
religious works. They took part in most events in support of women's
suffrage and were mentioned in many editions of The Recorder.
On 12 October 1911 a political debating society
was formed and named The Southgate 'Parliament' where members paid
two shillings to attend meetings at Hazelwood School Hall. It was
there that the participants hotly debated political issues like Home
Rule for Ireland, the National Insurance Bill and of course the
Women's question. The Recorder was full of reports on The Southgate
'Parliament' which was organised along the same lines as the
Westminster Parliament, with a prime minister and about 150 members,
who paid two shillings to join, thereby becoming MPs; Liberals,
Conservatives and Independents according to personal preference.
They sat on appropriately placed benches in the school hall. After a
discussion and a vote at the first meeting, women were admitted as
full members. Hilda Gargett, as a supporter of the emerging Labour
Party, sat on the Cross Benches and made several vocal
contributions. Victor Prout and Herbert Goulden were very keen MPs
as was Mr Atholl Robertson who was opposed to women being admitted
to this 'Parliament'. The local Liberal Westminster MP, Mr Glyn
Jones, was chosen as prime minister. The speaker was the Reverend
Campbell Taylor MA, who was the newly inducted minister of St
George's Presbyterian Church, in Fox Lane, Palmers Green. He did a
good job fielding the ayes and noes.
In 1911 the Westminster Parliament was dominated by the Liberals
with Herbert Henry Asquith (1852-1928) as prime minister from 1908
to 1916. He was not a supporter of the Women's Cause despite several
social improvements being introduced before he was ousted by Lloyd
George in 1916, which split the Liberals and contributed to their
decline. Foreign Secretary Edward Grey was sympathetic, as was
But not all the men of the district were opposed to
the women's demands; Mr Goulden, of course was a notable supporter
as was Victor Prout and they were among the organisers of the Men's
Political Union for Women's Enfranchisement. Some leading male
politicians also supported universal suffrage. They included several
leaders of the emerging Labour Party, Keir Hardie, Philip Snowden,
and George Lansbury.
Mr. Hugh Franklin, (who was imprisoned for
threatening Churchill with a whip and attempting to strike him,
saying "Take this, you cur, for the treatment of the suffragists.")
told of his prison experiences amidst the cheers and applause of the
ladies. One lady in the audience was so excited that practically
every minute she exclaimed "Bravo" and swooned.
Prime Ministers of Great Britain
Mr. Victor Duval, a chivalrous young gentleman who shielded a
Suffragette marking the walls of St. Stephen's was one of the pair
who intercepted Mr. Lloyd George as the right hon. gentleman was
leaving the City Temple. Both of these men came to speak at the
Triangle, Palmers Green and in Mr Prout's studio.
Another suffragette speaker who came here was Mrs
Jane E M Brailsford who had a powerful voice, "and from her speech
I should think that even the good-natured constable would find her a
She told of her prison experiences in April 1911 at the
'Studio', 6 Stonard Road, Palmers Green:
Mrs Brailsford is the wife of Mr Brailsford, who gave up his
position as leader-writer on the Daily News for the Cause. The two
have since occupied themselves heartily in the movement. Mrs Brailsford's
charm and power as an orator are well known.
Laura Gargett, of Palmers Green, was sentenced to
two months' imprisonment in Holloway prison for window smashing
although she had her sentence reduced to one month. As soon as she
arrived at Holloway prison she wrote to a friend at Winchmore Hill
asking for a supply of novels to be sent to her. She survived the
ordeal and when released on May 9th 1912 the following appeared in
Miss Laura Gargett's Welcome Home
To welcome home Miss Laura Gargett, of Stonard Road, MP in the local
'Parliament', St John's Hall, was crammed with enthusiasts last
Saturday week. A fellow ex-prisoner, in the person of Miss Victoria
Simmons, of Bristol, who has friends in Southgate, accompanied Miss
Gargett, whose welcome home was marked by a great display of flags
in the Suffragette colours — purple, white and green — and by purple and
white lilac. As if to remind the ex-prisoners of the good things
they had sacrificed for the cause, the tables groaned beneath the
weight of piles of sandwiches, cakes, and dainties of all sorts.
Miss Sylvia Pankhurst, who had a great welcome, said these prisoners
had gone to prison for a principle, and had sacrificed home comforts
and liberty for a cause — the great cause of womanhood. When the
ex-prisoners stepped on to the platform they were given a rousing
welcome. Miss Pankhurst then pinned on their dresses a brooch, each
symbolical of prison bars, surmounted by a broad arrow. Bouquets
were also presented.
Both gave interesting accounts of their prison experiences.
A vote of thanks to Lady Stout, which was briefly acknowledged by her
ladyship, was followed by songs by Miss Grace Boyd; recitations by
Miss Winifred Mayo; a sketch, in which Miss Hilda Gargett played a
merry ju-jitsu game with a working man, It was a great evening. Well
organised, enthusiastic and militant; the welcome home was a great
A month or so later on 4 July, Mr & Mrs Goulden
entertained a large party in the garden of their house in Radcliffe
Road, Winchmore Hill, on Saturday week, in connection with the local
branch of the Women's Social and Political Union. The gathering was
purely of a social nature, the proceedings consisting of a friendly
chat over a cup of tea and a very enjoyable programme of musical
items; 'The Women's March'" by Miss Yeomans, and a song with guitar
accompaniment by Mr Victor Prout.
This was followed by a rather curious, and to us
unhealthy, event on 1 August 1912:
Local Suffragette's Meeting. The Soothing Cigarette.
'Votes for Women' tea and "votes for Women" cigarettes are the
latest novelties adopted by the Women's Social and Political Union,
at a meeting at Mr Victor Prout's studio in Stonard Road on Tuesday
last week. These things were prominent in the midst of a pile of
literature placed at the entrance.
Mr H B Goulden, who acted as chairman, handed us some of the
cigarettes, which were very soothing after the rousing speeches that
were heard at the meeting. It had been arranged to hold the meeting
in the garden of No. 4, Stonard Road, at the invitation of Miss Gargett,
but the rain rendered this impossible, and The Studio was
found to be a very convenient resort. A powerful speech was given by
Miss Geraldine Lennox, from the headquarters of the Women's
Social and Political Union, and Mr Goulden spoke, in his characteristic
convincing way, from the man's point of view to a large audience,
which included about four men.
Mr Goulden said he owed a great debt of gratitude to
the women's movement for having opened his eyes to the tomfoolery of the
party game. This movement had been treated in a most disgraceful fashion,
by the party politicians. He went on to speak of the demand for true
representative Government, which could not come about till women had
Miss Lennox said the horrifying outbreak of
militancy in Dublin was only the outcome of the discontent that was growing
steadily among women, who had faced ridicule, scorn and contempt for the
last forty-five years, and, although Bills had been presented in Parliament
in the last few years, they were still without their franchise. Miss Lennox
concluded by saying married women had a wide field for propaganda work in
influencing their own husbands, and getting them to influence others.
Nov 1912 Mrs Foster remarked, "Whoever may
have been guilty of firing the Hoppers Road letter-box, the members of
the Southgate 'Parliament' did not so much as hint that the suffragettes
Mr Herbert Samuel, the Postmaster-General, in
reply did not hesitate to lay the crime — for crime it is — at the door of
In this country we are not in the habit of asserting
the guilt of anyone until it has been proved — and in this case it has yet
to be proved. Whether suffragettes or mischievous boys were responsible
the crime is equally reprehensible.
In December 1912 there was a play entitled 'Trial
by Jury' about the Suffragettes by the St James' Literary Society of
Wood Green, in which several local residents including Mr Prout,
Mr Goulden and the local historian, Tom Mason and his wife
took part. It was well received.
In January 1913, Mrs Pankhurst came to St
John's Church hall to make another rousing speech in which she pointed out
that "More than a thousand women had been sent to prison for simply
claiming their right".
A suffragette meeting in London, one of many which helped the
cause to victory
Mr Herbert Samuel, the
Postmaster-General, in reply did not hesitate to lay the crime —
for crime it is — at the door of the suffragettes
The Recorder, 1 August 1912
There were other speeches that summer by Mr Lynch
on "Some Aspects of the Women's Movement" and by Lady Bamford
Slack. In October the Southgate 'Parliament' had several more lively
discussions on The Cause. Mrs McEwan led a discussion on the
violence which she did not support. There was a fancy dress party at
'The Studio' in December in which Mr Prout was the 'Spirit of Torture'
and Hilda Gargett was 'The Spirit of Militancy', while Florence Gargett
was 'The Lady of the Lamp'.
In the New Year 1914 Victor Prout defended
those he referred to as 'Holy Women' and what he called the 'necessary
use of militant methods'. Suffragette leaflets were distributed at the
ceremonial opening of St Monica's Church on 7 May and an appeal to
'Remember the Women' was made to Abbot White whom they mistook for
the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.
In June the event that opened this article took
place when Mr Prout and Mr Goulden were pelted with
eggs and flour. The Young Liberals were accused of orchestrating
the event which they hotly denied.
In August 1914, when there was a big Liberal
demonstration at Enfield: "Elaborate precautions were taken against
interruptions by suffragettes. While several militants, known to
detectives, were stopped at the entrance to the field, it was
suspected that several others were present. Unfortunately, Mrs
Rice, who had occasion to move a chair nearer to hear the speakers,
was mistaken for a suffragette about to rise up and put the usual
question. She was 'hustled'. Mistakes happen in the best regulated
When War broke out in September 1914 the WSPU and
the NUWSS called off their campaigns in order to give support to the
soldiers, and from then on the women occupied themselves in less
exciting activities like knitting socks and mittens for the troops,
sending parcels to Belgian refugees, and serving soldiers. After
the war, in 1918 they were rewarded; the vote was granted to married
women although it still took another ten years until all women were
able to vote on the same terms as men.
Victor Prout, the Gargett sisters and the Gouldens
had considerable talents which they employed to support the Cause
and it is interesting to conjecture that the efforts of the women
and men of Southgate, Winchmore Hill and Palmers Green and the
reporters of The Recorder must have made a small contribution
towards the winning of equal voting rights for both sexes.
More details of these events can be read in The Recorder at the
Local History Unit, Thomas Hardy House, Enfield, Middlesex.
Text copyright © R Galili. An original
feature for the History Files.