History Files


In memory of Ruby Galili 1937-2016

Modern Britain

Suffragettes of Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill, & Southgate 1909-1916

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:


The Recorder
JUNE 18th 1914.
One Penny



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 down.

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.

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 which reported this event was The Recorder, 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.

Mrs Pankhurst on Wall Street
Following the death of her barrister husband, Richard, in 1898, Mrs Pankhurst formed the women-only Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), which was dedicated towards direct action

  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 reported that:

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, Should Women 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.

Lady 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 audience.

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 husbands' estates.

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 eight or nine 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 which 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 women?

The Recorder  

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?" (Applause.)


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.


Forcefeeding a suffragette
Edwardian methods of force-feeding 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 Lloyd George.

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.

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 difficult problem".

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 The Recorder.

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 success.


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 the vote.

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 were responsible".

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.

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'.

Suffragette meeting
A suffragette meeting in London in the early nineteen hundreds, one of many which helped the cause to victory by the end of the First World War

  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 which 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 families'.

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.


[Editor's note: Ruby Galili passed away on Friday 6 May 2016, at the age of seventy-eight, following a brief illness. She was an inspirational teacher of medieval history who shall be remembered fondly.]



Text copyright © R Galili. An original feature for the History Files.