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
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
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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, 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 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
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
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
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
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 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 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.
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 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
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
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
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 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 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,
[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
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