https://archives.blog.parliament.uk/2018/02/23/deeds-not-words-women-and-activism-project/

Deeds not Words! Women and Activism project

109 years ago, today two suffragettes, Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan, posted themselves to 10 Downing Street, in an effort to speak to the Prime Minister, Mr Asquith. This appears to have motivated Asquith’s private secretary, Mr Nash to write to the House of Commons to alert them to the possibility of women posting themselves to get an audience with the Prime Minister. Mr Nash writes…

‘I have seen Mr Baxter’s Private Secretary & he tells me that the Post Office are authorized to deliver human beings as parcels!’

 

Suffragettes as "parcels" page 1, 23 Feb 1909, Parliamentary Archives, HC/SA/SJ/10/12/9

The letter was written to the Serjeant at Arms, Mr Erskine. The Serjeant at Arms is responsible for the order and security of the House of Commons and controlling access to the parliamentary estate. In the early 20th century the women’s suffrage campaign had become a prominent movement. There were hundreds of societies campaigning for women to have the vote, both through peaceful and militant means. This impacted on the Serjeant at Arms as the campaigners would deliberately disrupt the order of the House of Commons to advance their cause.

Mr Nash advised Mr Erskine that…

‘The best way for tomorrow I am inclined to think is to tell the police that any women claiming to be delivered at the House of Commons are to be turned back.’

Earlier on the 23rd February 1909 Mr Nash wrote to Mr Erskine to pass on this information…

WSPU Deputation, 23 Feb 1909, Parliamentary Archives, HC/SA/SJ/10/12/11

‘The Women’s Social & Political Union have now written to the Prime Minister asking him to receive a deputation at 8 O’ Clock & in reply they have been informed that Mr. Asquith does not propose to receive them & that he will not be in the House at that time as he has an engagement elsewhere.’

The Women’s Social & Political Union, was known to use militant tactics to further their cause. This included window breaking, chaining themselves to railing and attacks on politicians. This might explain why Mr Nash thought it important to pass this information onto the Serjeant at Arms.

List of people arrested, 24 Feb 1909 Parliamentary Archives, HC/SA/SJ/10/12/12

At 8pm on the 24th Feb a deputation of Women belonging to the Women’s Social & Political Union arrived at the entrance to Parliament. According to eye witness accounts they wore ‘Votes for Women’ sashes and carried petitions. The group demanded to be admitted and to see the Prime Minister. Security did not allow them to enter Parliament. Some members of the group tried to enter by force they were driven back by the police on duty.

28 women and one man were taken into police custody. One of the women arrested was a Miss Daisy Dorothy Solomon. We think this might be the same Miss Solomon who had tried to deliver herself to 10 Downing Street the day before. To learn more about Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan posting themselves,  read the Postal Museums blog.

This blog marks the start of our collaboration with The Postal Museum and Flower Press Social Enterprise, on the Deeds not Words! Women and Activism project. A group of 8 women will participate in an exciting programme of trips, events and creative workshops, celebrating the strength and achievements of women.

 

 

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