November 27, 1911, To the Editor of The Yorkshire Observer, “Woman Suffrage”
The editors of The Yorkshire Observer and The Manchester Guardian begin to append their own statements to Davison’s letters with increasing regularity. Here the issue is the contentious topic of militancy, and its success or lack of success in furthering the suffrage cause. The editorial position of The Yorkshire Observer doubts the value of militancy. Davison, a particularly energetic militant, believed in its strategic utility. The activities of November 21, 1911, which both the editor and Davison refer to are described by Andrew Rosen in Rise Up, Women! this way:
“On 21 November , Mrs Pethick-Lawrence led the usual deputation from the Caxton Hall to Parliament Square. The women who met at 7 p.m. at 156 Charing Cross Road did not march with the deputation. Instead, armed with bags of stones and hammers supplied to them at the WSPU shop, the women went singly to break windows at Government offices and business premises. Windows were smashed at the Home Office, Local Government Board, Treasury, Scottish Educational Office, Somerset House, National Liberal Federation, Guards’ Club, two hotels, the Daily Mail and Daily News, Swan and Edgar’s, Lyon’s, and Dunn’s Hat Shop, as well as at a chemist’s, a tailor’s, a bakery, and other small businesses. Two hundred and twenty women and three men were arrested. The WSPU had never before attacked premises connected with neither the Government nor the Liberal Party. (p. 154; ; from “What Did the Suffragettes Do?” online http://www.johndclare.net/Women1_SuffragetteActions_Rosen.htm)
Sir, –In the leading article in your issue of November 21 on ‘The Violent Suffragists’ you speak of the scenes threatened for that date as some which would degenerate into ‘an orgie of brute force.’ Will you allow me to point out that your prophecy has not been fulfilled? The police, for example, having particular orders from the new Home Secretary apparently, showed a very different attitude from last November. The crowd was well behaved and sympathetic to the women, thereby disproving your prophecy that such an undertaking at night was ill-advised, and proving the contention of the Women’s Social and Political Union that it was far better for women to wait till the honest working man could be out to see fair play.
For the rest your statements are inaccurate, not to say ill-advised. You say that the victory of woman suffrage, when won, will be attributed to Mrs. Fawcett and her forty [or rather fifty] years of hard effort and not the Amazonian efforts for six years of Mrs. Pankhurst. We do not mind one little bit to whom the victory is attributed, so long as it is won. But you cannot wonder when you contemplate the position of woman suffrage just six years ago after forty years of untiring, devoted effort, that some women at any rate thought that a change of method was necessary. The result has justified this change. Look at the position of the question in the forefront of politics to-day. Look at the utterances of that politician Mr. Lloyd George at Bath last night. Would such an astute and slim [devious] politician as he have made a similar speech six years ago? Observe the signs of the times, and the result of militancy is more than justified.—I am, &c.
EMILY WILDING DAVISON
31, Coram Street, W.C., November 25
[Our article spoke of what was ‘likely,’ and while we think the actual occurrences sufficiently regrettable, the fact that they were not worse is quite consistent with the truth of the statement that as seen in advance they were likely to be. The magnitude of the police arrangements shows that we were by no means singular in our view of the probabilities. We fail to see that ‘militancy’ deserves the credit of the fact that the suffrage movement is more advanced than it was six years ago. So are many other movements which militancy has neither helped nor hindered. –EDITOR]