December 9, 1911, To the Editor of The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art, “Militantism”
As she prepares for her own militant actions, Davison continues to engage in a public defense of militancy as the WSPU employs it-—in a measured and highly directed manner. Her second paragraph addresses the main issue she contests; in it she points out that the suffragettes involved in the stone throwing on the night of November 21st were highly specific and highly restrained in the damage they created. More distressing, surely, must have been the cruel “gibe of prison-whinings” and the charge that suffragettes might enjoy being sent to prison. Given the horrible tortures many of them endured, and which Davison herself had experienced in under-going forcible feeding, such a thoughtless charge must have been exceedingly hard to take. Her response is phrased in the height of “masculine” rhetoric designed to redeem the suffragettes from charges of hysteria and emotional reaction: “As soldiers we are ready to accept the fortune of war.”
31 Coram Street, W.C., 29 November, 1911
Sir, –Will you allow me to protest at the gibing tone adopted by you in your issue of 25 November on the recent militancy of the W.S.P.U.? You say that ‘we shall soon be regaled by some more insolent abuse of magistrates by Miss Pankurst and some more prison-whinings’. What you mean by this ‘cryptic’ utterance is not clear. We of the W.S.P.U. are not aware that the magistrates of this country have at any time been treated with ‘insolent abuse’ by us. If you had been present in the various courts at which our people have been tried, you would probably have been struck by the dignified bearing of our prisoners, a term which could not have been applied to them if they had stooped to abuse. As to the gibe of prison-whinings, it sounds very quaintly side by side with the other ‘polite fiction’ often raised against us that we enjoy going to prison. Both are equally absurd and equally untrue. As soldiers we are ready to accept the fortune of war.
You then go on to jeer at us for throwing stones ‘at all the windows we could find’. Surely this is a gross exaggeration. The stones thrown on 21 November broke windows in Whitehall, the Strand, one or two West-End establishments, and two newspaper offices. Are these all the windows we could find? That this stone-throwing was not done indiscriminately and hysterically is proved by your next remark, ‘It is something (and surprising) that stones were not thrown at the police’. This noteworthy fact proves how deliberate and self-restrained the women were. Your remark in brackets arose quite naturally from the involuntary reflection as to what men would have done in similar circumstances! But we know when to cry ‘Thus far and no further’! Our militancy is capable of proceeding to the greatest extremes, but only if necessary.
EMILY WILDING DAVISON