This is one in a series of articles about 17-year-old Sarah Van Hoosen Jones and the diaries she kept detailing the events of her trip abroad in 1909-1910. Read more about this diary project.
On July 19, 1909, Sarah wrote one simple sentence in her diary that spoke volumes.
"Mama went with Mr. Johnston to see the suffragettes try to brake (sic) up a speech by Winston Churchill who is against woman suffrage."
Jones was writing about an event that occurred two days earlier on July 17 at King's Theatre in Edinburgh where Churchill, a Member of Parliament, was speaking about Britain's budget crisis.
Not one to breeze past a reference to a major historical figure, I set out to find more about that speech, as well as the protesting suffragettes.
Churchill was a member of the Liberal Party and a strong voice in support of the party's proposed People's Budget, an act that sought to increase taxes among the rich and introduce new social welfare programs all in an effort to to redistribute wealth and eliminate poverty.1
He was also opposed to giving women the vote.
To find more information about the speech and the protest Sarah mentioned, I searched many newspaper archives online. One of the best resources I found is Historic Newspapers based the UK. The company provides original newspapers dating back 200 years to researchers or those looking to purchase a unique gift to commemorate a birthday, anniversary or another important event.
The dedicated staff at Historic Newspapers found in their repository, which, according to their web site is the "largest private archive of British newspapers in the world," an article about Churchill's speech in The Times from July 18, 1909.
They sent me the original newspaper along with two others from 1908 and 1913 (which I will share in a future post).
The article was printed on page 9 and titled, "Mr. Churchill on the Budget."
"In the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, on Saturday afternoon, the first of a series of demonstrations in Scotland in favour of the Budget proposals of the Government was held. The principal speaker was Mr. Churchill, M.P.
"Judge MacPherson, chairman of the eastern section of the Scottish Liberal Association, presided over a gathering which numbered over 3,000 persons."
Here's the interesting and critical part for my research:
"Elaborate precautions were taken against the possibility of disorderly interruption of the suffragists, the ladies being restricted to certain portions of the building."
The end of the article reported:
"During the proceedings in the theatre a meeting of the suffragists was held in the neighbouring street. Miss Adela Pankhurst, after speaking from a wagonette, left her vehicle and made her way to the theatre, accompanied by Miss Bessie Brown and another lady. They tried to force their way past the police, but without effect. Miss Pankhurst and another lady were taken into custody, and mounted police, which had been held in readiness, kept the crowd on the move. An hour afterwards the ladies were liberated."
According to John Simkin on the Spartacus Educational web site, Pankhurst was "given the task of disturbing meetings held by Winston Churchill."2
It's not known what Sarah's mother, Alice, thought of the proceedings or if she actually witnessed any of the protests. What's important is that she wanted to see this event. Couple that with her daughter considering it significant enough to mention in her journal, however briefly, illustrates how deeply women felt about this struggle in both the U.S. and the U.K. in 1909.
Churchill's speech can be read in its entirety here. To listen to an audio recording of Churchill speaking about the budget issues in 1909, visit the Library of Congress here.
Part I: Sarah's Journey Begins in Montreal
1. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/churchill/interactive/_html/wc0055_1.html & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People's_Budget