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ID: 2469
Suffrage Trial 1909: The Curtis Bennett Papers
Women's Suffrage

Category: History

Various Addresses, No publisher. May 1913.


A collection of 57 letters and postcards to Sir Henry Curtis Bennett from family, friends and members of the public; 4to and 8vo. The correspondence congratulates him on his imminent knighthood and his promotion to Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, showing support after the "...recent dastardly & diabolic attempt on your life..." and concerns for his safety ("...do be careful of all letters, parcels & visitors to your house..."), all speaking in the strongest terms against the "vile" and devilish suffragettes ("evil... hysterical maniacs... Let all militants 'starve' themselves..."), supporting his strong stance ("...more power to your elbow...") and suggesting ways he can deal with them ("...the glory of a woman is her hair, if she won't keep quiet cut it off. You would soon put a stop to all this violence..."), several from women ("... I am heartily ashamed of my own sex... if I thought that my little girl (aged 9 months) would grow up like one of these, I would rather lay her to rest, at once... I grant that women should have the vote but they are hindering the good of the Cause..."), one letter from a maid giving the names of suffragettes hiding from the police ("...they are hiding Miss Lillian Linton... I will come forward for the Truth if necessary...") Also included is a copy of the order of service for Curtis Bennett's burial service on 6 June 1913. On 21 October 1908, at Bow Street Magistrates Court Sir Henry Curtis Bennett (1846-1913) tried Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and Flora Drummond for inciting a breach of the peace by circulating a handbill during a demonstration in Trafalgar Square on 13 October urging their WSPU supporters to "rush" the House of Commons. After a four-day trial, all three were found guilty and sentenced to three months imprisonment. After that he was a marked man. As well as a failed parcel-bomb attempt, he survived another assassination attempt when two suffragettes attempted to push him over the cliffs at Margate after he convicted several suffragettes following a window-smashing raid on the West End, necessitating constant protection from officers of Scotland Yard. The issue of female suffrage was part of a much wider debate on the equality of the sexes at this time and serves to demonstrate the widespread public feeling against suffragism in general. What is particularly evident here, however, is their distaste for the militant tactics of the suffragette wing of the movement, whose extreme behaviour certainly isolated many supporters of female suffrage, such as the suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett, who believed that votes for women would and should be achieved by peaceful means. To them, these women are "savages", "horrible female miscreants", "misguided" and "villainous", displaying "very un-English" uncivilised behaviour. They are diabolical "female fiends" and clearly mad ("militancy is another word for insanity"). One correspondent, the architect of Buckingham Palace, Sir Aston Webb, writes of "...the evil machinations of these disgraceful suffragists...". The women correspondents write just as vociferously as the men. There are several letters from women who are ashamed of their sex - one self-proclaimed "septuagenarian spinster" suggests flogging, another "peaceable quiet woman" suggests deportation to the remote island of Staffa in the north of Scotland.

Price £6000.00

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