Findmypast has brought together a historically significant collection of suffragette records. The collection comprises records from The National Archives related to the women and men who supported women’s suffrage in the early 20th century. Discover arrest records, parliamentary papers, a watch list of over 1,300 suffragettes, personal statements, reports of force-feeding, and transcripts of speeches. A full list of all the sources is available below. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the collection is FREE until 8 March 2018.
Findmypast has brought together a collection of records from The National Archives related to suffragettes. The details found in each record will depend on the nature of the report. Among these records you will find:
Arrest reports including the including the individual's name, offence, and arrest date
Personal statements about arrests
Cabinet letters related to the suffrage movement
Reports by suffragettes of mistreatment and force-feeding
Transcripts of speeches
After your search, select which volume you wish to view and you can browse the entire series. If you wish to search the collection by name, select the Suffragette collection available in the Useful links and resources.
Suffragettes advocated for the right to vote to be extended to women. The term ‘suffragist’ was a general term for those who supported women’s suffrage, and the term ‘suffragette’ was coined in 1906 by the Daily Mail to distinguish those who supported militant actions to support women’s suffrage.
The Suffragette collection spans from 1902 to 1919 and includes the following series of records from The National Archives: AR1, CRIM9, HO144, HO45, HO140, MEPO2, and MEPO3. Among these are photographs of suffragettes, cabinet letters, calendars of prisoners, Home Office papers of suffragette disturbances, an index of women arrested between 1906 and 1914 (the official watch list of over 1,300 suffragettes), reports of force-feeding, and more.
The women’s suffrage movement began in the late 19th century and became a national movement with the formation of The National Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1867 by Lydia Becker. Later came the more influential, National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, created under the leadership of Millicent Fawcett. A significant shift in the suffrage movement occurred in the early 20th century, when more suffragists supported militant action after being disappointed with years of no progress. In 1906, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia established the Women’s Social and Political. The motto of the organisation was ‘Deeds Not Words’.
The women’s suffrage movement succeeded in influencing the passage of two pieces of legislation which extended the franchise to women. The Representation of the People Act 1918 extended the right to vote to women over the age of 30 who met the property qualifications. The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 expanded the vote to all women over the age of 21, bringing the right to vote for women in line with men.
The collection brings together the stories of women of all classes who actively supported women’s suffrage by attending peaceful demonstrations and meetings, as well as committed arson attacks, window breaking, contributed to public disobedience, chalked on footpaths, and more. You will find working-class women of the factories recorded alongside aristocratic women. The records do include the names of male suffragettes who were arrested with their female comrades.
There are numerous well-known names of suffragettes found in these records. Below is just a selection of the notable names:
Emmeline, Christabel, and Sylvia Pankhurst – leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. Found the Women’s Social and Political Union and supported the militant actions of suffragettes.
Leonora Cohen – Acted as the personal bodyguard for Emmeline Pankhurst and was arrested after smashing the display case of the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, an action which gave her the nickname the ‘Tower Suffragette’.
Emily Wilding Davison – Davison was arrested on nine occasions, commenced a hunger strike in prison, and was force-fed. One of her arrests was, famously, for hiding overnight in Parliament on the same night the 1911 census was recorded. In 1913, she was killed by King George V’s horse after walking onto the track at the Epsom Derby.
Marion Wallace Dunlop – the first suffragette to go on a hunger strike while in prison.
Flora McKinnon Drummond – given the nickname ‘the General’ for the way that she led women’s marches. Drummond was arrested nine times and a frequent speaker at demonstrations.
Mary Eleanor Gawthorpe – arrested when she interrupted Churchill’s speech in 1909. She was badly beaten while imprisoned and suffered internal injuries.
Lilian Ida Lenton – arrested for arson at the Tea House at Kew Gardens. Lenton escaped Holloway prison by dressing as an errand boy and fled to France.
Lady Constance Lytton – arrested and force-fed while on hunger strike. Lady Lytton used the alias Jane Warton in order to avoid special treatment because of her title.
Hannah Mitchell – involved with the Women’s Social and Political Union. Her autobiography, The Hard Way Up was used by Abi Morgan, the screenwriter of the 2015 film Suffragette, as inspiration for one of the film’s working-class characters.
George Lansbury – a political and social reformer. Lansbury represented the East End of London and promoted social justice and women’s right. His name is listed among the index of suffragettes.
Below is a full list of all the series contained in this collection: AR 1/38 - Wallace Collection. Reopening of galleries closed against suffragists, Dec 1913.
AR 1/39 - Wallace Collection. Galleries close until further notice following suffragist outrage at National Gallery, March 1914.
AR 1/528 - Wallace Collection. Descriptions and photographs of 18 suffragists, 1914.
CAB 23/32/1 - Cabinet meeting minutes (Cc 64(22)), 1 Nov 1922. Agenda point: 4. Claims by women's associations - proposed extension of female suffrage.
CAB 37/146/5 - Cabinet papers, 14 Apr 1916. On an article in The Suffragette paper called "the Britannia"
CAB 41/32/29 - Cabinet letter from Prime Minister H H Asquith, 4 Aug 1909. Inter alia suffragette prisoners in Holloway.
CAB 41/32/44 - Cabinet letter from Prime Minister H H Asquith, 16 Dec 1909. Inter alia suffragettes.
CAB 41/32/61 - Cabinet letter from Prime Minister H H Asquith, 8 Jun 1910. Inter alia women's suffrage
CAB 41/32/62 - Cabinet letter from Prime Minister H H Asquith, 15 Jun 1910. Inter alia women's suffrage bill
CAB 41/32/63 - Cabinet letter from Prime Minister H H Asquith, 23 Jun 1910. Inter alia women's suffrage bill
CAB 41/34/7 - Cabinet letter from Prime Minister H H Asquith, 11 Feb 1913. Inter alia suffragette disorders.
CRIM 9/58 - Calendar of prisoners, 1912
CRIM 9/59 - Calendar of prisoners, 1913
CRIM 9/60 - Calendar of prisoners, 1914
HO 140/290 - Calendar of prisoners, 1911
HO 140/297 - Calendar of prisoners, 1912
HO 140/298 - Calendar of prisoners, 1912
HO 140/305 - Calendar of prisoners, 1913
HO 140/306 - Calendar of prisoners, 1913
HO 140/308 - Calendar of prisoners, 1913
HO 140/314 - Calendar of prisoners, 1914
HO 140/316 - Calendar of prisoners, 1914
HO 140/317 - Calendar of prisoners, 1914
HO 144/1040/182086 - Home Office: Registered papers. Disturbance and obstruction of police by suffragettes meeting at Limehouse, 1909.
HO 144/1106/200455 - Home Office: Registered papers. Suffragette disturbances at Westminster.
HO 144/1107/200655 - Home Office: Registered papers. Suffragette disturbances, 1910
HO 144/1119/203651 - Home Office: Registered papers. Suffragette disturbances, 1911
HO 144/1150/210696 - Home Office: Registered papers. Suffragette Miss Emily Wilding Davison. Direct action, convictions & imprisonment, 1912; killed when she threw herself under the King's horse at the derby in 1913.
HO 144/1194/220196-236to5 - Home Office: Registered papers. Suffragettes' demonstration. Imprisonment. Forcible feeding.
HO 144/1204/221826 - Home Office: Registered papers. Suffragette Clara Giveen sentenced to three years' penal servitude for setting fire to the grandstand at Hurst Park. Refused food in prison, released on medical grounds and escaped police observation.
HO 144/1232/229179 - Home Office: Registered papers. Suffragette Rachel Peace alias Jane Short forcibly fed.
HO 144/1709/425859 - Home Office: Registered papers. Suffragette pickets outside House of Commons. Mrs Moore of Women's Freedom League concerned about suffragettes practising at a shooting range.
HO 144/552/185732 - Home Office: Registered papers. Theresa Garnet, Jessie Lawes, Vera Wentworth, Mary Allen, Ellen Wines Pitman. Treatment of suffragettes in Bristol Prison, 1909.
HO 144/837/145641 - Home Office: Registered papers. Annie Cobden-Sanderson, Eleanor Thompson, Emily Pethick Lawrence (also John Kensit & James Davies). Legal opinion on imprisonment without criminal conviction where there is a default of entering into recognisances. Complaints of treatment in prison by suffragettes, 1906.
HO 144/891/171454 - Home Office: Registered papers. 13 suffragettes convicted on 29 Oct 1908. Prison treatment. America and woman suffrage.
HO 45/10338/139199 - Home Office: Registered papers. Petitions concerning women's suffrage. Independent Labour Party. Men's Committee for Justice To Women. Women's Freedom League. Capt Charles Mevill Gonne. Suffragists' Vigilance League. First issue of "the Suffragist" (No 1, Vol 1), Oct 1909.
HO 45/10345/141956 - Home Office: Registered papers. Imprisonment of Theresa Billington for alleged assault of a police officer during a suffragette demonstration in Cavendish Square on 21 June 1906 outside the house of the Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith.
HO 45/10349/147337 - Home Office: Registered papers. Imprisonment of Bayard Simmons, Elizabeth Davis, Lily Johnstone, Bessie Armstrong, Sarah Morrisey and Auguste Mcdougall, following a suffragette protest on 14 Dec 1906 outside the House of Commons. Newspaper extracts
HO 45/10389/170808 - Home Office: Registered papers. Marion Wallace-Dunlop. Treatment in prison following convictions in connection with the "rush" on the House of Commons. List of suffragette cases at Bow Street Magistrates Court 14 Oct 1908. Christabel & Emmeline Pankhurst petitions from Holloway Prison. Flora Drummond, Grace Boutelle, Maud Brindley and others
HO 45/10417/183577 - Home Office: Registered papers. Imprisonment of Laura Ainsworth, Patricia Woodlock, Ellen Barwell, Hilda Evelyn Burkett, Leslie Hall, Mabel Capper, Mary Edwards, Mary Leigh & Charlotte Marsh in Winson Green Prison, Birmingham, following violent protests
HO 45/10418/183577 - Home Office: Registered papers. Imprisonment pf Patricia Woodlock, Ellen Barwell, Hilda Evelyn Burkett, Leslie Hall, Mabel Capper, Mary Edwards, Mary Leigh & Charlotte Marsh in Winson Green Prison, Birmingham following violent protests
HO 45/10695/231366 - Home Office: Registered papers. Police reports on meetings of Women's Social & Political Union in Greater London area. Transcriptions of speeches including Mrs Pankhurst's at Cardiff. WSPU at Royal Albert Hall. Nottingham. Disorder outside Holloway Prison.
HO 45/10720/249187 - Home Office: Registered papers. Harry Townsend's letter on crowd intimidation of Women's Social & Political Union during their attempted deputation to the King, 1914
HO 45/11057/234294 - Home Office: Registered papers. Conveyance of female prisoners to prison 1913-1914. Complaints by suffragettes about the conditions under which they were conveyed to prison in police vans in Liverpool, Salford, Glasgow & Holloway. Jane Short, Constance Antonina ("Nina") Boyle, Anna Munro, Charlotte Despard, Elizabeth Knight & Katherine Gray. Drawings of police vans. Provision for Epsom Races, 1922-1923.
HO 45/24630 - Home Office: Registered papers. Imprisonment of Emmeline Pankhurst & Emmeline Pethick Lawrence in Holloway Prison, and Frederick William Pethick Lawrence in Brixton Prison, on charges of conspiracy and incitement to cause damage, 1912-1913.
HO 45/24665 - Home Office: Registered papers. Suffragette amnesty of August 1914: Index of women arrested 1906-1914. The official watch list of over 1,300 suffragette arrests: those arrested for the cause, with the places and number of times they were arrested.
KV 2/1570 - Security service file on Sylvia Estelle Pankhurst. Active in the suffragette movement. An early Communist and, in the late 1930s and 40s, engaged in anti-war and anti-fascist activity. Founder and editor of ‘new Times And Ethiopia News’ In 1936. Very active in promoting the Abyssinian cause and denouncing Italy's imperial activity. Emigrated to Ethiopia, 1944. She remained violently anti-British until her death in 1960. This file mainly covers the later stage of her career: serial 1a: summary 1914-1918; Serial 55a: summary of political activity; Serial 80(3): further summary.
MEPO 2/1016 - Metropolitan Police. Suffragette movement: disturbances and convictions, 1906-1907. Assaults on police and disorderly conduct. Irene Fenwick Miller, Theresa Billington, Christabel Pankhurst. List of defendants following disorderly meeting outside House of Commons, 13 Feb 1910.
MEPO 2/1310 - Metropolitan Police. Augmentation of special branch to protect cabinet ministers from suffragettes, Sept 1909.
MEPO 2/1438 - Metropolitan Police. Suffragette demonstrations: Women's Social & Political Union, 1911. Police procedure for dealing with picketing of ministers' residences by suffragettes.
MEPO 2/1560 - Metropolitan Police. Women's Social & Political Union weekly meetings at London Pavilion Music Hall, leading to arrests of Annie Kenny and other suffragettes on 6 Oct 1913. Police report of meeting and arrests.
MEPO 3/203 - Metropolitan Police. Suffragette complaints against police, witness statements and police responses to claims of violence and heavy-handedness, 1911