Dora Marsden, Hatless and Disheveled

1845-1945, Dora Marsden, Events, Freewoman, New Freewoman, The Egoist 1914, Trevor Blake / Wednesday, March 13th, 2019
An excerpt from the Nottingham Evening Post for March 31st, 1900. For all the blood and thunder of most egoist authors, only a few are known to have committed acts of physical violence. Those few are the Bonnot Gang and Dora Marsden. This street battle took place during Dora‘s time with the Women’s Political Suffrage Union (WPSU), an organization she later left as limiting her liberty. After the WPSU she founded The Freewoman, later The New Freewoman, later The Egoist, magazines where she moved from votes for women, to freedom for men and women, to freedom from freedom, to freedom from time and space and language. Some of those arrested with Dora on this day were involved in her magazines.  See here for a previous report of this same incident. – Trevor Blake


In accordance with the statement contained in Miss Pankhurst’s letter to the Prime Minister on Monday, the members of the Women’s Social and Political Union assembled in large numbers at Caxton Hall yesterday afternoon for the purpose of appointing a deputation to wait upon Mr. Asquith at the House of Commons.

Compared with previous gatherings of a similar nature, there was less enthusiasm in the proceedings, while in the streets there were further evidences of declining interest in the propaganda methods of the Union. A brass band aided in engendering a bellicose spirit by playing patriotic marches before the meeting.

The usual resolution, calling upon the Government to abandon their present policy and to give votes to those women disqualified by sex, was proposed by Mrs. Solomon, seconded by Mrs. Eates, and supported by Miss Smith (Birmingham), Mrs. Morris (Liverpool), Miss Woodlock (Liverpool), Miss Robinson (Manchester), and Miss Dora Marsden (Manchester).

The deputation, 29 in number, left Caxton Hall at ten minutes to four to the strains of the Marseillaise played by the band, and the encouraging cheers of a number of women sympathisers. Miss Dora Marsden carried the suffragist tricolour at the head of the procession. The deputation had only gone about fifty yards when the police stopped it, and courteously explained that their formation constituted a procession, which could not be allowed within a mile of the House. Miss Marsden was allowed to pass the cordon leaning on the arm of a gentleman, and still carrying her triclour. Other members of the party were passed through one at a time, and at such intervals as to render a procession out of the question. Miss Marsden reached the St. Stephen’s entrance just after four o’clock, and, of course, did not get beyond the police who guarded the entrance.

An exciting half-hour followed. Miss Marsden insisted on carrying her colours aloft, and the police broke the pole so as to prevent her doing this. She, however, retained the remains of her flag, and made determined attempts to mount the steps leading to the House of Commons. Altogether about twenty-four members of the deputation had now reached St. Stephen’s, where they were met by a solid cordon of police, and effectively prevented in their endeavours to gain admittance.

Acting Superintendent Boxall had given instructions that nobody should be arrested if arrests could possibly be avoided, and in carrying out that instruction his men displayed the utmost good temper and forbearance. Again and again the women secured a foothold on the pavement, and as they refused to return to the roadway they were pushed off as gently as might be. Some women insisted on addressing the crowd, but appears to have few sympathisers in the gathering. There was good deal of chaff, and the women were repeatedly advices to “go home.”

Two or three mounted policemen helped to keep the crowd on the move, and some of the more daring of the women contrived to seize the bridles of the horses, and were forced away with the greatest difficulty.

The police had absolute control, as was shown by the fact that they readily made a way to the House for a number of ladies who had legitimate business there, and for members passing to and from the House.

The Earl of Granard and his bride presented themselves, and surveyed for some time the exciting scene with evident amusement. The Earl ultimately passed into the House, and the Countess remained in her motor car and ordered it back home.

Shortly before five o’clock the police were compelled, in spite of their desire to avoid arrests, to take a small party of women to Cannon-row Police-station. The offenses alleged against them are of assault against the police. One woman deliberately struck a constable over the head with her umbrella, knocking his helmet off, and twice slapped the officer’s face. A second woman who was taken into custody also knocked off a policeman’s helmet. The leader and bearer of the bannerette became very violent, and, hatless and disheveled, again and again threw herself against the police cordon. Supt. Wells caught her in his arms as she made the rush and turned her back. The woman tried to strike him in the face, but Mr. Wells would not hear of her being arrested. One of his inspectors was also struck in the face, but showed similar forbearance.

In all the police made twelve arrests, the prisoners being:

  • Mrs. Emily Davidson, 4, Clement’s Inn, London
  • Miss Patricia Woodlock, Canning-chambers, Liverpool
  • Mrs. Florence Farmer, 156, Tufnell Park-road, London
  • Miss Helen Tolson, Zealand Hall, Manchester
  • Miss Margaret Smith, 11, Colore-buildings, Birmingham
  • Miss Dora Marsden, Manchester
  • Miss Kate Noblet, 63, Bristol-road, Edgbaston
  • Miss Alice Burton, 15, Upper Newington, LIverpool
  • Mrs. Julia Scott, Woodfield, St. Anne-road, Chertsey
  • Mrs. Bessie K. Morris, Wavertree
  • Miss Rona Robinson, Fallowfield
  • Mr. William Hutcheon, 113, Pepya-road, London, S. E.
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