Women, know your place!

The suffragettes were in the press last month as we remembered the 100th anniversary of the death of Emily Davison, tragically trampled underfoot by the Kings Horse, Anmer, at the Epsom Derby. However, few people realise that Palmers Green had close connections with the suffragettes – connections which lead to a dramatic incident at the Triangle one Saturday night a year later, in June 1914.

Hazelwood School - meeting place for the supporters of women's suffrage

Hazelwood School – meeting place for the supporters of women’s suffrage

Among the leading campaigners for women’s suffrage in Palmers Green was Mr Herbert Goulden, husband of Laura Alice Goulden, the very first headmistress of Hazelwood School – Hazelwood was the venue for meetings on a number of occasions, and also the venue for a local debating society, the so called Southgate ‘Parliament’. The couple’s passion for votes for women was perhaps unsurprising, for Goulden was the younger brother of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst.

Emmeline had formed the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903 with her three daughters, Christobel, Sylvia and Adela following the death of her husband. However, while initially attracting some high profile supporters, the WSPU soon found it difficult to get their message across in the media. By 1905 they had decided it was time to try a different approach. In October Christobel and another activist disrupted a talk given by government minister Sir Edward Grey, constantly heckling him with the words “Will the liberal government support votes for women?”. A policemen claimed that the pair kicked and spat at him as he tried to remove them from the meeting. The pair were prosecuted and fined but refused to pay up and were jailed. It was the beginning of a pattern of direct action, arrests, hunger strikes and the force feeding of those who were imprisoned, to the shock of the public, both at the ‘most disappointing’ behaviour of the young ladies, and the rough treatment they received at the hands of the authorities.

Nearer home, suffragettes were blamed for fires in post boxes in Bowes Park and Hoppers Road, though it was never proven. Hazelwood Lane School hosted a talks by Christobel Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett and in 1912 Sylvia Pankhurst attended a reception at which Laura Gargett of Stonard Road was welcomed home after serving two months in prison for smashing windows at a demonstration. Mrs Pankhurst spoke at the same venue in January 1913, and in April, the opening ceremony of Grovelands Park was heavily policed due to fears that, as Mrs Pankhurst had been released from her latest stay at her majesty’s pleasure that very morning and the suffragettes might get ‘up to their old tricks’.

Events came to a head on the night of 13 June at a rally in Palmers Green Triangle. While Goulden and fellow activist Victor Prout awaited the arrival of the main lady speaker a group of young men began booing and jostling. One bought a pamphlet, tore it up and jumped on it. Goulden’s hat was knocked off in the kerfuffle while the crown jeered “Mrs Pankhurst’s brother”.

IMG_0522As the crowd surged, Goulden was knocked down, then rescued by a policeman who bundled him onto a tram at The Fox. The crowd took off after in hot pursuit, some jumping onto the tram, others peddling furiously on bicycles. In Winchmore Hill, the by then-flour spattered Goulden took shelter in the home of Counsellor Willis on Station Road while a crowd assembled outside the Gouldens’ house at 23 Radcliffe Road and proceeded to pelt it with eggs. The Gouldens were not able to regain admittance until nearly 11pm.

The local young liberals – widely suspected to have ‘egged’ the protest on – vehemently denied the involvement of their members, and the finger was pointed at ‘hooligans’ from outside the area.

Find out more

Ruby Galili has been researching the suffragettes in the area – read her article in History Files here: http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/FeaturesBritain/Modern_Suffragettes01.htm

Frank Meers Suffragettes: How Britain’s Women Fought & Died for the Right to Vote

Lucinda Hawkesley March, Women, March

This article first appeared in Palmers Green Life

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