Saturday, June 13, 2015

Harpies, Gorgons and Revolutionaries

This interview with the militant suffragettes was printed in the March 14, 1914 Montreal Le Pays, at at time when Mrs. Pankhurst's suffragette movement in England was at its most controversial - and violent - and just six months before an infinitely more violent event, WWI, broke out. 

I've translated the article off the top of my head. 

I have written a great deal about what the English Quebec and Canadian newspapers had to say about the militant suffragettes in England. Read Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Militant's Invasion of Montreal in 1912/13.

Pankhurst's name often made it into the French papers in Montreal, but the suffrage issue wasn't big on the French side. (Easy to see why when the vote in Montreal was tied up with Protestant values, even eugenics.)  Here's a rare French interview.

Pic. Pankurst and Carrie Derick, Montreal's suffrage leader. Mrs. Pankhurst came to Montreal  to speak in December, 1911  as a guest of the very English, very Protestant Montreal Council of Women. According to Thérèse Casgrain's 1970 autobiography, word on the French street regarding Mrs. Pankhurst was very negative.

In the middle of the Royal Kingsway artery rises a veritable palace on whose roof flies the green, white and (RED?)purple flag that the suffragettes have chosen as their emblem. 

Here are the headquarters of the Women’s Social and Political Union, those militants created by Emmeline Pankhurst who trust only that violent methods and revolutionary procedures will assure them success in their cause.

I was curious to see these women, whom the anti-feminists have described as Harpies and Gorgons, in their home.

In the absence of Mrs. Pankhurst who was arrested just today and who hasn’t come around to the Association in a while, I talked for a bit with Mrs. Dacie Fox, Secretary of the WSPU, a woman, I am told, of  courage, industry and intelligence.

This charming woman greeted me amiably in the Grand Salon surrounded by a battalion of typists each as pretty and charming as the next.

She responded to all the questions I asked.

How do you justify the acts your agents have committed? Hurting innocent bystanders and destroying private property?

In war there are no innocents. And there’s no respect for property. The English showed us this in the Boer War. They took old men, women and children and parked them in Concentration Camps. They burned their fields and killed their livestock. 

These are the acts of war. What are the little acts of the suffragettes when compared to these?

Then you are at war with the government?
Yes, we declared so in 1906. Plus it’s not with good grace that we are going to be given our rights. We will have to take them by force.

It’s guerrilla warfare you are doing?


Is the discipline strict in your army? 

Must ever militant perform whatever she is told to do?

Each of us is free to do what she wants, but like in any army, the way is shown to us by the general, Mrs. Pankhurst.

In the eyes of the law, she is the only one responsible for what acts her troops do. She’s taken all responsibility and been five times to jail for it. Each time she went on a hunger strike. Each time she was released at death’s door.

But thanks to the Cat and Mouse Act instituted in 1913, she can be jailed over and over again by the Justice System. They did it again today. They are killing her slowly. Isn’t that barbaric?

The French women like to think that the English are perfect gentlemen. They should come  and  live over here in the Cat and Mouse regime.

Mrs. Pankhurst isn’t letting herself fall to pieces with the threat of death hanging over here. She is a great woman and her name will go down in history.

A few days ago she promised to give a speech from the window  of a friend’s house where she was imprisoned. She kept her word.

A police agent said, “I dare you to come down here.”

She did, but as soon as she came down the police arrested the wrong woman. They were forced to let the woman go.

Why do the police tolerate these revolutionary activities in this house?

They came down upon us a year ago and arrested the woman who was secretary then. She spent 12 months in prison.

You are courageous then?

Not at all I am doing my duty.

You are preaching anarchy?

No revolution. I hate war but there’s no other way to go to get our due. 

In France, you say insurrection is the best way to counter oppression. We are practicing what you preach. That is why you sympathize with our movement.