Leeds Mercury (25/Mar/1907) - Dora Thewlis's Suffrage Trip

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.


Magistrate's Letter to Her Parents.


What Dora Said when She Volunteered.


The parents of Dora Thewlis, the seventeen-years-old suffragette, who was among the 75 arrested in connection with the raid on Wednesday, on Saturday received the letter which Mr. Horace Smith, the Westminster magistrate, promised that he would send them.

It will be remembered that the magistrate, expressed his surprise that the girl should have gone alone from Huddersfield, where she lived, to London, in order to take part in the suffragette, proceedings, and after referring to the danger attending the trip, said he would write to her parents about it, and meanwhile he remanded her.

Mr. Horace Smith's letter spoke of the great risks the girl ran in coming up to London under such circumstances and unaccompanied by her parents, and suggested that arrangements should be made for her to return home next Wednesday, when her fare would be paid out of the poor-box.

Mr. and Mrs. Thewlis are as indignant at the tone of the letter as they were at Mr. Smith's comments when Dora appeared before him. They resent the idea of her fare being paid out of the poor-box. She is not penniless, as she has money of her own which she has saved out of her earnings of £1 a week.

The parents believe she is quite capable of taking care of herself. "She is not a child," they said, "and although she is only seventeen, she looks twenty-one at least."

"We have brought her up in Socialistic and progressive beliefs," said Mrs. Thewlis, "and she thoroughly understands the cause for which she is suffering. Ever since she was seven she has been a diligent reader of the newspapers, and can hold her own in a debate on politics. She and I were the first Huddersfield people to assist Mrs. Pankhurst in the recent bye-election, and it was mainly through our efforts that, the Huddersfield branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union was formed. I have the honour to be the president of the branch, and intended going to London, but circumstances prevented me. Dora at once said, 'Let me go, mother. I am quite capable. I understand what I am fighting for, and am prepared to go to prison for the cause. 1 feel that women ought to have their rights, and it will be an honour to go to prison.'

"Naturally, I hesitated owing to her age, but I knew she would be surrounded with friends, and I consented, and the union accepted her as a delegate. I travelled to Manchester with her, and placed her in the care of the officials. She was just as. much protected as the child of the richest lady in London, and if need be could have gone to relations in the City. The magistrate had no cause for saying that she was turned adrift on the streets."

Mr. Thewlis, who is an enthusiastic supporter of the suffragists, said his daughter had gone to London to serve a purpose. The magistrate had found fault with her because she had plenty of pluck. She had written asking him to request the magistrate to give her the same sentence as the others had received. This the father intended doing, though he would feel relieved when his daughter returned home. He thought her experience would increase rather than diminish her ardour for the women’s suffrage movement. He further stated that Dora had never to his knowledge worn either clogs or high-heeled boots. When she left house she was wearing ordinary shoes.


Miss Christobel Pankhurst was asked on Saturday if it were not illegal for the Women's Social and Political Union to pay the fares of their supporters in the provinces to come up to London for the purpose of creating a breach of the peace.

"We are quite prepared to take the consequences of whatever we do," she said. "We only pay their railway fare, and nothing else. In many cases they have to pay some one in their absence from home to do their work, so you can’t call a person paid who is actually out. of pocket. You could not very well expect them to pay their railway fare as well."

The successive raids of the suffragettes, resulting as they have done in an increasing number of arrests, put the authorities in a serious difficulty as regards prison accommodation, and yesterday 70 female convicts were removed from Holloway to Aylesbury in order to make room for the suffragettes who refused to pay their fines.