Leeds Mercury (27/Mar/1907) - Miss Dora Thewlis: Baby Suffragette

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors.

MISS DORA THEWLIS.

A London "Evening News" representative yesterday interviewed at Holloway Prison "Little Dora," the baby suffragette, about whom Mr. Horace Smith, the magistrate, wrote to her father offering to send her back to her home at Huddersfield.

"Oh, I am so glad to see you," she cried. "I feel so lonely here. I want to go back home I have had enough of prison. The food is awful, and I have eaten practically nothing since I have been here; and look at me in these horrid clothes! They are so heavy, and they tire me. I am ashamed of myself."

A full report of the interview with the London "Evening News" representative will be found in our news columns,


BABY SUFFRAGETTE.

Visited by Representative of the London "Evening News."

WANTS TO GET HOME.

DORA DISGUSTED WITH ROWDYISM, AND WANTS TO BE "LADY-LIKE."

A London "Evening News" representative yesterday interviewed at Holloway Prison "Little Dora," the baby Suffragette, about whom Mr Horace Smith, the magistrate, wrote to her father offering to send her back to her home at Huddersfield.

Miss Dora Thewlis, the London "Evening News" representative writes, wore over her heart a yellow cardboard disc, on which was inscribed "E.4.21." The poor girl had lost her beautiful colour, and her raven black hair and black eyes contrasted strangely with the pallor of her cheeks. She appeared delighted at the break caused in the monotony by a visit.

"Oh, I am glad to see you," she cried when the representative of the London "Evening News" was admitted to her place of confinement, "I feel so lonely here. Since I have been here nobody has been to see or written to me ; everybody has forgotten me. It is too bad ; my only comfort has been derived from a couple of letters which I have received from home. Look what my mother has written to me:—

"'Dear Child, — I am very proud of the way you have acted, so keep your spirits up and be cheerful. You ought to have told the magistrate, when he said you were too young and ought to have been at school, what about working at Huddersfield at a loom for ten hours at a stretch. You know what you went to London for, and what you are doing. You are a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, who are looking after you. So do your duty to the Women’s Social and Political Union.'

"I want to go back home," added Miss Dora. "I have had enough of prison. The food is awful, and I have eaten practically nothing since I have been here ; and look at me in these horrid clothes! They are so heavy, and they tire me. I am ashamed of myself."

MISSED AT HOME.

"Another letter," Dora added, "that I have received from Huddersfield runs as follows:—

"'We feel so lonely without you, and hope to see you back one day this week. We all keep on saying, "I wish Dora were here." George Taylor — my sister's young man, Dora explained — does not like the idea of your going to prison. He says you see no danger in anything ; cheer up.'

"In fact," added Miss Thewlis, "they are all very proud of me at present. But I do not think they will be after to-morrow, for I intend asking the magistrate if I can go home. I do think it is impertinent of Mr. Horace Smith to say he will pay my fare out of the poor-box. My father has money to pay for it if I go back, and I also have a little money of my own.

"I expect I shall displease my sister suffragettes for not remaining in prison, but I am determined on that point. I shall not stay here ; I am too young. Let those older than myself come to prison.

"I don't like being taunted with the phrase, 'You are too young. What do you want with a vote?' I know very well I am too young for a vote, but it is not for myself I am fighting, or at least was fighting, for I never shall come to London again, but for my mother.

THE DISGRACEFUL SCENES.

"There was nobody else at home who would or could come, so as my mother has been fighting for the cause all her life they sent me down.

"But I was surprised at the disgraceful scenes, and when the magistrate asked me if I would go to prison I said 'yes' just to do like the rest, but, as I said before, I have regretted it ever since. Besides, ever since I have been here, never talking to anybody, my neck has begun to hurt me. I don’t think ever for the sake of a vote — which I think women should have — it is worth while going to prison, do you?

"I have been brought up to Socialistic ideas, and since I was 13 years old I have been one of the main workers at our Huddersfield branch, and shall continue the fight at home, but in a quiet and lady-like manner. But never again to London, unless they let us enter the House of Commons like ladies, with the policemen bowing down to us. I hope they will not be very angry with me when I return home, but I feel very unwell."

IN PRISON DRESS.

HAS HER TREATMENT BEEN UNUSUAL?

A correspondent of the "Daily Mail," who has seen Miss Thewlis in prison, writes:—

"I was conducted into a court-yard, together with some other dozen visitors, holding in their hands squares of Mack wood on which were inscribed the numbers of the prisoners they wished to see.

"After preliminaries lasting about half an hour, I was led into a room, where I was told I should see Miss Thewlis. This room was divided from another by a thin iron grating, each compartment being provided with a wooden table. I was given a chair, and after I had waited some three minutes, Miss Thewlis entered.

"She was in prison dress. She wore a blue bodice and skirt, a white-check apron, and a simple kerchief depending from the neck on the bodice, the material of which, being coarse, would otherwise have irritated the skin. A thick pair of shoes and a white cap completed her attire. In every respect her dress conformed to the prison uniform, even down to the yellow cardboard disc on her breast, with the number E 4.21.

"So astonished was I to find Miss Thewlis in prison attire that I asked her why she was dressed in that manner. She replied 'I don’t know. Look at me — don't I look funny? How do you like me? I feel that tired ; these clothes are so heavy.'

"Then a wardress locked the door of the compartment in which Miss Thewlis was standing, and another wardress came into my room and stood by the door listening to all our conversation.

"During the week she had been in prison little Dora had undergone a great change. She was thin and wan, and had lost all her girlish gaiety.

"Little Dora looked indescribably sad on hearing that it was time for me to leave, and looked apprehensively at the wardress who opened the door of her room with a large bunch of keys.

"'Well, come and see me at the court tomorrow,' she said, and then, accompanied by the wardress, she disappeared.

"As I left Holloway Gaol I could not help but feel pity for this child, whose previous militant ideas seemed somewhat foreign to her charming, simple, and graceful manner.

"Later in the day Mrs. Pethick Lawrence saw her, and the pleasure of little Dora was indescribable."

LEGAL OPINION.

It is contrary to law (writes a legal correspondent) to require prisoners under remand to wear prison clothes. A remand implies that the case has not been decided — in other words, there has been no conviction. Until conviction the prisoner is regarded in the eyes of the law as innocent ; and innocent persons are not called upon by law to wear garments solely intended to mark conviction. Of course, it is possible that Mr. Smith convicted this young suffragette, and merely put her back to communicate with her parents.

Leeds Mercury (27/Mar/1907) - Miss Dora Thewlis: Baby Suffragette

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This page was last modified on 28 June 2017 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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