Monday, 12 October 2015

England, Suffragettes Arrested 1906-1914 collection on Ancestry

Ancestry has released a new collection entitled England, Suffragettes Arrested 1906-1914. The source is the Home Office collection HO 45/24665 as held at the National Archives in England.

From the site:

At the outbreak of the amnesty the Home Office compiled a list of all suffrage campaigners they were providing amnesty to, and although the document is entitled ‘Amnesty of August 1914: index of women arrested 1906-1914’ it also includes the names of more than one hundred men. The Home Office actually began keeping indexes of suffrage supporters (male and female) prior to the amnesty, so that they could trace and link multiple convictions of the same person. Originally written on index cards, which were often out of order, in 1922 the records were copied into a book. Each record consists of the name of the person arrested, and the date and place of arrest. If a person was arrested more than once, the details of each arrest are documented. In the last half of the book were inserted letters, minutes, reports, and several news articles related to the activities of the suffragists and suffragettes. The value of the index was primarily for day to day office work in the Home Office. However, the clerk notes “should the history of the Suffragette Movement ever …. be written in detail, [it] would be a source of information not otherwise obtainable.”

The richness of this source is not in the story of the amnesty and the different reactions to war by many different suffrage societies. Instead, it is in the literal wealth of names to be found in the document - over 1000 male and female suffrage campaigners who were at some point arrested. It’s a document that moves away from viewing only the Pankhurst figureheads of the movement to look at the wealth of individuals who, for a cause they believed in, were prepared to risk their jobs, families, and sometimes their health by hunger striking. Though the details are brief, it provides a partial overview of the movement. Many individuals were part of varied societies that often don’t get their due attention, including the East London Federation of Suffragettes, the Artists Franchise League and the Women’s Freedom League. This index contains the names of Flora Drummond, who at the time of her imprisonment was in her first trimester of pregnancy; William Ball, temporarily certified insane after a being force fed in prison; and Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, who was at the front of the Black Friday procession when suffragettes clashed with the police. Most importantly, the index lists many largely unknown persons from across the country and argues against the London centric view of women’s suffrage. The very nature of this document’s focus on arrest naturally excludes those who campaigned by pacifist means, though ultimately this document illustrates a view of suffrage rarely seen: a mass movement of active women and men across the country from many different types of suffrage societies.

The collection can be searched at


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