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Kitty Marion
Kitty Marion (Katherina Maria Schafer) c. 1913.jpg
Criminal record picture
Born Katherina Maria Schafer
12 March 1871
Rietberg, Germany
Died 9 October 1944(1944-10-09) (aged 73)
New York City, US
Nationality United Kingdom
Occupation actress, activist
Known for suffrage, birth control advocacy, arson

Kitty Marion (12 March 1871 – 9 October 1944) was a German-born actress and political activist. She was a prominent suffragette during the women's suffrage movement in the United Kingdom, and is notable for having endured more than 200 force-feedings in prison while on hunger strike.[1] After emigrating to the United States, she was again arrested on nine occasions – this time for birth control advocacy.

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Early years

Katherina Maria Schafer was born in Rietberg in Westphalia, Germany, on 12 March 1871. Her mother died of tuberculosis when the child was two, leaving Marion with her father. Four years later, when Marion was six, her step-mother also died of tuberculosis. Her father, whose name is not known, abused Marion and hated that she had red hair.[2] When Marion was fifteen, she was sent by her father to live with her aunt in England.



In England, she became an actress and took the name "Kitty Marion". She worked her way up from chorus to named parts and was briefly the temporary stand-in for the lead before she fell out with her employer. She then tried to find work in the music halls but found that employers expected sexual favours in exchange for the best work.[2]


Marion joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1908. She became a prominent activist in the women's suffrage movement and often engaged in protests, which sometimes turned violent. Marion was known as 'a prolific bomber and arsonist for the suffragettes'.[3][4] She was arrested numerous times in England for her activism.[5]

Marion and Clara Elizabeth Giveen planned a reprisal after the death of Emily Davison at the Derby. On 13 June 1913, the two of them set alight to the Hurst Park Grandstand. Giveen was given three years in jail for arson but released under the Cat and Mouse Act after going on hunger strike.[6] Marion was also released but she had been force-fed 232 times during her imprisonment.[7]

In 1914 Marion suffered some persecution for being German. Ada Wright together with Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Lady Constance Lytton and Rose Lamartine Yates raised the money to pay her fare to emigrate to the United States, to avoid the anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom.[8]

In the U.S., she worked with Margaret Sanger in publishing the Birth Control Review.[2] Marion sold the Review at US$.20 per copy in Times Square, Grand Central Station, and Coney Island. Standing on street corners, she endured heckling, death threats, physical abuse, and police harassment. Over the course of ten years, Marion was arrested nine times for her birth control advocacy.[9] In 1921, Marion joined Sanger in establishing the first birth-control clinic in the U.S. Located in Brooklyn, it was closed by the police.

Marion died in the Sanger Nursing Home in New York City on 9 October 1944.[2]


  1. ^ Casciani, Dominic. "Spy pictures of suffragettes revealed". BBC News Online. Retrieved 25 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Viv Gardner, "Marion, Kitty (1871–1944)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 8 Nov 2017
  3. ^ "Sanitising the Suffragettes - Fern Riddell - History Today". Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  4. ^
  5. ^ John Simkin, "Marion Kitty" Archived 2011-10-10 at the Wayback Machine. at Spartacus Educational.
  6. ^ "Clara Elizabeth Giveen - Person - National Portrait Gallery". Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  7. ^ "Kitty Marion (Katherina Maria Schafer) - Person - National Portrait Gallery". Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  8. ^ Crawford, Elizabeth (2003). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Routledge. p. 760. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  9. ^ Engelman, pp. 99–101.


  • Engelman, Peter C. (2011), A History of the Birth Control Movement in America, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 978-0-313-36509-6.
This page was last edited on 21 July 2018, at 16:07
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