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Mary Gawthorpe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mary Gawthorpe
Mary Gawthorpe, 1908. (22358671834).jpg
Born12 January 1881
Died12 March 1973
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Known forSuffragette

Mary Eleanor Gawthorpe (12 January 1881 – 12 March 1973)[1] was a British suffragette, socialist, trade unionist and editor.[2] She was described by Rebecca West as "a merry militant saint".[3]


Miss Mary Gawthorpe (ca 1908)
Miss Mary Gawthorpe (ca 1908)

Gawthorpe was born in Woodhouse, Leeds to John Gawthorpe, a British leatherworker, and Annie Eliza (Mountain) Gawthorpe. Her mother, Annie, at a very young age worked at a mill until her older sister offered her a position as an assistant. Mary Gawthorpe had four siblings; the baby and eldest sister died within a year of each other due to pneumonia when Mary was seven, and the other two, Annie Gatenby and James Arthur, survived to adulthood.[4]

After qualifying as a teacher in her native Leeds, Gawthorpe became a socialist and was active in the local branch of the National Union of Teachers. She joined the Independent Labour Party and in 1906, became secretary of the newly formed Women's Labour League. She became involved in the women's suffrage movement and, in 1905, joined the Women's Social and Political Union. In 1906, she left teaching to become a full-time, paid organiser for the WSPU in Leeds. Sylvia Pankhurst came to Leicester in 1907 and joined Alice Hawkins who made introductions. They were joined by Gawthorpe and they established a WSPU presence in Leicester.[5]

She later joined Christabel Pankhurst in Wales, where she drew upon her working-class background and involvement in the labour movement. At the meeting in Wales, organised by Samuel Evans, who was standing for reelection to Parliament, Gawthorpe, in perfect Welsh, worried Evans by putting questions to him in his own language at his own meetings.[6] The chairman at the meeting started the Welsh National Anthem, but Gawthorpe turned this to her advantage by leading the singing in her rich voice which "won the hearts of the people still more".[6] Due to her beautiful singing and powerful oratory skills, Evans left the meeting in anguish, which caused his friends to never mention Gawthorpe to him, and his wife kept him at home the next time there was a suffrage debate at the House of Commons.[citation needed]

In the spring of 1907, she organised an open-air meeting during the Rutland by-election campaign. While standing on a wagon in Uppingham – accompanied by several other women – a crowd of "noisy youths began to throw up peppermint 'bull's eyes' and other hard-boiled sweets".[7] Undeterred by the rowdy children, due in part to her time as a schoolteacher, she retorted, "Sweets to the sweet", with a smile on her face and continued her argument until a pot-egg thrown from the crowd hit her on the head and she fell unconscious. She was carried away but returned the next day, like a "true Suffragette", undaunted. Sylvia Pankhurst wrote that the "incident and her plucky spirit, made her the heroine of the Election".[7]

A blue plaque to Gawthorpe in Bramley, Leeds
A blue plaque to Gawthorpe in Bramley, Leeds

Gawthorpe also spoke at national events, including a rally in Hyde Park in 1908 attended by over 200,000 people.[8] As well as being imprisoned on several occasions for her political activities, Gawthorpe was also badly beaten, suffering serious internal injuries after heckling Winston Churchill in 1909.[9]

Before the 1909 incident, in October 1906, she was arrested following a demonstration at the House of Commons because she refused to be bound over to keep the peace and was sentenced to two months' imprisonment.[10] After being released from prison, Gawthorpe was arrested for another House of Commons demonstration in February 1907 and was "badly knocked about and could not appear at court". The case was dismissed the following month.[11]

Several months later, in November 1907, she was again arrested, but this time with Dora Marsden and Rona Robinson at Manchester University, due to asking Lord Morley about the imprisoned women at Birmingham.[12] The three women were ejected from Lord Morley's meeting and were violently arrested by the police.

In January 1910 on polling day in Southport, Gawthorpe together with fellow suffragettes Dora Marsden and Mabel Capper, were the subject of a violent assault whilst demonstrating at the polling booths. In February, the three suffragettes brought charges against three men for assault. The charges were dismissed by the magistrates. Outside the court, police intervened in hostilities that arose between supporters of the defendants and those of the three appellants.[13]

With Dora Marsden, Gawthorpe was co-editor of the radical periodical The Freewoman: A Weekly Feminist Review, which discussed topics such as women's wage work, housework, motherhood, suffrage movement and literature. Its notoriety and influence rested on its frank discussions on sexuality, morality and marriage, and urged tolerance for male homosexuality. Unfortunately, due to poor health and disagreements with Marsden, Gawthorpe resigned from her duties as co-editor. Her final publication was dated 7 March 1912.[14]

Gawthorpe emigrated to New York City in 1916.[15] She was active in the American suffrage movement and later in the trade union movement, becoming an official of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America union. She chronicled her early efforts in her autobiography, Up Hill to Holloway (1962).[16]

Posthumous recognition

Her name and picture (and those of 58 other women's suffrage supporters) are on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London, unveiled in 2018.[17][18][19]

See also


  1. ^ "Guide to the Mary E. Gawthorpe Papers TAM.275". Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Retrieved 2008-03-16.
  3. ^ Houlton, Sandra Stanley (1996). Suffrage Days: Stories from the Women's Suffrage Movement. Routledge. p. 130. ISBN 0-415-10941-8.
  4. ^ Gawthorpe, Mary (1962). Up Hill to Holloway. University of Michigan. pp. 6–7.
  5. ^ Elizabeth Crawford (2 September 2003). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Routledge. pp. 281–. ISBN 1-135-43402-6.
  6. ^ a b "The Woman's Tribune: Correspondences"". 1906.
  7. ^ a b Pankhurst, Sylvia E. The Suffragette: The History of Women's Militant Suffrage. p. 22.
  8. ^ "NYU Tamiment Library Archives". Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  9. ^ "Spartacus Educational". Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  10. ^ Women's Who's Who. p. 248.
  11. ^ Women's Who's Who. p. 249.
  12. ^ Clarker, Bruce (1996). Dora Marsden and Early Modernism: Gender, Individualism, Science. University of Michigan Press. p. 50.
  13. ^ Manchester Guardian, 15 February 1910, "Southport Polling Day Scene".
  14. ^ "General Introduction to the Marsden Magazines". Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  15. ^ "NYU Today". Retrieved 16 March 2008.
  16. ^ Gawthorpe, Mary Eleanor (1962). Up Hill to Holloway. Traversity Press.
  17. ^ "Historic statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett unveiled in Parliament Square". 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  18. ^ Topping, Alexandra (24 April 2018). "First statue of a woman in Parliament Square unveiled". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Millicent Fawcett statue unveiling: the women and men whose names will be on the plinth". iNews. Retrieved 2018-04-25.

External links

This page was last edited on 17 January 2019, at 16:56
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