Arthur Jacobs: Politics and Protest

One of the aspects of Arthur’s memoir that drew me to it so much was how it contained Arthurs first person view of the Suffragette movement. With most women of the 21st century being feminists, including myself, it is fascinating to see how such an empowering and brave campaign which these women created was back then more seen as a nuisance, a protest that would soon be forgotten, and the most ironic being, a protest which would not make any difference.

In his memoir and despite being young, Arthur voices his opinion on the Suffragettes which echo’s much of societies view on them at the time. Being so young, it is evident his family influences along with the media created a false view on what these women were trying to do, brainwashing even young children to fear the Suffragettes as they would fear the monster in their favourite bedtime story.

When changing the topic of his memoir to the Suffragettes, Arthur states how they, ‘started to worry him’ (20), and how they, ‘spoilt the taste I already had for female company’ (20). The Suffragettes did not act as ‘normal’ women should in the 20th century. Much of their protests were based on loud protests and shocking acts which would allow them to make the news which would lead to a bigger following. Early acts in 1905 and 1906 involved things like lobbying and walking protest marches through the streets of London. However when voices were not getting heared, they turned to more abrupt actions which would make the papers. On 9 March 1906, about 30 women visited 10 Downing Street and asked to see Campbell-Bannerman.  After remaining for almost an hour, they were asked to leave. Once they started getting more rowdy, one women even jumping on the Prime Ministers car to get attention of the crowd they were escorted away by police. The women were not charged because Campbell-Bannerman did not press charges, as he wanted to keep the incident out of the newspapers, however this did not happen.

Arthur goes on to voice how he was, ‘appalled’ (21) to think they were, ‘chaining themselves to places and that one might come across them in this shocking state’ (21). This action that Arthur recalls was a common one used by the Suffragettes. MPs could not ignore women chaining themselves to the railings of government buildings or causing public disruption nearby, so they used belts like this one to chain themselves to railings. It took the police a long time to release Suffragettes from the chain’s padlocks. This meant the women had more time to make long speeches about why women should be given the vote.

Women chaining themselves to outside of 10 Downing Street, 1908
Women chaining themselves to outside of        10 Downing Street, 1908

As the actions got more violent, this instilled more fear within Arthur when he thought about the Suffragettes. At one point he remembers fearing one, ‘coming down ‘his’ chimney’ while also fearing, ‘one chaining me up’ (21). This shows how The Suffragettes actions were misunderstood by a lot of people, and how adults did not bother to explain why these women were taking such drastic actions. People could not see their side, which is why Arthur may have not understood why or what they were doing despite his parents obviously knowing.

He remembers how they burnt down the bandstand in Regents Park, and how one trip to the Tate Gallery with his father was postponed ‘owing to the activities of the Suffragettes’ (22). Obviously Arthur does not have any fond memories about this movement at all.

The last few lines of this chapter finishes with, ‘The Suffragettes were at the bottom of all trouble’ (23), which signifies how much trouble he thought they caused, and how again their actions were completely misunderstood by him and his family.

Arthur here is remembering his memories of The Suffragettes while being below the age of 10, however he does not correct his memory, nor does he go on to say how the movement actually came to a successful conclusion and that their actions were worth its prize. This makes me wonder whether Arthur still withheld a grudge against these women, and in turn was he against women rights all together?




/. (/). Why did the Suffragettes chain themselves to the railings of government buildings? – See more at: Available: Last accessed 20/11/2015.

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