Pethick-Lawrence, c. 1910s
21 October 1867
Clifton, Bristol, England
|Died||11 March 1954 (aged 86)|
Gomshall, Surrey, England
|Known for||Campaign for women's suffrage, co-founder of Votes for Women.|
|Political party||Women's Social and Political Union, United Suffragists|
|Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, 1st Baron Pethick-Lawrence|
Pethick-Lawrence was born in Bristol as Emmeline Pethick. Her father, Henry Pethick, was a businessman, a merchant of South American hide, who became owner of the Weston Gazette, and a Weston town commissioner. She was the second of 13 children, and was sent away to boarding school at the age of eight. Her younger sister Dorothy Pethick (the tenth child) was also a suffragette.
From 1891 until 1895 Pethick worked as a "sister of the people" for the West London Mission at Cleveland Hall, near Fitzroy Square. She helped Mary Neal run a girls' club at the mission. In the autumn of 1895 she and Mary Neal left the mission to co-found the Espérance Club, a club for young women and girls that would not be subject to the constraints of the mission, and could experiment with dance and drama. Pethick also started Maison Espérance, a dressmaking cooperative with a minimum wage, an eight-hour day and a holiday scheme.
Pethick married Frederick Lawrence in 1901 after he changed his political views to be more Liberal. The couple took the joint name Pethick-Lawrence and kept separate bank accounts to give them autonomy.
Pethick-Lawrence was a member of the Suffrage Society and was introduced to Emmeline Pankhurst in 1906. She became treasurer of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), which Pankurst had founded in 1903, and raised £134,000 over six years. Pethick-Lawrence attended a number of events with Pankhurst including the aborted visit to the Prime Minister in late June 1908, along with Jessie Stephenson, Florence Haig, Maud Joachim and Mary Phillips after which there was some violent treatment of women protestors, and a number of arrests.
Pethick-Lawrence founded the publication Votes for Women with her husband in 1907. The couple was arrested and imprisoned in 1912 for conspiracy following demonstrations that involved breaking windows, even though they had disagreed with that form of action.
After being released from prison, the Pethick-Lawrences were unceremoniously ousted from the WSPU by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, because of their ongoing disagreement over the more radical forms of activism that the Pethick-Lawrences opposed. Her sister Dorothy Pethick also left the WSPU in protest at their treatment, having previously taken part and been imprisoned for militant action. The Pethick-Lawrences then joined the United Suffragists.
In 1938 Pethick-Lawrence published her memoirs, which discuss the radicalization of the suffrage movement just before the First World War. She was involved in the setting up of the Suffragette Fellowship with Edith How-Martyn to document the movement.
In 1945, she became Lady Pethick-Lawrence when her husband was made a baron.
Pethick-Lawrence's 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.
A blue plaque was unveiled in Pethick-Lawrence's honour by Weston Town Council and Weston Civic Society in March 2020. It was placed on a wall Lewisham House, Weston-super-Mare (known as 'Trewartha' when she lived there for fourteen years as a child).