Bucks History

Suffragists in Aylesbury Prison

Five members of the Women’s Social and Political Union who were recently sentenced to terms of imprisonment in connexion with the suffragist window-breaking outrages in the West-end were released from Aylesbury Prison yesterday. Their names are- Dr. Frances Ede, Mrs Branson, Miss Margaret Haley, Miss Oonah Caillagh, and Miss (Nurse) Annie Humphreys.

It is understood that they adopted the “hunger strike” while in prison, and that their release before they had completed their sentences was due to impaired health.

A demonstration to protest against the forcible feeding of suffragist prisoners has been arranged for 3 o’clock tomorrow afternoon in Hyde Park. Among the speakers will be Miss Sylvia Pankhurst, Mr Reginald Pott, and Mr Victor Durval. It is also expected that some of the Labour members of Parliament will take part in proceedings.

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Dr Frances Ede, one of the prisoners released, sent the following statement to the Woman’s Social and Political Union:- “When we arrived at Aylesbury a fortnight ago we asked for the privileges under Rule 243a. These privileges were accorded to the prisoners convicted at the Newington Sessions last December for offences precisely similar to those for which woman were convicted in March, and the sentences given in each case in the same Court and by the same Judge were similarly worded. However on this occasion the Governor of Aylesbury Prison refused us them, saying he had no orders to grant them. but that he would forward a petition to the Home Secretary. We all wrote petitions, and as far as I know no reply reached any of us. Earlier arrivals had partitioned and received a reply in the negative. We waited a week, and on Good Friday 25 out of the 28 in Aylesbury Prison began the ‘hunger strike.’ Apparently this was not discovered till Tuesday last, when, owing to the condition of some of the weaker ones, I informed the Governor as to the state of things. Forcible feeding was then instituted, in most cases by the painful process of a tube through the nostrils; in others by the feeding cup, and in at least one case by the tube through the throat. It so happened that I was one of the last to be forcibly fed by means of the nasal tube last Tuesday, and by far the more terrible experience than my personal suffering was to here the agonizing cries from other cells as the prisoners in turn were subjected to the painful treatment. Additional distress was caused for a time by taking away all water from the cells on Wednesday night and substituting milk. This deprivation of water occurred immediately after the visit of a medical inspector of prisons. The women threw away the milk. On the following day they were allowed free access to the taps, but as I was released on the grounds of health in the afternoon of the same day, I cannot say whether the policy of depriving the prisoners of water was again tried. I may add that after forcible feeding was instituted both exercise and chapel were stopped.”