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Testimony at Bow Street

October 21, 1908 — Bow Street Magistrate’s Court, London, England


I want to point out to you why I came into this Court. I think, if you wished to find out, you will not find that I have ever been in this Court as an ordinary law-breaker; in fact, I am proud to say that I never entered a Police-court until I came here to fight for my political liberty.

I am charged with issuing a bill. I wish to say here, and now, that I do not want to apologize for circulating that bill. I want to say that we did circulate it, because we had lost all faith in the Government, and because we trusted the people. We knew that if we could get the people to the House of Commons there would be a better chance of getting what we have been asking for so many years. Mrs. Pankhurst has pointed out to you how women have tried to get the vote in a quiet way, and have been no nearer gaining it.

Superintendent Wells has told you that I am an active organizer of this Union, and I rather think that is the reason why I have been included in these proceedings. The Government find that this organization is becoming so powerful, and so determined, and that women are coming in every way, coming forward to us, giving all their lives to gain this point. The Government can see for themselves that this agitation is extending all over the country.

Now, I want to say why I am an organizer in this Union, and why I am in this position to-day. It is because I want my sex to be recognized as a person in the eyes of the law. To-day, if I had appeared to you as a mother asking for exemption from vacation of my child, I should have been told by you and your colleagues that I was not a person in the eyes of the law, and that you could not deal with me. Now, I stand before you on another charge, and in that position you will deal with me. I want my political rights, and I am not sorry at all that I caused that bill to be published, because I made up my mind that nothing else would gain that for which we have been fighting.

It has also been brought to your notice that I spoke in Trafalgar-square. I want to tell you that our two leaders, Mrs. Pankhurt and Miss Christable Pankhurst, restrained us. They said: “No, you must not be impatient; you must be prepared to try some peaceful means.” Now, I say to you that I our speeches we have done what we could to instill into the minds of the people the fact that we did not want them to practice violence. If the people who were round the House of Commons had believed that we had invited them to violence, not even 6,000 policemen would have prevented these people from getting into the House of Commons.

Now, you say we have broken the peace. I should really like you to tell us what is meant by breaking the peace. Mrs. Pankhurst left the Caxton Hall with twelve other women; she was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks. Later on, under the same circumstances, that same number of women left the Caxton Hall, and they were not arrested. Now, in the first place, they broke the peace; in the second place, they did not. We women are fairly at sea as to what is a breach of the peace.

Do you realize what I, as a wife and mother, am wanting? I want women to be looked upon as human beings in the eyes of the law. I do want the little boy in the street — and I put it down to the status of women legally — to say: “Voters for women, votes for dogs!” I want to realize, you men, that we want to look after our own interests, and we want justice to be done to our sex.

It is not that we go out into the streets to break the law. I should say that you know that you would never see us before you in any other circumstances.

I do not know what you intend to do to us, but whatever you intend to do, whatever sentence you intend to give us, we look only upon the sentence, we shall take no notice whatever of the binding over to keep the peace. I want to say to you that the agitation will go on — and I can speak on good authority — that it will go on strong than it has ever done before, because the action which the Government have taken has fired the bosoms of women, who are determined to take up the flag that we women have had to lay down to-day.

I have been twice to prison, and I am prepared to go as many times as necessary; and I say again, we women are prepared to do it for this agitation. I am glad to say, also, that we have left everything in working order, and that agitation will go on, and we shall find it stronger than it was when we left it. I should like to assure you that whatever you do, it will not stop the agitation that is going on at the present time.



Source: Drummond, Flora, “The Prisoners at Bow Street — Mrs. Drummond,” in Speeches and Trials of the Militant Suffragettes: The Women’s Social and Political Union, 1903-1918. Ed. Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp (Madison: Farleigh Dickinson University Pres), 1999, pp. 83-85.