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Discrete CollectionsThe Women's Library
TitleSmith, Maude Kate
Ref No8SUF/B/030
Box Fetch NoBox 1: Disc 7 & Disc 8
Date14 Jan 1975
Extent30a - 89:21 mins, 30b - 112:17 mins
Admin Biographical HistorySee biography for Maude Smith
DescriptionInterview took place at Elizabeth House, Elizabeth Grove, Shirley, Solihull.

Interview is in two parts 8SUF/B/030a and 8SUF/B/030b.

Interview summary:
0:00 mins:
Harrison reads out account of her militancy in the WSPU and imprisonment before interview begins. Militant acts of Maude Smith within Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU). Schooling and employment history. Father a jeweller's factor at Stetchford. Her depression.

15:00 mins:
Sacked for rebellions in work place. Connections to Communists in Bristol. Reasons for depression. Character and occupations of mother, three brothers and sister.

30:00 mins:
Imprisoned in 1912 [for smashing windows on Bond Street, London]. Family life and relations. Downward mobility of her mother, and their volatile relationship. Wanting independence from family life and housework. Low wages of women workers.

45:00 mins:
Sense of social and economic injustice for women. Unemployment. Housekeeper for thirty-seven years. Buying 'Votes for Women' newspaper. Suffrage men's involvement in Lloyd George's meetings. Suffrage cause as life calling. No knowledge of party politics when joining movement. Harassment when selling WSPU paper.

60:00 mins:
Commitment to justice for women. Dorothy Evans [WSPU Birmingham Organiser]. Movement serious, not fun. Poster Parades to advertise meetings. Officially recognised as WSPU Birmingham 'Secretary' and worked in WSPU shop in John Bright Street. Travel to London for deputations. Putting cardboard protection under her dress before march. Report to Home Office of police brutality. Police gathering men from the East End to inflict violence on suffragettes. Difficulty in raising fare to London. Ineffectiveness of non-militants in Birmingham.

75:00 mins:
Political education from within movement. Connection with Francis Sedlak and Communists in Whiteway Colony in the Cotswolds. Appreciation of Theosophy. Presence of educated and titled women supporting movement. Imprisonments. WSPU as a London movement. Role in Birmingham WSPU branch as 'Secretary'. Role of Dorothy Evans as organiser. WSPU Birmingham shop. Decided at 6 years old not to marry or have children. WSPU wage of pound a week for working in shop. Family's negative opinion of her suffrage work.

0:00 mins:
Daily activities in prison. Going on hunger strike, reaction of female prison wardens. Account of window smashing [Bond Street, London, 1912]. Wealthy supporters of suffrage cause, acted as hostesses during raids.

15:00 mins:
Pillar-box arson. Hesitancy at destroying private letters, but followed leaders' orders. Meeting Emmeline Pankhurst, opinion of Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence. Split in movement between militarism and pacificism. Smith is vegetarian and anti-alchohol. Refused to help war effort in the First World War. Voting tendencies, votes Labour. Parent's negative reaction to the suffrage movement. Francis Sedlak, Czech philosopher friend from the Whiteway Colony in the Cotswolds.

30:00 mins:
Experience in prison, exercised herself by doing drills and marching in her cell. Description of forcible feeding three times a day, attempts at resistance and body's reaction.

45:00 mins:
Acts of protest in prison. Imprisoned the second time for slashing [George Clausen's] Primavera at the Royal Academy [22 May 1914]. Should not acknowledge other WSPU women during an action. Women experienced mental health problems from forcible feeding. Support from female wardens.

60:00 mins:
Unemployed for a year after release from prison. Domestic life, keeping house. What she wrote in her secret prison diary. Prison visit from Duchess of Bedford, who called on suffragettes. Strictures on letters to and from prison. Changed her name for second prison term to Mary Spenser, to have privileges of a first offender. Drugs administered to prisoners. Pillar-box arson. Detectives posted to guard public buildings in Birmingham.

75:00 mins:
Evading the detective's watch to commit pillar-box arson. Rules of WSPU militancy. Homemade mild explosives used. Sent to house in Coventry under instruction from Dorothy Evans, password given for security. Male supporter made explosive and blew up his garden by mistake. Role of male supporters in breaking up politician's meetings; would not associate with WSPU women so as not to alert police. Effectiveness of [Emmeline Pankhurst] as a speaker. In Birmingham branch, had a woman lawyer teach them matrimonial law.

90:00 mins:
Esteem for Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst. Conditions in prison, Winson Green and Holloway. Awarded prison medals. Trial at Old Bailey. Interaction with female prisoners; mostly kept separate. Status as political prisoners. Link of suffrage cause to reformers of past. Released from prison when the First World War broke out. Failed plan to blow up canal near Birmingham. Visits to WSPU in London.

105:00 mins:
Working people, couldn't afford social life in cause. Importance of not harming life in militant acts. Importance of using vote now, not violence. Refusing an act of arson on a boathouse.
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsInterview recordings are available online and can be accessed at the link provided in this record.
Former Reference NumberTape 09
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