Prison and Suffragettes
Mary Leigh, an active Suffragette, spent time in prison because of her activities that were deemed to be illegal – and frequently were. Life in prison for Suffragettes was made very unpleasant but if anything this seemed to spur on the more hardline Suffragettes even more.
“On my arrival at Winson Green Goal on Wednesday afternoon, September 22nd, I protested against the treatment to which I was subjected and broke the windows in my cell. Accordingly at nine o’clock in the evening I was taken to a punishment cell, a cold dark room on the ground floor – light only shines on very bright days – with no furniture in it. A plank was brought in. I was then stripped and handcuffed with the hands behind during the day, except at meals, when the palms were placed together in front. At night they were also placed in front with the palms out. On Thursday food was brought to the cell – potatoes, bread, and gruel – but I did not touch it.
I was then surrounded and forced back onto the chair, which was tilted backward. There were about ten persons around me. The doctor then forced my mouth so as to form a pouch, and held me while one of the wardresses poured some liquid from a spoon; it was milk and brandy. After giving what he thought was sufficient, he sprinkled me with some eau de cologne, and wardresses then escorted me to another cell on the first floor, where I remained two days. On Saturday afternoon the wardresses forced me onto a bed and the two doctors came in with them. While I was held down a nasal tube was inserted. It was two yards long with a funnel at the end; there is a glass junction in the middle to see if the liquid is passing. The end is put up the left and right nostril on alternate days. Great pain is experienced during the process, both mental and physical. One doctor inserted the end up my nostril while I was held down by the wardresses, during which they must have seen my pain, for the other doctor interfered (the matron and two of the wardresses were in tears) and they stopped and resorted to feeding me by the spoon, as in the morning. More eau de cologne was used. The food was milk. I was then put to bed in the cell, which is a punishment cell on the first floor. The doctor felt my pulse and asked me to take food each time, but I refused.”