Published: 19 February 2010
by PETER GRUNER
SUFFRAGETTE Thirza Cove was a domestic servant who was treated like a common criminal and thrown into solitary confinement in Holloway prison for daring to protest over votes for women.
The extraordinary story of how she gave up domestic life in Edwardian London to become a militant campaigner will be told by her granddaughter, Barbara Andrew, at Islington Local History Centre on Tuesday.
Barbara, a member of Clerkenwell-based women’s group, the Fawcett Society, even has granny Thirza’s “stone throwing” bag in which she kept objects to chuck at police during demonstrations.
Born in 1881 in Marylebone, Thirza is believed to have been inspired by early feminist Emmeline Pankhurst. In 1908, she joined a demonstration of 5,000 people in Parliament Square calling for equal rights for women. Twenty-eight women were arrested, including Thirza, during a sit-down demo. They were sentenced to a month in Holloway.
Barbara, who was 14 when her grandmother died aged 88, said: “She was kept in solitary confinement and it was a very bleak and wretched place.
“What made women like my grandmother so angry was that they were treated like common criminals rather than political prisoners.”
More than 1,000 suffragettes were sent to Holloway for staging militant protests a century ago.
The prison became the focus of protest and controversy when suffragette inmates began hunger strikes in July 1909.
When the authorities introduced painful force-feeding, supporters of the suffragettes held regular demonstrations outside the prison – and once even attempted to blow up its walls.
The talk is at Islington Local History Centre, in St John Street, Finsbury, at 6pm on Tuesday. For details, call 020 7527 7988.