History: Mob breaks up suffragette meeting

13 October 2016

May 1907: “Disgraceful scenes” in Grangetown when a mob of “hooligans” forced suffragette meeting to be abandoned.

Adela Pankhurst – daughter of Emeline – who was based in Canton at the time tried to address the Cardiff branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union at an outdoor meeting near the Forward Movement Hall in Penarth Road (where Tesco is now) to try to get young working class women interested in politics and the vote for women campaign.

A crowd of hundreds, made up mainly of youths and young girls, had congregated at the spot “and the police very wisely prohibited a meeting at such a busy tramway crossing,” reported the Cardiff Times.

They were advised to go to a spot nearby called Trafalgar Square.

“At last the quaint hat of the plucky women’s champion was seen above the heads of the people, who by this time numbered possibly 2,000, and under the hat the trim little figure of Miss Pankhurst, with a yellow rose at her waist. She had mounted a chair placed on the pavement near some hoardings,” said the newspaper.

“Someone in the crowd threw a pebble, but Miss Pankhurst’s vigilant eye saw it coming, and with a dexterous turn of the head she avoided it and went on. That is not right,” shouted a working man standing close by.

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“Let us show we are civilised,” roared out another but they were met with cries of “Shut up.”

“”I appeal to your sense of justice,” said Miss Pankhurst. “Boo,” roared the mob, forthwith breaking into a roar of laughter. She went on, however, but. after a few further sentences her voice was drowned again.”

There was then a “determined rush” in the direction of the speaker by a gang of hooligans at the extreme edge of the crowd.

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“The crowd swayed, and things looked decidedly ugly. Orange peel and other things were thrown, little children cried piteously as they were crushed or trampled upon by unthinking youths, and girls screamed. By God, she is going to get quiet,” called out a grimy coal trimmer. Give her fair play.”

“Inspector Butler spread out his arms to pre vent the roughs reaching the speaker. “She’s game,” shouted one onlooker. “Got some pluck,” added another.

“Thus things went on for a while until eventuallv for the sake of the children Miss Pankhurst announced that she would abandon the meeting.”

She left on a tram towards Butetown but was pursued by “a howling crowd”.

Later she said: “They pressed so much that I really feared for the lives of the little children who were there, and so I abandoned the meeting. It was absolutely impossible for people to hear me, but we intend to persevere. We want to educate the youth of Cardiff. They ought to have some amount of common sense.”

More local history on www.grangetownhistory.co.uk

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