A look inside the headquarters of the WSPU, the militant branch of the Votes for Women campaign.
A remarkable series of photographic postcards in the Museum’s collection, depicting the interior of WSPU headquarters reveal a highly sophisticated organisation that relied on both salaried employees and volunteers.
The photographs, taken at Clement’s Inn in 1911, show the entire range of operational activities including the editorial department, information bureau, ticket office, and treasury.
A highly intelligent and popular speaker, despite suffering ill health (including an operation for appendicitis), Mary was entirely devoted to her WSPU duties.
She was also arrested four times for militancy, enduring hunger strike and force-feeding.
In 1910, completely exhausted, she was forced to give up her demanding Organiser role due to continuing ill health.
In 1909 Ada was appointed Organiser in Liverpool and opened the first WSPU shop in the city, which proved to be highly profitable.
By February 1911 she had been transferred to Cheltenham where, her scrapbooks reveal, she adapted her organisational skills to the requirements of the local, middle-class membership by organising a programme of drawing-room meetings with guest speakers from Head Office.
Both the activities of WSPU London headquarters and the day-to-day operation at local level ensured the campaign reached all corners of the country.
However, the dedication and commitment required by the WSPU leadership of its ‘foot soldiers’ in the field was relentless and exhausting.
As Annie Kenney wrote in 1924:
‘Nuns in a convent were not watched over more and supervised more strictly than were the organisers and members of the Militant Movement…
It was an unwritten rule that there must be no concerts, no theatre, no smoking; work, and sleep to prepare us for more work, was the unwritten order of the day.’