Nellie Martel's suffrage work in Australia
The Commonwealth Franchise Act (June 1902) ensured the right of all Australians (with the regrettable exception of Aboriginal people and other non-white groups) to vote in, and stand for, all Federal elections. In 1897, the Womanhood Suffrage League of NSW (WSL) petitioned the Australasian Federal Convention, then meeting in Adelaide, to have the women's vote written into the agenda. This strategy opened the way for women's suffrage at both Federal and state levels. The suffragists' petition was signed by the WSL executive, along with the signature of the 'Recording Secretary' Nellie Alma Martel. In the Federal elections of 1903 Nellie Martel was one of four women (1) to stand for election to the first Federal Parliament of Australia. Martel stood as a free-trade candidate and gained a commendable 19 946 votes. None of the women was elected.
Martel was 'one of the first members' of the Womanhood Suffrage League (NSW), formed in May 1891. (2) She was probably present at the two preliminary meetings of the Society held in the home of Mrs Dora Montefiore, a wealthy widow suffragist who lived at 77 Darlinghurst Road, Sydney. Montefiore left Australia in 1899 and spent some years in France before returning to England where, like Martel, she became involved in the Women's Social and Political Union.
A feature article celebrating women's franchise in Australia in the [Sydney] Daily Telegraph, August 20, 1902 shows a pen and ink drawing of Mrs C. Martel, with a short biography which describes her as 'the well known elocutionist'. Of interest in the report is the 'Mrs. C' implying the existence of a 'Mr. C' of whom very little, if anything, is known. A studio photograph taken in 1891 shows twelve foundation members of the Womanhood Suffrage League of NSW. In the photograph Martel holds her right hand behind her head drawing attention to her massed hair. She is the only one of the seated women whose hand is out of a ladylike lap.
While still a member of the influential NSW WSL (3) Nellie also joined the NSW Women's Progressive Association formed by Annie and Belle Golding and their sister Kate Dwyer. (4) Martel, it seems, was more in accord with the WPA's up-front, vigorous campaign tactics and with its working class orientation, than with the more socially and politically conforming WSL. Oldfield comments that 'Martel and the Golding sisters ... did not waste words on sentimentalizing women's moral superiority. They did not belong to the elite of Sydney ... and were impatient with the genteel image which these suffragists [Rose Scott and others] cultivated so assiduously.' (5) In 1900, Martel was unanimously elected president of another reform group, the Liberal and Reform Association of NSW, a position she still held in 1905. (6)
Martel and the early WSPU
My interest is in Nellie Martel's propaganda work with the Women's Social and Political Union in England after her return there in 1904/5. (7) Soon after arriving (8) in London, Martel threw in her lot with the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) founded by Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst in Manchester in 1903 and active in London from 1906. In February 1906 Martel 'attired in a large picture-hat and yellow satin blouse,' (9) was present at the meeting at Sylvia Pankhurst's lodgings at which the London committee of the WSPU was formed. Martel's aligning with the 'deeds not words' Pankhursts, rather than Millicent Garrett Fawcett's constitutionally-oriented National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) is consistent with her involvement with the Goldings' WPA in Australia. Martel deplored the fact that the cooperation that existed between the various NSW suffragist and temperance groups was not replicated among the English suffrage groups. 'We in Australia were united as one in our agitation for franchise,' she said, 'with this disunion among women [in England] one could hardly expect Parliament to give them franchise.' (10)
Martel was a committee member of the National WSPU from early 1906, possibly February," until at least 22 October 1908; and she was a scheduled WSPU speaker until January 6, 1909. (12) In a photograph of an early meeting of a WSPU committee meeting at the Pethick Lawrence flat, 4 Clement's Inn, Nellie Martel again is strikingly attired, particularly compared with the other women.
Nellie Martel first took up a position as a paid organiser with the WSPU around May 1906. (13) About the time of her WSPU appointment she wrote to her WSPU colleague Mrs Baldock proposing that they organise 'six meetings every night in London's East End. According to Martel 'these [meetings] and an occasional "smash up", are the methods we must maintain to give publicity to our cause.' (14) Martel was not adverse to direct action.
My reading of the WSPU paper Votes for Women, from October 1907 (its first issue) to April 1909, and Martel's own brief writings, reveal a compassionate, passionate and politically committed woman. Martel constantly relates her political activism to the conditions of the poor and sweated workers, the position of women, particularly young girls and the age of consent, and to the plight of the aged.
Militant tactics, arrest and possible imprisonment
Martel made a dazzling entry onto the English suffragist scene. On May 12, 1905, (15) she led a contingent of 400 working women to the House of Commons where Mrs Pankhurst and her followers had assembled to hear the Suffrage Bill introduced. When time for the Bill was cut short, the women were indignant and left the House. The police ordered them to disperse. A deal was brokered and the women told they might assemble at the gates of Westminster Abbey. At this point Mrs Pankhurst called upon Mrs Martel as the only woman voter, and presumably the only Antipodean present, to lead the women to the meeting place. This was the first militant act of the WSPU. No arrests were recorded on this occasion. (16)
As the WSPU campaign grew, arrest became an increasing hazard, and ultimately a tool, for the activists. Even though imprisonment was almost equal to canonization in suffragist circles, evidence for Nellie Martel's 'prisoner status' is conflicting. Nellie Martel did not directly oppose militancy. In 1907 she wrote 'These militant tactics commenced on May 12, 1905, outside the House of Commons ... have gone on getting bolder and bolder.... We have hit on a magnificent plan of campaign.' (17) However, her compatriot Dora Montefiore left the WSPU in 1907 over this very issue, but that is running ahead of the story.
In June 1906, in a demonstration at the home of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr Asquith, four suffragettes were arrested and three of them sentenced to six weeks in Holloway Prison. (18) These were the first arrests of members of the WSPU. (19) One of their number, Teresa Billington-Greig, had her fine paid, presumably without her consent, and was quickly released. (20) At Victoria Park, Sunday July 15, 1906 (21) Mrs Martel and Mrs Montefiore spoke at an open-air meeting organised by WSPU to protest against the women's sentences.
Oldfield records an incident on 3 October 1906 at the House of Commons, where Mrs Martel was arrested, along with Anne Cobden Sanderson and Minnie Baldock, after taking part in a protest in the Lobby of the House of Commons. (22) Oldfield writes: 'A large group of women staged what they described as a "raid" on Parliament House to demand an audience with the Prime Minister Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Twenty, including Nellie Martel and Dora Montefiore were admitted to the Strangers' Lobby but the Prime Minister sent word that he would not meet them. A protest meeting was held there and then with speakers standing on chairs to address their audience. The officials attempted to eject them from the lobby and in the ensuing struggle ten, including the two Australians, were arrested. They appeared before a magistrate charged with "using violent and abusive language".... Like the other woman she [Martel] was bound over to keep the peace for six months, but on failure to produce surety was sentenced with them to two months in prison'. The Melbourne Age [October 17, 1906] also carries a report of Mrs Martel's court appearance. (23) This date confirms October 3, 1906 as the day of the women's 'raid'.
The question is whether Nellie Martel served her sentence or whether as for Teresa Billington-Greig, someone (or she herself) paid her surety. I do not know whether Martel was one of the 1085 women suffragists (24) who served prison sentences. Although her name appears in the undated Suffragist Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners, (25) printed by the Rydal Press, (26) she herself does not mention any imprisonment in her pamphlet (1907); nor is any imprisonment mentioned in her short biographical paragraphs in Votes for Women (1907 and 1908). Contrary evidence is a remark attributed to 'malice mongers' who said that 'Mrs Martel dare not go to prison for fear of what would become of the wonderful auburn tint of her hair.' (27) I am of the opinion that although she was arrested, Mrs Martel's surety was paid and she did not go to jail. Imprisonment would have been a jewel she was unlikely to have hidden. However, the reason for her apparent avoiding of imprisonment is a different matter. She might have had pressing domestic obligations, or wished to ensure that her re-entry to Australia was not compromised. There is no way of knowing her motivation.
The WSPU planned another protest to coincide with re-opening of Parliament, on October 23, 1906. In this incident Mrs Martel and Mrs Montefiore along with several WSPU women, were 'frog-marched' away by police, an undignified procedure. (28) Rosen gives a list of those arrested and Mrs Martel's name is not on it, although her friends Dora Montefiore and Minnie Baldock are there. On this occasion Dora Montefiore was arrested and sentenced to two months imprisonment in Holloway. Montefiore served seven days before being released after suffering a breakdown. At this point Montefiore broke with the WSPU. Montefiore wrote: 'Between the period of my leaving Holloway and going abroad ... 9th January, 1907, I broke off all my working relations with the Women's Social and Political Union, as there were more points than one on which Mrs Pankhurst and I found ourselves in disagreement.' (29)
Perhaps a reason for Nellie Martel's not being arrested in the following months was that she was in regional areas such as Lancashire, Yorkshire, Scotland and Wales, where arrests were not, as yet, a feature of suffragette activity. In the regional campaigns she comes over as a dedicated, indefatigable activist. Nellie Martel stayed on with the WSPU after the formation, by Charlotte Despard and others, of the break-away group the Women's Freedom League. (30) From this point on it is possible to plot Martel's movements and involvement with the WSPU via the pages of WSPU's journal Votes for Women.
By-election campaigns, 'Keep the Liberal Out'
The first Votes for Women October 1907, (31) reports that 'Mrs Martel is going to Halifax where she will address a big public gathering on October 8, and during the following days she will devote herself to other Yorkshire towns. (32) In fact in her October itinerary Mrs Martel spoke at, at least twelve public meetings at locations as far apart as Brighton in the south, and Keighley in the north and at Ipswich. She also assisted Adela Pankhurst in Leeds. (33) At the same time Mrs Pethick Lawrence and Christabel Pankhurst were further north at the 'start of our [the WSPU] great winter campaign' in Scotland. By November 11, the campaigners were back at the Queen's Hall London, where Mrs Martel shared a platform with Mrs Pethick Lawrence, Miss Annie Kenney, Miss Mary E. Gawthorpe and Miss Christabel Pankhurst with Mrs Pankhurst in the chair. (34)
At about this time Martel choose a commanding image for the photograph on the cover of her 1906/7 penny pamphlet The Women's Vote in Australia. (35) She stands very erect. A feathered or furred cape falls from her shoulders, a plumed hat grand enough for a pirate king balances atop her abundant hair. With rings on her fingers, ears and arms, and an unflinching gaze she challenges the camera. Her look is not yet a dare, but it certainly communicates her frank confidence in her own talents and presence. Martel was probably about 50 and was in her prime.
The real 'war' of the National Campaign was about to start. Christabel Pankhurst gave the clarion call in the November 1907 issue of Votes for Women: 'As the paper goes to press, I learn that there is to be a by-election at West Hull. With the opening of the contest we shall be at once in the field. Mrs Pankhurst will be in charge, and will have the co-operation of Miss Annie Kenney, Mrs Martel and a large band of voluntary workers...' (36) The Hull campaign featured daily meetings addressed by Nellie Martel and other WSPU leaders.
Confronting and challenging government candidates at by-elections was an increasingly-used element in the WSPU's arsenal. Since the Government had the power to enact women's franchise had not done so, the WSPU's strategy was to try to unseat Government members, in order to demonstrate the political power of the women's movement and to call the Government to account. Since the Government of the day was Liberal, Liberals were the WSPU's targets.
On the campaign trail Mrs Martel was often in the company of Mrs Pankhurst and they sometimes shared lodgings. It is likely that, if not close friends, they were at least cooperating colleagues. By December 1907 the WSPU leaders had started the campaign against the government candidate, Chas. Buxton (37) in the Mid-Devon by-election. Again Mrs Pankhurst was organising the campaign with the assistance of Mrs Martel and others. The WSPU's first meeting of this campaign had been held in Newton-Abbot, (38) and continued throughout Mid-Devon until polling day January 17, 1908. (39)
The declaration of the Mid-Devon poll gave the suffragettes a taste of success. 'Not only was the large previous majority of 1,289 [of the Liberal candidate] completely wiped out, but an adverse majority was built up,' vaunted Votes for Women. (40) The Liberal candidate and his supporters were loth to attribute their electoral loss to the WSPU campaign, (41) preferring instead to blame it on the issue of tariff reform. However, a fringe of Newton-Abbot Liberals believed the WSPU's efforts had denied the Liberal candidate victory.
Violence on the hustings
Raeburn records an incident at Newton-Abbot in which Liberal rowdies wrought their revenge on Mrs Martel and Mrs Pankhurst:
After the declaration of the poll in the Newton-Abbot by-election 17 January 1908, Mrs Pankhurst and Mrs Martel started walking back to their lodgings. As they walked on they met a group of young clay cutters wearing red Liberal rosettes ... the men rushed forward and began pelting the women with clay and rotten eggs. Mrs Pankhurst and Mrs Martel ran for a nearby grocer's shop. Mrs Branbury the grocer's wife hastily let them in and bolted the door, but the men outside battered on the shop front ... Mrs Pankhurst ... asked if they could leave by the back way and Mrs Banbury led them out into a small yard which opened into a side lane ... [but] the angry mob had come round to the gate and as soon as it was unlatched the men rushed in ... they seized Mrs Martel and beat her over the head with their fists. Mrs Pankhurst and Mrs Banbury managed to tear her away and the grocer's wife dragged Mrs Martel back into the house. Mrs Pankhurst had just reached the threshold when a staggering blow fell on the back of her head. [The account then switches to first person (Mrs Pankhurst)]: Rough hands grasped the collar of my coat and I was flung violently to the ground ... Stunned, I must have lost consciousness for a moment, for my next sensation was of cold wet mud seeping through my clothing. Sight returning to me I perceived the men, silent now, but with a dreadful, lowering silence, closing in a ring around me ... (42), Mrs Pankhurst and Mrs Martel were saved from further threatened rough treatment by the arrival of the police. Mrs Pankhurst commented, "It was many months before Mrs Martel or I recovered from our injuries." (43)
Rosen gives a different account of the same incident:
Following a Conservative victory, young Liberals rioted and Mrs Pankhurst and Mrs Martel who had opposed the Liberal candidate, were shoved fifty yards down a street, and then pushed and rolled in mud. Mrs Pankhurst's ankle was injured to the extent that she was unable to walk. (44)
Raeburn's account although somewhat melodramatic, has a specificity that supports its authenticity; Rosen's more subdued telling could be either the whole of the story or part of the sequence of events. Elizabeth Crawford simply notes that Mrs Martel, along with Mrs Pankhurst, 'was badly beaten'. (45)
Mrs Martel was unable to attend the WSPU meeting at the Horticultural Hall in London on January 23 (1908) because she was campaigning in Ross, Herefordshire, but Mrs Pankhurst limped in to take her place, the limp being judged a consequence of the 'severe handling' she had received in Newton-Abbot. (46) This is one of the only two times I have found Mrs Martel is mentioned as missing an engagement and her non-attendance might have been partly attributable to her injuries.
WSPU expansion and more successes at the polls
The WSPU's by-election campaigns against the government candidates should be seen against the backdrop of the WSPU's propaganda work, public education, membership drives and persuasion. The by-elections gave splendid opportunities to call the Government to account, and for building the movement at the local level. 'The mid-Devon triumph came almost as a surprise to ourselves,' (47) comments Christabel Pankhurst in her National Campaign column. She then notes that: 'At present the women are busy following up their [Newton-Abbot] victory in other parts of the country, Mrs Pankhurst, Mrs Martel, Mrs Massy, and others, are holding enthusiastic meetings in South Herefordshire'. (48)
The Herefordshire campaign was successful and the 'liberal majority of 300 was turned into a Conservative majority of over 1000.' In Worcester the previous conservative majority of 129 was converted into a majority of 1 299, and the Leeds' Liberal vote was decreased by over 900. (49) The WSPU by-election campaign policy of opposing Government members in by-elections was beginning to bite.
In her Report of the Ross Centre for February 1908, one of the two reports signed by Martel in the 1908 Votes for Women, she describes 'a novel experience' at Whitchurch, on a Friday night outside the Crown Hotel. On this occasion Nellie Martel is again confronted by rowdies, but unlike the Newton-Abbot episode, in the Whitchurch incident she tames her adversaries by her own inner fortitude:
This village has no street lamps, and I took my stand on a lorry with a candle lantern. Just as I commenced to speak I was struck with a stone, and someone beat on a tin tea-tray. I stopped speaking, and told them if they did not want to hear I did not want to speak, I was rather tired, and should rest until the trap came to take me to the station. I remained sitting on the edge of the lorry about ten minutes, although asked by one or two to proceed with my speech. I was determined not to speak unless the noisy individuals asked me, and after a little consultation among them the noisy ones came up to the lorry and asked me to go on ... I spoke for 45 minutes and true to their promise, not a sound was made or a missile thrown ... Before driving to the station, a policeman came in [to the hotel] to say that the men wished to apologise for their rudeness ... Ultimately I drove off with cheers and requests to come again. (50)
Several writers remark on Mrs Martel's powers of oratory and her deft handling of hecklers, but in this account she might have been attempting to repair her self-esteem.
The next electoral campaign was in Hastings, and that one belonged to Nellie Martel. Christabel Pankhurst records: 'But the women are already in the field. Miss [C] Pankhurst visited Hastings on February 95, and Miss (sic) Martel is taking charge of the election.' (51) Mrs Martel, Mrs Drummond and Miss Christabel Pankhurst addressed 'an enormous [torchlit] demonstration on Hunslet Moor.' (52) The Hastings campaign led by Mrs Martel was successful and both in it and the Peckham by-election 'the liberal nominee was defeated.' (53)
The WSPU's next quarry was Winston Churchill who was standing in a by-election in his seat of North-West Manchester. Mr Churchill was also beaten, 'He fought with every artifice in his power and he has been defeated' reported Votes for Women (54), their cadence echoing Paradise Lost. But Churchill, like Milton's Satan, also fled to fight another day. In May he stood for Dundee (55) where once again he was confronted by WSPU members including Mrs Pankhurst and Nellie Martel. (56) The suffragist leaders had made their headquarters (with nineteen WSPU staff) (57) at Lamb's Hotel 'which became the centre of activity that percolated through every corner of Dundee.' (58) Despite the great efforts of the suffragettes, this time Churchill triumphed. (59)
Public meetings, regional work and the great demonstrations
Another tactic of the WSPU was to stack halls to the point of overflowing and then speak from the platform. Usually the audience paid to attend these public meetings thus boosting WSPU coffers. Mrs Martel regularly shared the platform with WSPU luminaries such as Mrs Pankhurst and Mrs Pethick Lawrence. On March 19, 1908 Mrs Martel spoke (albeit briefly) at the first WSPU meeting in the Albert Hall. (60) The Hall was packed 'from floor to ceiling' by some 7000 people who had 'come to listen to the story of votes for women'. (61) Mrs Martel was a key speaker in the WSPU line-up and at this time she was part of the movement's inner circle. She was featured in the Reformers' Year Book of 1908 published by the Reformers' Press, 4 Clements Inn, London--in other words the WSPU. (62)
Mrs Martel is not listed in the WSPU published programme of events for April or May, 1908. This was no doubt because she was greatly occupied in campaigns in the north, harassing liberal candidates in the Montrose Burghs in Scotland, Dewsbury in Yorkshire, and in the Stirling Burghs. There, her itinerary included Brechin, Arbroath, Dundee, Dunfermline, Queensferry and Stirling. (63) At Brechin polling station she had 'a long conversation with the liberal candidate Mr Harcourt. In reply to her question as to whether the wife or husband should receive the joint pension of 7 shillings and 6 pence for old married couples, Harcourt confessed 'he had not considered the matter, but supposed it would be man as the "superior".' (64) At the Rolland-street Hall, Dunfermline she addressed mothers whom she had invited to bring along their children. The women sat and knitted while Mrs Martel spoke. She appealed to the women 'in the names of those children to get their husbands and brothers to "Keep the Liberal out".' (65)
It is possible that she was also at this time helping in organising the great Hyde Park Demonstration planned for June 21, 1908. She was one of the twenty 'chairmen' for this event and was speaking from Platform 7 with the support of Mrs Baldcock, 'a working woman who had heckled Mr Asquith and who had been imprisoned' and Miss V. S. Dugdale 'a niece of Viscount Peel and eldest daughter of Capt. E. Stratford Dugdale, R.N.' (66) Mrs Martel's biographical note unlike that of her co-speakers, was strictly political. It had no personal details nor did it include any claim to imprisonment. In the days leading up to the June 21 demonstration, Mrs Martel kept to her packed speaking schedule. On June 18 she spoke twice at 3pm and 7.30pm at York Exhibition Square; the next two days she spoke at 3pm and 7.30pm at Doncaster Market Square. (67) Then it was Sunday June 21, the longest day in the northern hemisphere year and the day of the great demonstration scheduled for 3.30pm. That the Hyde Park Demonstration was an overwhelming success is history. Estimates of numbers vary but there were possibly 500 000 participants and viewers all told. (68) In the procession Mrs Martel and Mrs Cobden Unwin followed immediately behind the green banner of the Union [WSPU], a privileged position. (69)
Two days after Pembroke polling day, July 18, Mrs Martel took part in another demonstration at Nottingham Forest where she had a 'very attentive audience'. On July 19, she was in Manchester where, at Heaton Park at 3.30pm, she addressed a crowd estimated by the police to be about 1500 000. (70) A week later, July 25, she was at the Suffrage Demonstration in Earl's Court, commanding one of the six platforms and speaking at both 4.30pm and again at 8.30pm. In the 'programmeme of events' for July she is listed as a speaker at the Leeds' demonstration on July 26. Her programme for July was a heavy one even by today's standards where trains have been supplanted by planes, and megaphones by microphones.
The vote or not the vote: WSPU swings to greater militancy
Mr Asquith who in 1908 had succeeded Campbell-Bannerman as prime minister, was opposed to women's suffrage but he had said that in certain circumstances he would give votes to all women (emphasis added). (71) This offer did not wash with the WSPU leaders. 'We did not ask for that,' said Mrs Drummond, (triumphal chief organiser of the Hyde Park demonstration) 'we will be content with votes for women on the same terms as men'. (72) There is some reason to believe that Mrs Martel might not have shared Mrs Drummond's (and by implication the WSPU's) unwillingness to compromise. In her 1905 London Daily News interview, Martel had commented on an earlier bill:
Large sections of the Labour Party here say that nothing short of adult suffrage will satisfy them. I agree that it is a much-needed reform, but it certainly will not be won for some years to come. In the meantime, why deprive women of the same right to vote as that enjoyed by men? That is all the present Bill asks. It amazes me to find that so many progressive women opposed to this simple measure. (73)
This was the kind of gradualism that the Pankhursts and their followers could not abide. Although Mrs Martel was in London and in close-by Kent in the last week of June, she was not a member of the thirteen strong WSPU delegation to the Prime Minister on June 30, 1908, nor was she one of those 30 women arrested 'for assault on the House of Commons' on that occasion. (74)
As well as their unwillingness to compromise, the WSPU leadership was becoming increasingly militant, as articles in Votes for Women, such as the rhetorically captioned 'Do militant tactics pay?' demonstrate. (75) In my reading, with the exception of the Newton-Abbot clay-cutters, the arrest of October 3, and the incident of 'frog-marching' on October 93, Martel seems to have avoided both arrest and several occasions where arrests occurred. She was often out of London where most of the arrests were made.
Martel motors in Wales
On July 1, 1908, Martel was in Wales launching the Pembrokeshire by-election campaign with a 'most successful meeting in Newport'. (76) Her Pembrokeshire campaign provides some of the most endearing images of Martel as she motors around the countryside. She was stationed at Fishguard but ranged widely, campaigning in Pembroke, Haverfordwest, St Dogmells, and smaller centres. One report has her motoring over to Cardigan where she spoke in the market to a large number of 'very attentive farmers and out-voters'. (77) On another occasion she drove from Fishguard to Maenchochog a distance of ten miles, the journey taking two and a half hours, 'the country all round being so hilly'. (78) Again Mrs Martel was joined in the campaign by Mrs Pankhurst and other WSPU stalwarts. Votes for Women reports 'a remarkable loss of votes to the Liberal candidate [Walter F. Roche], the majority being reduced from 3 280 to 2 174.' (79) Although no WSPU members were arrested, Votes for Women describes the Pembroke by-election, held July 16, as 'the more militant side of woman suffrage policy'. (80)
The image of Nellie Martel traversing the country and motoring between engagements in Wales might give the impression of a 'woman of means'. My impression is that she had few means apart from the WSPU payments. In June 1908, a very busy month for her, she writes from York: 'Great interest is being taken in our Hyde Park demonstration, but the cost ... will prevent many from joining us. Will a few of our wealthy sympathizers in York help to send their poorer sisters to take part in this historic demonstration? [signed] Nellie A. Martel.' (81) This can be read simply as a request for funds, but in the 'poorer sisters' there lingers a trace of affiliation, the hint that her own funds were limited.
Summer 1908 and Martel's style
August, the traditional summer holiday month, showed a slackening in WSPU activities and Mrs Martel herself seems to have taken a break, except for August 27 when she took the opportunity of leading some members of the WSPU to the Crystal Palace with the object of doing propaganda work at the annual Co-operative Festival. (82) In September, Martel threw herself wholeheartedly into the Lancashire campaign, following the same pattern of indoor and outdoor meetings, and demonstrations, as well as pursuing the liberal candidate, Mr. Edward Shortt in the Newcastle by-election held September 24. (83) Votes for Women reports: 'Mrs Martel has addressed crowded audiences, dealing effectively with hecklers, one of whom was no other than Mr Shortt himself.' (84) The polling went against Shortt: 'in wresting a seat from the Government, the women have shown that they are capable of bringing effective pressure to bear upon those who refuse to listen to the justice of their claim,' opined Votes for Women. (85)
The Liverpool WSPU report for September gives a taste of Martel's style. On September 9, 'A very successful "At Home" took place ... in the Temperance Hall at Southport. Mrs Martel's concluding words "Get the vote we will: How depends on you," were received with enthusiastic applause. In the evening Mrs Martel held the earnest attention of a crowd of holiday makers for several hours on the sand' [signed Bessie K. Morris]. (86) Another report describes Mrs Martel's holding 'absolutely quiet a gathering of men from Carson's engineering works at dinner hour'. (87) What comes across is the image of an accomplished speaker who is able to pitch her address to a variety of audiences, whether they be in the temperance hall, on the strand, or with workers breaking for lunch at a factory.
As arrests increase Martel pounds the campaign trail
In October 1908, Martel carried a heavy speaking programme in Manchester and Liverpool with engagements on almost every day and on some days with two sessions. (88) In October, Votes for Women ran an article 'The Value of Militant Methods'. On October 10, 1908, Mrs Baines (a colleague and co-speaker of Martel's) was arrested and charged with inciting a crowd to storm the doors of the Leeds Coliseum while Asquith and Herbert Gladstone were inside holding a meeting. (89) And on October 13, Mrs Pankhurst, Miss Christabel Pankhurst and Mrs Drummond were arrested for their part in trying to 'rush the House,' another 22 women and 12 men were arrested in London, and five women arrested in Leeds. The confrontationist atmosphere generated by WSPU activity was heating up.
With several leaders facing trial, Mrs Martel kept doggedly on the campaign. On the afternoon of November 6, she and Professor Chapman spoke at the Free Trades Hall Manchester to an audience of 5000. (90) Although recorded as speaking 'excellently' at the Trades Hall, (91) she was indisposed and unable to attend the 'At Home' scheduled for that evening. 'With true Suffragist instinct, Mrs Tuke stepped into the vacancy caused by Mrs Martel's indisposition.' (92) This is only the second time I have found Martel is recorded as missing an engagement. There is no way of knowing the nature of her indisposition or its duration, but by November 19 she was back speaking at a steady number of 'At Homes' and public meetings in Manchester and district.
On December 3, Mrs Baines was released after six weeks in prison, on Christmas eve two suffragists were arrested in Liverpool. In almost celebratory Christmas mode, the December 24 issue of Votes for Women published photographs of two suffragist prisoners in prison dress. (93) Mrs Martel continued her speaking programme in Manchester with at least eight engagements up to December 17, 1908. After that there is just one more listing, for Bowes Park January 6, 1909. (94) I have checked Votes for Women until April 1909 and her name does not re-appear.
And then ... what happened to Nellie Martel?
Nellie Martel might have been seriously ill. She might even have returned to Australia. In these cases one would expect Votes for Women to carry a notice. If she left because she was no longer a paid organiser, then a notice is less likely. If she, as did Mrs Montefiore, left the WSPU to join a different suffragist group, then the WSPU would have closed the door on her. It is impossible to say if her absence from Votes for Women pages was for personal or political reasons. It is possible that she, like several others before and after, (95) ran foul of Mrs Pankhurst and was dropped by her. Martel may have simply retired and supported herself by giving elocution lessons. But given her great commitment it seems unlikely that she would have cut herself off completely from the suffragist cause.
Nellie Martel lived another thirty years. Crawford's Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928, (96) gives her death date as 1940 and her last known address as: (1940) 18 Ladbroke Gardens, Notting Hill, London W. I have no knowledge about the death of her husband.
I have examined only a small part of the, albeit limited, Martel sources. Perhaps the answers to Nellie Martel's subsequent career lie in other archives. For now, the last word on Mrs Martel belongs to Rebecca West writing to her sister, the suffragist Dr Letitia Fairfield. West was in Newcastle with some other young friends campaigning against the liberal candidate, Mr Shortt. West writes from Whitley (97) 'Dear Cow! ... I was agreeably surprised with Mrs Martel. She's a dear old soul in spite of the hair, and takes the crowd tremendously.' (98)
Canberra-based Laura Rayner, currently living in the UK, is researching the life of Nellie Martel and would appreciate hearing from anyone with information on Nellie. Laura can be contacted by e-mail at:
(1) Vida Goldstein and Mary Ann Moore Bentley also stood for the Senate; Selina Siggins stood for the House of Representatives.
(2) Brougham Villiers (ed), The Case for Women's Suffrage, T. Fisher Unwin, 1907, P4.
(3) A. Oldfield, Woman Suffrage in Australia: A gift or a struggle? Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1992, p 93.
(4) d. Roberts, Maybanke Anderson: Sex, Suffrage and Social Reform, Sydney, Hale and Iremonger, 1993, p134.
(5) Oldfield, p 93.
(6) The Dawn, ed. Louisa Lawson, Sydney; June 1, 1905, pp. 5-7.
(7) London Daily News records an interview with Nellie Martel in May, 1905. E. Crawford; Women's suffrage movement: A reference guide, 1866-1928, UCL Press, London, 1999, p 386, gives Martel's return date at November 1904.
(8) The Dawn, June 1, 1905.
(9) Crawford, p 386.
(10) The Dawn, June 1, 1905.
(11) A. Rosen, Rise up Women! : The militant campaign of the Women's Social and Political Union, 1903-1914, London; Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974, P 63.
(12) Votes for Women (Vol 2), December 31, 1908, p 227, lists Mrs Martel as scheduled to speak at Bowes Park, on January 6, 1909.
(13) Rosen, p 69, 'In mid-May  Teresa Billington became the 'WSPU's second paid organizer, and soon after Mary Gawthorpe and Mrs Martel also became organisers.'
(14) A. Raeburn, The Militant Suffragettes; London, Joseph, 1973. p 25.
(15) Crawford, p 386 gives the date of Martel's first public speech [in England] as December 4, 1904, in north London; but Martel's own recollection is May 1905.
(16) Raeburn, pp. 5-6.
(17) N. Martel, 'Women's Votes in New Zealand and Australia,' in The Case for Women's Suffrage, Brougham Villiers (ed) 1907, p 152. is Crawford, p 569, notes dune 19 as the date of sentencing. Raeburn, P243 gives June 21 as the day Annie Kenney and two other working women were imprisoned.
(19) Crawford, p 569.
(20) Crawford, p 570.
(21) Roberts, p 99.
(22) Oldfield, p 234.
(23) Oldfield, p 234.
(24) Crawford, p 567.
(25) Concerning the use of the words 'suffragist, and 'suffragette': 'suffragist' is used as a noun in relation to Australian women who described themselves and their supporters as suffragists; 'suffragette' is used as a noun, in relation to the English scene where 'suffragette' was commonly used from 1906. I use 'suffragist' as an adjective in both Australian and English contexts.
(26) Suffragist Roll of Honour Suffragette Prisoners 1905-1914 printed by John Wadsworth Ltd, The Rydal Press, Keighley Yorks. The Rydal press printed Votes for Women.
(27) Crawford, p 386. The remark was made around 1907.
(28) Raeburn, p 27.
(29) D. Montefiore, From a Victorian to a Modern, London: E. Archer, 1927, p 108.
(30) Raeburn, pp. 90-91, 94.
(31) Votes for Women, October 1907, p 7.
(34) Votes for Women, November 1907, p 21.
(35) N. Martel, The Women's Vote in Australia, National Wonlen's Social and Political Union, London, 1906/7.
(37) Also recorded in Votes for Women as Roden Buxton.
(38) Votes for Women, January 1908, p 54.
(39) Votes for Women, February, 1908, p 61.
(40) Votes for Women, February, 1908, 69.
(42) Raeburn, pp. 45-46.
(43) Raeburn, p 46.
(44) Rosen, p 99.
(45) Crawford, p 387.
(46) Votes for Women, February 1908, p 71.
(47) Votes for Women, February, 1908, p69.
(48) Votes for Women, February, 1908, p 61.
(49) Votes for Women, March, 1908, p 85.
(50) Votes for Women, February, 1908, p 67.
(51) Votes for Women, March, 1908, p 85.
(52) Votes for Women, March 1908, p 87.
(53) Votes for Women, April, 1908, p107.
(54) Votes for Women, April, 1908, p126.
(55) Votes for Women, April 30, 1908, p 133.
(57) Votes for Women, May 7, 1908, P 152.
(58) Votes for Women, May 14, 1908, p 170.
(59) Votes for Women, May 14, 1908, p 167, 'Although Mr Winston Churchill was returned to Dundee by a substantial majority, the Liberal vote is considerably reduced, and he represents only a minority of electors'--Christabel Pankhurst comments.
(60) Rosen, p 98.
(61) Votes for Women, April, 1908, p 107.
(62) Votes for Women, February, 1908, p 68. (advertisement)
(63) Votes for Women, May 21, p 183.
(64) Votes for Women, May 21, 1908, p187.
(65) Votes for Women, May 28, 1908, p 206.
(66) Votes for Women, June 18, 1908, p252.
(67) Votes for Women, June 18, 1908, p 247.
(68) Votes for Women, June 25, 1908, p 268.
(69) Votes for Women, June 25, 1908, p269.
(70) Votes for Women, July 23, 1908, p 321.
(71) Votes for Women, June 25, 1908 p 270.
(73) The Dawn, June 1, 1905 p.6.
(74) Votes for Women, June 25, 1908, p 282.
(75) Votes for Women, (Vol.2) November 19, 1909, p 129.
(76) Votes for Women, July 2, 1908, p 285; and July 16, 1908, p 314.
(77) Votes for Women, July 16, 1908, p 314.
(79) Votes for Women, July 23, 1908, p 322.
(81) Votes for Women, June 11, 1908, p 236.
(82) Votes for Women, August 27, 1908, p 406.
(83) Votes for Women, September 1908, p 474.
(85) Votes for Women, (Vol.9) October 1, 1908, pl.
(86) Votes for Women, September 10, 1908, p 446.
(86) Votes for Women, September 17, 1908, p 459.
(88) Votes for Women, (Vol.2) November 19, 1908, p 114.
(89) Raeburn, p 77.
(90) Votes for Women,(Vol.2) November 5, 1908, p 98; November 12, 1908, p 114.
(91) Votes for Women, (Vol.2) November 12, 1908, p 114.
(92) Votes for Women, (Vol.2) November 19, 1908, p 98.
(93) Votes for Women, (Vol.2) December 94, 1908, pp. 218- 219.
(94) Votes for Women, (Vol.9) December 1908, p 997 (Programme of Events).
(95) Rosen, pp. 175-179. The Pethiek Lawrences were cut off by Mrs Pankhurst in 1912, after years of work for WSPU.
(96) Crawford, p 387.
(97) B. Kime Scott, (ed.) Selected Letters of Rebecca West, Yale University Press, 2000, footnote (i), p 9. 'Probably Whitley Bay, a seaside resort east of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.'
(98) Kime Scott, p 4.…