A Voice from Prison

Scope and Content

A diary of Mary Ann Rawle's time in Holloway prison. Note pad. Manuscript account started 'Thursday afternoon before Good Friday' [28 Mar 1907]. Meditations on Easter, and parallels with the fight for women's suffrage. 'Details of Prison Life': an account of her arrest for disorderly conduct at a demonstration at House of Commons and subsequent release on bail; appearance in court; sentenced to 20/- fine or fourteen days; transported to Holloway; admission to prison, her cell and prison routine described in detail. An item entitled 'Friends', which appears to be the text of a speech about the WSPU.

Partial transcript (original spelling retained):


First of all I must tell you how I got there. I along with others set out to take a resolution to the Prime Minister.

As soon as we got outside the Caxon Hall where the resolution had been passed the Police were there to stop us from going; they broke us up into twos and three's and it was in this manner that we made our way to the House of Commons. But we found we could not get near the House for the people, so we stood in the roadway the police came up to me and asked me to move on I said no I have as much right here as all these other people with that he pushed me a little way and then I stood again, so he asked me what I intended to do. I told him that I insisted upon going back and trying to get into the House, so he said I shall insist upon you coming with me.

He got hold of my arm and we wended our way into Scotland Yard amid cheers and jeers from the crowd.

He then took me to a table where the Chief of the Police was writing names of those who had been taken before me. He shouted next please just as the shopman does in the shop. He wrote my name address and occupation. After about 52 of us had been taken in this way we were asked to go up some steps into another room. Here we had to wait for some time until our friends came to bail us out. Just to give you an idea of how long I was there I will tell you what time I was taken it was ten minutes to five and it was seven o'clock when we got let out and I can tell you I was hungry for I had not had anything from 1.0 o'clock. Miss Milne and I went back to the Caxton Hall where tea was provided for all those that had taken part in the demonstration.

We were all bound over for the sum of two pounds to appear at the police court next morning. Next morning I appeared their at the time appointed 10 o'clock.

Our names where called and we were sent out in the yard to wait our turn in court. He we spent rather a pleasant time talking to those of our friends who we had never seen before and may never meet again some of the police were very chatty they told us we had more pluck than them as they would not like to go to Holloway

About 12 o'clock it came my turn I was put into the Dock my name was called the police that took me up was standing on one side of me and the chief on the other and the Magistrate in front of me. The chief officer asked what charge was against me the police answered and said disorderly conduct resisting the police and shouting Votes for Women well when he said that I thought I should have dropped for I never thought of shouting Votes for Women so he asked me if I had anything to say to that. I said no if I had any witnesses to call I said no then the Magistrate spoke for the first time he said 20 shillings or fourteen days. I was led out of the court room into another room the police called out Rawle are you going to pay your fine I answered no so he said go up them steps. Off I went to find all my friends that had be fined before me well we chatted and talked and the time passed away very nicely until about 2.30 during this time the London Branch had provided us with something to eat then one of the police came and stood in the stairs and called out our names and as he called our names we had to go down outside in the yard. His Magesty's carrage The Black Maria was waiting for us now about 13 of us got in this and a police man and of we went to Holloway.

It took us about one hour to go as near as I can tell when we got there we were told to stand all in a row our names where called to see that we were the proper persons we were then put into the reception cells 5 of us in one cell and the door was shut it must have been about half past three but it was a dark little hole and the smell was horrable. In a while tea was brought in. A tin of cocoa and a tin with a little cob of brown bread and a peice of corned beef the sight of the tin was enough for me for that night. In a while after the door was opened and we went in our turns to see the doctor. After this the cell door was closed again and towards 8 o'clock one of the women fainted so we knocked at the door a warden came to see what was the matter and the lady was taken out and our cell door was left open for the rest of the evening this cell was 9 feet long by 6 feet wide. About 10 o'clock I was called sent into a room told to pull of my boots pull my hair down undo my blouse take all my money and ?pawn tickets out of my pocket these (this is the way they treat you) along with my hair comb and hat pins was taken from me. I was asked my name address how old I was where I was born what colour of eyes I had and what colour my hair was I went on the weighing machine and then on the measuring machine then I was told to go and have a bath wash my hands and face. Having done this I had 2 sheets given me and one towel and taken to the cell in which I had to spend the next fortnight this done the wardress told me there was a few books at the cell door they were for the The Bible Hymn Book Prayer Book. A Healthy Home and the narrow way. Now this cell is a little larger than the reception cell this is about 12 feet long by 7 ft wide and about 9 ft high there is a stone floor. The window is very high up it is divided into 40 little panes.

The door is of iron and is full of bolts and screws the screws being on the outside and in the centre there is a round hole of glass but it has a iron cover on the outside which will move when they want to see what you are doing they swing it on one side. Near the door there is a wooden stool and a shelf which is called the table now near the window there is two more one is for your pint wooden spoon your books comb brush salt cellar and soap what a mixture now the shelf under neath is for you mattress and bedding this things have to be put straight and the same way each morning.

Along side the steampipe are a plate water can basin and slop pail all of tin along with a little dust pan a coconut brush and a few cleaning rags and a small piece of bath brick. The towel and tablecloth hang on a nail, propped against the wall is the plank bed with your pillow on top. You have to wear a badge with a number on and the number of the division mine was 28 x 2 now at six o'clock in the morning the Bell rings you must get up and dress wash and make your bed or shall I say put it away then the wardress comes and tells you to empty you slop wash your pint and if you do not go to the lavtory you do not get the chance again until half past one.

After this you clean all your tins out you must make them so bright that they can serve as a looking glass then comes breakfast. At half past eight chapel when you come back from chapel there is a bucket of water in your cell for you to wash the floor of course the water is cold there is also a newspaper to put on your tabe every day about 10 o'clock you go out for exercise then comes Dinner potatoes 2 with the skins on veg milk and a egg. After dinner you can go out to the lav. You never see anything for the rest of the day except your tea is Brought at about 5.30.

Every day is very much the same.

There is a little bit of difference on a Sunday you stay in bed latter go to chapel you attend twice on a Sunday also on good Friday for you know I was in on that day but going to Chapel did not take up much time for a sermon is not preached only on Sunday and Wednesday it takes long for the prisoners to get into chapel and out again than what it takes to go all through the church service. On the day before you come out the chaplin comes to bid you good morning and this is his style. Are you going out in the morning do you come from Lancashire Yes that will do pass on that is the way he bids you good morning.