Scrapbook [on women's suffrage and the campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts]

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 10/3
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1 volume

Scope and Content

Scrapbook compiled from various sources. It includes press cuttings from the national and local press and some fliers and other ephemera. Interpolated are [later] ts captions and explanatory text. It comprises the following sections relating to the suffrage campaigns: 'Woodford trial', 1912; 'The case of Mark Wilks', 1912; 'Imprisonment and release under "Cat and Mouse" Act of "Mary Wyan" (Mrs Taylor's second imprisonment)', 1913; 'Mr Crawshay-Williams M.P. and Women's Suffrage; News cuttings on suffrage (general) made by T.S. Taylor, 1908-1913' [including many relating to the campaign in Leicester'; 'Violence against suffragettes at a Lloyd George meeting at the village of Llanystumdwy'; 'Suffrage (general), 1913'; '"Cat and Mouse Act": letters about its workings: Mrs Wyan'. In addition there are the following sections relating to the Contagious Diseases Acts: 'Cuttings on deputation from workhouse unions and Boards of Guardians to Local Government Board asking for re-introduction of C.D. Acts', 1887; 'Cutting from The Times ... on debate in Parliament on possible re-introduction of C.D. Acts in India', 1897; 'Reprint of newspaper report of Josephine Butler's speech to Repeal Meeting in Sheffield', 15 Nov 1875.

Administrative / Biographical History

The suffrage campaigns of the early twentieth century were marked by a series of sensational cases and legal battles for which campaigners attempted to achieve as much press coverage as possible. When Lloyd George addressed a meeting at Woodford in 1912 certain suffragist hecklers were violently ejected from the meeting. One of these then brought a legal action against several prominent members of the Walthamstow Liberal and Radical Association. Mark Wilks was a teacher and the husband of Elizabeth Wilks (1866?-1956) nie Bennett, physician, suffragist and member of the Tax Resistance League. Elizabeth refused to complete a tax return or to pay taxes herself and informed the tax authorities that as a married woman her tax papers should be forwarded to her husband. He, in turn, claimed that he had neither the means to obtain the necessary information to complete the forms nor to pay his wife's tax bill and was imprisoned for debt. The League took up the case and achieved much publicity for it. The Cat and Mouse [Temporary Discharge for Ill-health] Act of 1913 became infamous in the suffrage campaigns. Under this legislation a prisoner on hunger-strike and whose health was determined to be endangered by such actions might be released and then re-arrested once their health had improved. Mrs Ellen Mary Taylor (alias Mary Wyan of Reading ) refused release under the Act, claimed complete discharge and declined to give the prison governor any address. When she was conveyed to a nursing home she refused to enter until her full release was granted and continued her strike on a chair in the road outside. The police then removed her to the Kensington Infirmary where she eventually gave up her protest. Eliot Crawshay-Williams (1879-1962) was Lloyd George's Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1910 and MP for Leicester, 1910-1913. Whilst being in favour of women's suffrage, he condemned militant suffragette tactics and as a result organized lobbying against the Conciliation Bill in 1912. T. Smithies Taylor was a supporter of the militant suffragettes based in Leicester. He wrote letters to the national and local press on this and related subjects. Lloyd George addressed a meeting at Llanystumdwy in North Wales in September 1912. He was heckled by suffragists who were then turned upon by the crowd and scenes of violence against the protestors ensued. By three successive decrees in 1864, 1866 and 1869, known as the Contagious Diseases Acts, in certain towns containing military bases, any woman suspected of being a prostitute could be stopped and forced to undergo a genital inspection to discover if she had a venereal disease. If she did not submit willingly, she could be arrested and brought before a magistrate. If she was found to be infected, she could be effectively imprisoned in a 'lock' hospital. Josephine Elizabeth Butler ( 1828-1906 ) feminist and social reformer was one of the most celebrated campaigners against the Acts and the double sexual standard that they enshrined. The Acts were repealed in 1886 but the debate was not over either in Britain or other countries within the Empire.

Access Information

This collection is open for consultation. Intending readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.


Description prepared by Jennifer Haynes.

Related Material

A scrapbook about the Wilks case is held by the Museum of London.