‘A tiny, wily, elusive Pimpernel’


The BBC has just put up a selection of recordings of suffragettes from its archives. Many of these were interviews in the Fifties and Sixties for programmes such as Woman’s Hour, which ran a piece on the collection today.

Dame Ethel Smyth remembers a window-smashing campaign with great relish: “Mrs Pankhurst was not a cricketer,” she observes ruefully, of the suffragette leader missing the window of number 10. Schoolgirl Winifred Starbuck talks about pupils running wild in support of an imprisoned teacher. Many describe the horrors of their treatment in Holloway: one recalls the constant “awful sound of the choking of women” as they were forcibly fed.

Most fascinating is dancer Lilian Lenton (below): “My speciality was escapes.” She was known as the tiny Pimpernel for her frequent dodging of the police who were set to watch her: her schemes included dressing up as an errand boy, and one very elaborate plot involving the scattering of 50 veiled accomplices. She also seems to have been a keen arsonist.



(Radio Times image from here)

One thought on “‘A tiny, wily, elusive Pimpernel’

  1. Lucy

    Lovely women! I would like to see more about them in the media, or even more historical fiction or tv with heroines of that era…

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