Friday, July 19, 2013

Lady Constance Lytton

My suffragette friend was telling me about her heroine, Lady Constance Lytton (1869-1923). She was not allowed to marry the man she loved because he was too poor and so she remained a spinster, looking after her mother at Knebworth after her father, who was Viceroy of India, died. Her sister Emily married Edwin Lutyens and her other sister Betty married Arthur Balfour's brother.
Constance's life changed in 1905 when she inherited £1000 from her great-aunt. She used some of this to support a singing and dancing group for working class girls and through this she met some suffragettes who converted her to their cause in 1908. Participation in suffragette demonstrations caused her to be imprisoned in Holloway but she was released on the pretext of a weak heart when the authorities discovered she was the daughter of Lord Lytton.
Outraged that her treatment was different due to her class, she cut off her hair and dressed up as a seamstress (see second picture), taking the name "Jane Warton". She then went to a suffragette demonstration in Liverpool and hurled stones at an MP's car. She was imprisoned in Walton jail where she was given 14 days hard labour and force-fed 8 times.  Afterwards, she wrote an account of her experience in The Times, wrote a book Prisons and Prisoners and gave many speeches condemning force-feeding.
Altogether she was imprisoned four times which took its toll on her health: she had a stroke in 1912 from which she never fully recovered. She lived to see women over 30 being given the vote in 1918 but in the end she had to be nursed by her mother at Knebworth and she died in 1923 aged 54.


Anonymous kinglear said...

The suffragettes were all incredibly brave. Not all were as fanatical this lady, but many were. I am reminded of Smiley's observation about Karla -" He was a fanatic and therein lay my advantage. A fanatic can never bend to win" That isn't a correct quote but it is at least the gist.

11:45 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

Her sister Emily was a fanatical theosophist and their grandfather locked his perfectly sane wife up in an asylum for a couple of days which caused national outrage.

10:13 am  
Anonymous Portinari said...

I do hope that some of you heard today's (28 Jul 13) Desert island Discs. It featured the totally wonderful former President of Ireland - Mary Robinson. Now there is someone of whom we can all be very proud! And 'Bas in Eireann'.

11:41 am  
Blogger Winchester whisperer said...

I missed that, Portinari. You are right that she is wonderful.

10:59 am  

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