Home Office Index Record
With a reduced majority in Parliament in 1910, working-class men beginning to drift towards the newly formed Independent Labour Party and the increasing pressure brought to bear by the WSPU, the Government decided to form a Conciliation Committee to address the issue of women and the vote and by midyear bring a Conciliation Bill to the House. This was intended to pacify the WSPU during a period of political unrest and uncertainty but by November of that year the Bill was seen to be a delaying tactic and had no real chance of success.
A rallying call went out from the WSPU central office and on 18th November 1910, Alice and hundreds of her sister suffragettes took to the streets of London to protest.
Rather than call in the central London police to deal with the civil unrest that the WSPU undertook, Home Office Minister Winston Churchill called in police of the East End who beat the women up and treated them savagely with allegations of sexual assault.
Such was the brutality meted out to the women, a national outcry ensued and left wing journalist Henry Brailsford subsequently interviewed dozens of suffragettes who were there on ‘Black Friday’. Alice was one such interviewed and her statement to Brailsford is today stored at The National Archives. Copy here. (Compare the markings on the left margin to the front page of Henry’s report handed to Parliament).
‘one policeman picked me up in his arms and threw me into the crowd’ – Alice Hawkins
Alice was arrested on the day and later released without charge, but arrested again four days later when further protests ensued in central London. This time Alice was sent to prison for fourteen days. Whilst in prison Alice wrote to her husband Alfred;
‘…we were met by a large body of police, and I can tell you it was awful. The police … banged and fought like a lot of tigers at times. After about an hour I was simply done up and mind up my mind to do something else. …When a number of women went out to break Cabinet Minister’s windows, I volunteered to lead 12 to Mr Harcourt’s house…. It was easier to break windows than have my body broken.’
Henry Brailsford Report