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Ethel Smyth, Suffrage, and Surrey: From Frimley Green to Hook Heath, Woking

Wiley, Christopher (2018) Ethel Smyth, Suffrage, and Surrey: From Frimley Green to Hook Heath, Woking Women’s History: The Journal of the Women’s History Network. Special Issue: 1918-2018, 2 (11). pp. 11-18.

Wiley Christopher (2018). Ethel Smyth Suffrage and Surrey - From Frimley Green to Hook Heath Woking (post-print).pdf - Accepted version Manuscript

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On 2 May 1913, Emmeline Pankhurst – having recently been released from prison under the so-called ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act (Prisoners’ Temporary Discharge for Ill Health Act) – took refuge in Hook Heath in Surrey, at a house called Coign, belonging to Ethel Smyth. Three years previously, Smyth, when at the height of her success as a musical composer (she was the first, and for well over a century the only, female composer to have a work presented at New York’s Metropolitan Opera), had promised service to the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Accordingly, her home had often been a site of suffragette activity. On this occasion, the police had followed Pankhurst all the way to Coign and surrounded the house, keeping watch in case she attempted to escape.1 Pankhurst had to remain indoors and forbade Smyth from any contact with the officers, Smyth having suggested offering them umbrellas to shelter from the rain. Hiding in the bushes, their location was routinely given away by Smyth’s affectionate dog. Over three weeks later on 26 May, Pankhurst, desperate for an end to being cooped up at Coign and frustrated that she was unable to engage with the suffragette movement, attempted to leave in order to make an appearance at the WSPU meeting at the London Pavilion that day. She sent for a car, but upon emerging from Smyth’s house, she found herself to be, in her own words, ‘in a weak state, much weaker than I had imagined ... I exhausted the last remnant of my strength and sank fainting in the arms of my friends’.2 She was promptly arrested and was taken by the police to Bow Street police station.3 A famous photograph shows Pankhurst being rearrested by two detectives outside Coign; the house stands as an emblem of the convergence of Smyth’s local presence and her national activism. This article contributes to a greater understanding of Smyth and her music through the dual lenses of local history and women’s history. It explores the intersections between her regional activity in the Frimley and Woking areas, her musical career, and her service to the suffragette campaign. By contextualising Smyth’s inter/national activity, it illustrates some of the ways in which the national women’s suffrage movement was highly dependent on rural locations.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Music and Media
Authors :
Date : 24 November 2018
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2018 The Author. Published by Women's History Network. All Rights Reserved.
Depositing User : Melanie Hughes
Date Deposited : 04 Dec 2018 10:24
Last Modified : 07 Mar 2019 10:50

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