Emily Blathwayt

Emily Blathwayt

Emily Marion was born in around 1852. She married Colonel Linley Blathwayt, an officer in the British Indian Army and served in India for many years. The couple had two children, Mary and William. Blathwayt retired from the army and in 1882 he purchased Eagle House near Batheaston, a large house set in four acres of land.

Linley Blathwayt was a supporter of the Liberal Party. Emily and her daughter, Mary Blathwayt, also held progressive political views and were both advocates of women's suffrage.

Emily Blathwayt kept a diary. According to B. M. Willmott Dobbie, the author of A Nest of Suffragettes in Somerset (1979): "Blaywayt's diary is written in quarto exercise books with the marbled covers of the period, filling a volume of 200 pages in somewhat longer than a year... All the events of a large and widespread family are put on record, while nothing relating to her immediate environs is allowed to escape her pen."

Emily Blathwayt and her daughter devoted much of their time to teaching village children. She was an advocate of regular dental care, and paid for inspections and treatment for her maids and the children of Batheaston. She also played the violin and sang in the local choir.

In July 1906 Mary Blathwayt sent a donation of 3 shillings to Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Colonel Linley Blathwayt also supported the Women's Suffrage bill being discussed in the House of Commons. In March 1907 Emily Blathwayt wrote: "Women's Suffrage bill brought in by private member and government allowed it to be talked out. The Liberals do not keep their pledges. The Women's Union beg all to turn against Liberals and think only of the one Cause. Linley is much in favour of women having the vote, he thinks they would do much more good than harm."

Mary Blathwayt first met Annie Kenney at a WSPU meeting in Bath. According to Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999), claims that Blathwayt had fallen "under her spell and gave her a rose". Soon afterwards Kenney introduced her to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Christabel Pankhurst. She now became an active member and over the next few weeks she began distributing WSPU leaflets in the area.

At first Emily Blathwayt was very sympathetic to the plight of WSPU members who were sent to prison for their beliefs. She was particularly concerned about the health of Annie Kenney. She wrote in her diary on 13th February, 1908: "The meanness of the present cabinet is great. I fear they will kill poor Annie Kenney before they have done as she declares her intention of going to prison again and the magistrates are getting vicious over the sentences." The following day she was commenting on the imprisonment of Emmeline Pankhurst: "Mary came home after being all the morning in the Police Court with the friends of the prisoners. They all feel miserable about self-sacrificing Mrs. Pankhurst, who is condemned to six weeks confinement like a criminal."

Colonel Linley Blathwayt was also sympathetic to the WSPU cause and he built a summer-house in the grounds of the estate that was called the "Suffragette Rest". Members of the WSPU who endured hunger strikes went to stay at Eagle House and the summer-house. Mary Blathwayt recorded in her diary that Annie Kenney had intimate relationships with at least ten members of the WSPU at Batheaston. Blathwayt records in her diary that she slept with Annie in July 1908. Soon afterwards she illustrated jealousy with the comments that "Miss Browne is sleeping in Annie's room now." The diary suggests that Annie was sexually involved with both Christabel Pankhurst and Clara Codd. Blathwayt wrote on 7th September 1910 that "Miss Codd has come to stay, she is sleeping with Annie." Codd's autobiography, So Rich a Life (1951) confirms this account.

The historian, Martin Pugh, points out that "Mary writes matter-of-fact lines such as, Annie slept with someone else again last night, or There was someone else in Annie's bed this morning. But it is all done with no moral opprobrium for the act itself. In the diary Kenney appears frequently and with different women. Almost day by day Mary says she is sleeping with someone else."Colonel Linley Blathwayt decided to create a suffragette arboretum in a field adjacent to the house. The idea was for women to be invited to plant a tree to commemorate their prison sentences and hunger strikes. On 23rd April 1909 Emily Blathwayt recorded in her diary that Annie Kenney, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Constance Lytton and Clara Codd all planted trees. "Beautiful day for the tree planting and Linley photographed the three in a group at each tree. Annie put the West one, Mrs. P. Lawrence, South, and Lady Constance the East. Miss Codd came to the field."

Over the next few months Emmeline Pankhurst, Adela Pankhurst, Mary Phillips, Vera Holme, Jessie Kenney, Georgina Brackenbury, Clara Codd, Marie Brackenbury, Aeta Lamb, Theresa Garnett, Lilian Dove-Wilcox, Adela Pankhurst, Marion Wallace-Dunlop, Vera Wentworth and Elsie Howey also took part in this ceremony. After the visit of Christabel Pankhurst Emily Blathwayt wrote in her diary: "Christabel has planted her cedar of Lebanon by the pond; it was raining all the time. There is a wonderful charm about Christabel; she looks sweet and not like her photo. She is quiet and retiring." Eventually, even women who had not been to prison, such as Millicent Fawcett and Lilias Ashworth Hallett planted trees.

Emily Blathwayt watering the tree planted for Clara Codd.
Emily Blathwayt watering the tree planted for Clara Codd.

Jessie Kenney developed a "lung condition" also spent time recovering at Eagle House. Others who visited during this period included Constance Lytton, Elsie Howey, Mary Phillips, Charlotte Despard, Mary Allen, Charlotte Marsh, Lilias Ashworth Hallett, Aeta Lamb, Georgina Brackenbury, Marie Brackenbury, Marie Naylor, Laura Ainsworth, Lilian Dove-Wilcox, Margaret Haig Thomas, Theresa Garnett, Gladice Keevil, Maud Joachim, Vida Goldstein, Minnie Baldock, Vera Wentworth, Clare Mordan and Helen Watts. Colonel Blathwayt photographed the women. These were then signed and sold at WSPU bazaars.

Annie Kenney wrote in her memoirs, Memories of a Militant (1924) about the help that the Blathwayt family gave her during the campaign: "It would be futile to mention other names, they were all wonderful to me. There is just one I should like to mention, that of the late Colonel Blathwayt. He and Mrs. Blathwayt, of Eagle House, Batheaston treated me as though I were one of their own family. All my week-ends I spent under their hospitable roof."

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence wrote an article in Votes for Women in February 1909, they acknowledged the help given by the Blathwayt family to the cause of women's suffrage: "I say to you young women who have private means or whose parents are able and willing to support you while they give you freedom to choose your vocation. Come and give one year of your life to bringing the message of deliverance to thousands of your sisters... Put yourself through a short course of training under one of our chief officers or at headquarters in London, and then become one of our honorary staff organisers. Miss Annie Kenney, in the West of England, has two such honorary organisers. Miss Blathwayt is the only daughter of Colonel Lindley Blathwayt, of Bath. Yet her parents have set her free with their fullest approbation and sympathy, and with a generous allowance, to devote her whole time to the work."

On 5th September, 1909, Elsie Howey, Vera Wentworth and Jessie Kenney assaulted Herbert Asquith and Herbert Gladstone while they were playing golf. Emily Blathwayt was horrified by this increase in violence. On 7th September she wrote in her diary: "We hear of terrible things by the two Hooligans we know, Vera and Elsie and there is a Kenney in it. They made a regular raid on Mr. Asquith breaking a window and using personal violence. Then missiles have been thrown lately through windows during Cabinet Members meetings which might injure or kill innocent persons."

The following day Emily Blathwayt sent a letter to the WSPU headquarters: "Dear Madam, with great reluctance I am writing to ask that my name may be taken off the list as a Member of the W.S.P.U. Society. When I signed the membership paper, I thoroughly approved of the methods then used. Since then there has been personal violence and stone throwing which might injure innocent people. When asked by acquaintances what I think of these things I am unable to say that I approve, and people of my village who have hitherto been full of admiration for the Suffragettes are now feeling very differently. Linley Blathwayt wrote to Christabel Pankhurst complaining about the behaviour of Elsie Howey and Vera Wentworth and suggested that they would no longer be welcome at Eagle House. He also wrote to Annie Kenney and appealed to her to do nothing violent.

Colonel Blathwayt also wrote letters to Wentworth and Howley about their behaviour. He said that "an attack on one undefended man by three women was an act I did not expect from the Society". According to Emily Blathwayt, they received a "long letter from Vera Wentworth who is very sorry we are grieved but if Mr. Asquith will not receive deputation they will pummel him again." She also claimed that Herbert Gladstone gave Jessie Kenney "a nasty blow in the chest".

The Blathwayt family continued to invite non-violent members of the WSPU to stay at Eagle House. Emily Blathwayt wrote about how Mary Phillips was invited to plant a tree on 4th July 1910. However, she records that Phillips " is a militant but of a different nature and neither approves of stone throwing." In March 1911, Colonel Blathwayt was writing to Charlotte Marsh in Holloway Prison pleading with her "not to take part in violence".

In November 1912 Emily recorded in her diary that she was unhappy about her daughter's participation in the WSPU. "Mary in Bath all day working for the Pankhurst cause - we wish she was not, but the young people all do this kind of thing now and I suppose it is evolution. The oldest supporters are fast leaving the WSPU, especially those old in years, but people like Miss Lamb do not at all like Mrs. Pankhurst's present policy."

The summer of 1913 saw a further escalation of WSPU violence when they began an arson campaign. In July attempts were made by suffragettes to burn down the houses of two members of the government who opposed women having the vote. These attempts failed but soon afterwards, a house being built for David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was badly damaged by suffragettes. This was followed by cricket pavilions, racecourse stands and golf clubhouses being set on fire. In June 1913 a house had been burned down close to Eagle House. Under pressure from her parents, Mary Blathwayt resigned from the WSPU.

In her diary she wrote: "I have written to Grace Tollemache (secretary for Bath) and to the secretary of the Women's Social and Political Union to say that I want to give up being a member of the W.S.P.U. and not giving any reason. Her mother, Emily Blathwayt, wrote in her diary: "I am glad to say Mary is writing to resign membership with the W.S.P.U. Now they have begun burning houses in the neighbourhood I feel more than ever ashamed to be connected with them."

Emily and Mary remained active member of the NUWSS. Emily wrote in her diary on 7th February, 1918: "The Reform Bill passed yesterday... Women cannot vote before the age of 30. Wives of men entitled to elect can vote as well as women in their own right and university women also have the franchise... Linley and I walked through the trees this afternoon and wondered how quietly this had come at last, but the war occupies all our thoughts."

Emily Blathwayt died in 1940. Mary Blathwayt continued to live in Batheaston until her death in 1962. Eagle House was sold soon afterwards. B. M. Willmott Dobbie, the author of A Nest of Suffragettes in Somerset (1979), has pointed out: "The land was sold for building. Bulldozers tore down the suffragette trees, and blithely smashed many of the plaques. A number were rescued, however, and are in the museum of the Batheaston Society."

Primary Sources

(1) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (March, 1907)

Women's Suffrage bill brought in by private member and government allowed it to be talked out. The Liberals do not keep their pledges. The Women's Union beg all to turn against Liberals and think only of the one Cause. Linley is much in favour of women having the vote, he thinks they would do much more good than harm.

(2) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (13th February, 1908)

The meanness of the present cabinet is great. I fear they will kill poor Annie Kenney before they have done as she declares her intention of going to prison again and the magistrates are getting vicious over the sentences. Of course the martyrs help the Cause and that is what they want... The Pankhurst women seem splendid.

(3) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (14th February, 1908)

Mary came home after being all the morning in the Police Court with the friends of the prisoners. They all feel miserable about self-sacrificing Mrs. Pankhurst, who is condemned to six weeks confinement like a criminal. Mary asked the policeman whether, if she went out to buy some food, she could get in again, and he said he would see to it. So she bought a huge bag of buns, some fruit and chocolate and distributed them among the people. The policemen were all so good to the women and were wearing "Votes for Women" buttons under their cloaks and so were the reporters, and asking for some for their wives.

(4) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (23rd May, 1908)

A most perfect day and about fifty people came... Annie Kenney won the admiration of everyone by her speech. We laid down matting and put chairs on tennis court and after the speech we had tea on front lawn. Everything went perfectly except for Annie Kenney's voice. She strained it at Peckham and Mrs. Pethick Lawrence took her to a specialist who told her to be careful; now at Plymouth she has addressed thousands of people and has strained it very much.

(5) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (18th November, 1908)

The London papers have account of the row, and the Bath papers are horrified, especially the liberal Herald. About 200 hooligans made a rush from the back after the hall, being full, was supposed to be closed... Mary said it was "a grand advertisement" for them. Clara Codd was not allowed to speak but the chairman Annie said everything to the purpose as she always does and the reporters have put it all in. When the platform was about to be rushed they broke up the meeting and got some of the ladies into a smaller room where they spoke... Annie was begged to go out by the back, but she said she would not sneak out like a Cabinet Minister. The police with difficulty protected our poor man from Bence's with the fly and our four got off safely. We read Clara who walked was sadly hustled and the police got her party into the York House Mews.

(6) Annie Kenney, Memories of a Militant (1924)

It was in this year (1907) that I was made Bristol organiser. I had not been in Bristol long when I took on the whole of the West of England, also Devonshire and Cornwall. There is not a city and scarcely a town that I have not spoken in, from Bath to Land's End. The happiest days of organising were those I spent in the West of England.

Bristol and Bath stand out most. The members in those two cities were wonderful workers; they worked night and day. I had not one voluntary worker, I had scores. I trained speaker after speaker.

It would be futile to mention other names, they were all wonderful to me. There is just one I should like to mention, that of the late Colonel Blathwayt. He and Mrs. Blathwayt, of Eagle House, Batheaston treated me as though I were one of their own family. All my week-ends I spent under their hospitable roof. They also gave hospitality to the numerous speakers who came to the centre.

(7) Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Votes for Women (11th February, 1909)

I say to you young women who have private means or whose parents are able and willing to support you while they give you freedom to choose your vocation. Come and give one year of your life to bringing the message of deliverance to thousands of your sisters... Put yourself through a short course of training under one of our chief officers or at headquarters in London, and then become one of our honorary staff organisers. Miss Annie Kenney, in the West of England, has two such honorary organisers. Miss Blathwayt is the only daughter of Colonel Linley Blathwayt, of Bath. Yet her parents have set her free with their fullest approbation and sympathy, and with a generous allowance, to devote her whole time to the work. She is Miss Kenney's right hand in Bristol. Miss Elsie Howey is honorary organiser in Plymouth. She is the daughter of Mrs. Howey, of Malvern. Mrs. Howey and her two daughters have given generously of all that they have, but the best prized gift is the life-work of this noble girl who has undergone two periods of imprisonment for the sake of women less privileged and happily placed than herself. She is one of our most able and successful organisers, and takes all the duties and responsibilities of our chief officers.

(8) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (23rd April, 1909)

Beautiful day for the tree planting and Linley photographed the three in a group at each tree. Annie put the West one, Mrs. P. Lawrence, South, and Lady Constance the East. Miss Codd came to the field. Then Linley took others indoors and they left in his motor.

(9) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (24th April, 1909)

Affectionate letter from Mrs. Lawrence. Clara Codd came over and she and Miss Canning each planted a tree. Rawlings (the handyman) was there by his own choice and quite entered into the idea.

(10) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (28th April, 1909)

The London papers have account of the row, and the Bath papers are horrified, especially the liberal Linley brought packets of photos and they think (with the signatures) they ought to fetch from £70 to £80. They cost Linley a little over £20 and have given him a lot of amusement. The idea of a field of trees grows, it is even suggested as a place set apart for future ashes.

(11) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (9th May, 1909)

Mary planted her golden holly near Annie's but in the outer circle, and Jessie Kenney having been to prison planted near Annie's in the inner. Vera Holme also put a tree below Mary's. She is a splendid woman and interested in all Linley's subjects and she took up Mary's violin and was very clever with it. She has a beautiful voice and we sang after washing up. Suffragettes are splendid for any work.

(12) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (31st July, 1909)

Elsie Howey, Vera Wentworth and Mary Phillips were arrested at Exeter and imprisoned for a week and it is said they are going through the hunger strike as the 14 have done. The crowds were with them outside Lord Carrington's meeting and all resisted police and two working men were arrested. The women would not pay the fine. Annie Kenney expects to be taken soon herself, and asked Mary to go and manage for her in Bristol.

(13) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (1st August, 1909)

It is a terrible time and we do not know whether these people are right or wrong. Several were arrested, women and men too, breaking up Lloyd George's meeting in London. One man defender was seriously hurt and was taken to hospital. Annie looks ill but says this is absolutely necessary. We begged her not to cause any motor car accident; they do not know the nature of cars and had a plan about Churchill. When Gladstone was told in Parliament no civilised country treated political prisoners as he was doing, he said it was time other countries followed us. We fear if these people starve for a week he will let them. Some of the others went more than six days without food.

(14) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (7th September, 1909)

Linley and I went in pouring rain to the Tollemaches who had a tent beyond their house and Mr. Laurence Housman gave a very good address on Women's Suffrage... The lecturer said he could not say anything against militant methods as the women had been driven to it by the non-action of the men. I cannot feel quite the same. We hear of terrible things by the two Hooligans we know, Vera and Elsie and there is a Kenney in it. They made a regular raid on Mr. Asquith breaking a window and using personal violence. Then missiles have been thrown lately through windows during Cabinet Members meetings which might injure or kill innocent persons.

(15) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (8th September, 1909)

This morning I posted the following to the Sec. 4 Clement's Inn. "Dear Madam, with great reluctance I am writing to ask that my name may be taken off the list as a Member of the W.S.P.U. Society. When I signed the membership paper, I thoroughly approved of the methods then used. Since then there has been personal violence and stone throwing which might injure innocent people. When asked by acquaintances what I think of these things I am unable to say that I approve, and people of my village who have hitherto been full of admiration for the "Suffragettes" are now feeling very differently. I shall continue to do what I can to help, but I cannot conscientiously say now that I approve the methods used by several of the members... Later on Linley wrote to Christabel Parkhurst expressing something of the same views and he said how could he again be seen driving Elsie and Vera. They seem to have behaved very badly.

(16) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (12th September, 1909)

Have sent a cutting to Christabel and told her about my personal observation of Vera Wentworth and Elsie Howley. If she allows them to go on any more raids she has been warned. Linley is writing to Annie Kenney and appeals to her to do nothing violent.

(17) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (14th September, 1909)

Vera Wentworth sent Linley a tardy acknowledgement of the photo he sent and hopes he was not shocked at their punching Asquith's head. I am writing back coldly, saying how grieved he is at the late actions and the stone throwing; telling how I was obliged to leave as I could no longer "approve the methods" and finishing "An attack on one undefended man by three women was an act I did not expect from the Society". Last time Vera and Elsie left here I promised myself they should never come again if it were only on account of the reckless destruction of other people's property.

(18) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (15th September, 1909)

Mary Phillips who will stay here for night, coming from her home in Glasgow for Truro.... She is a militant but of a different nature and neither approves of stone throwing or running away. She planted the new tree and was photographed.

(19) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (16th September, 1909)

Long letter from Vera Wentworth who is very sorry we are grieved but if Mr. Asquith will not receive deputation they will pummel him again. She says the authorities knew nothing of the raid for which they alone are responsible. They are driven nearly mad by the unjust treatment all their dear women have received and she points out they did no serious harm to Asquith whereas Herbert Gladstone gave Jessie a nasty blow in the chest. She also says what the liberal stewards have done at the meetings to the women. She really believes she is acting quite rightly. The letter needs no reply.

(20) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (19th March, 1910)

Mrs. Ashworth Hallett came with her husband and planted her holly. She was one of the first workers for the suffrage and knew Dr. Pankhurst before he was married, in Manchester, when her Uncle Jacob Bright was there. They were both so pleased with it all and took great interest in the pond and the Midford Sand and all the trees and the "Rest". Mrs. Hallett quite thanked us for helping the Suffragettes, but like ourselves they do not like violent methods.

(21) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (22nd April, 1910)

Linley (Blathwayt) and Annie Kenney brought Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence and Lady Constance from the station in a taxi-cab in time for lunch and they went to the meeting in the same way... Lady Constance showed how she was first prejudiced against militant methods till gradually step by step she found she must go to prison herself. I suppose future generations will give honour to these noble people. When the cause becomes the fashion, we shall have the stupid people in it.

(22) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (January, 1911)

To Guildhall to hear Mrs. Despard on Theosophy and Women's Suffrage... She is a stately wrinkled old lady with a sense of humour, very earnest, but I understand our women preferring Mrs. Pankhurst as a leader. Mrs. Despard is too Irish and evidently believes things because she "feels" them to be true... But Theosophy is a comfortable faith, you can make anything you like out of it and not understand any of it ...

Mrs. Despard was a great gardener and planted her holly with vigour and enjoyment and was very pleased with all the trees. She has been in prison three times, I think, for going on deputations, but our conifers are only for W.S.P.U. prisoners. There is something very attractive about her courteous manner, and she wears a mantilla and sandals and is plainly but handsomely dressed looking distinguished.

(23) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (5th March, 1911)

Miss Marsh planted her tree. She greatly dislikes her first name Charlotte and all her friends call her Charlie. Her label will be C. A. L. Marsh. (She also goes by the name of Calm). We liked very much what we saw of her. She is very fair with light hair and a pretty face. She is very tall ... She has a wonderful constitution and seems very well after all she has gone through. She has begun the late custom of not taking meat or chicken. She seems a very nice quiet girl. Annie and Jessie Kenney very happy but a trifle wild.

(24) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (13th March, 1912)

Linley had a nice letter from C. A. L. Marsh in Holloway awaiting her trial as they all refused bail. His birthday letter to her begging her not to take part in violence followed her there. Like the rest, they all think it their duty to take a large share of suffering.

(25) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (22nd October, 1912)

I have written to Grace saying we cannot have Mrs. Pankhurst for a night as we promised now she is going about inciting to violence. Linley always told the Pankhursts how he felt on the subject.

(26) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (6th November, 1912)

Mary in Bath all day working for the Pankhurst cause - we wish she was not, but the young people all do this kind of thing now and I suppose it is evolution. The oldest supporters are fast leaving the WSPU especially those old in years, but people like Miss Lamb do not at all like Mrs. Pankhurst's present policy.

(27) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (20th December, 1913)

The Suffragettes have burnt down a large empty house on Lansdown in Bath. Of course one naturally suspects the Tollemaches.

(28) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (3rd January, 1914)

I have sent Mrs. Fawcett £2. 2. 0. from Linley and myself as we are now joining the National Union. That Society the first of them all is doing well, and now they go against a Liberal Member who is an enemy to the Cause.

(29) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (7th January, 1914)

Mrs. Fawcett writes to say "Militancy is going against the principles for which we are contending, we are working against the principle of brute force and for the reign of reason and love".

(30) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (19th July, 1915)

The women under the W.S.P.U. management had a wonderful procession in London on Saturday, and the papers which used to be abusive are now praising them highly. Mrs. Pankhurst was head and chief and Annie was one of the prominent ones... They are demanding war work and Lloyd George who received them graciously is only too glad to have them now.

(31) Emily Blathwayt, diary entry (7th February, 1918)

The Reform Bill passed yesterday... Women cannot vote before the age of 30. Wives of men entitled to elect can vote as well as women in their own right and university women also have the franchise. Linley has a telegram from Lillian Forrester [nee Williamson] "Greetings. Votes for Women". Linley and I walked through the trees this afternoon and wondered how quietly this had come at last, but the war occupies all our thoughts.