Lillian Dove Willcox

Lillian Dove Willcox

Lillian Mary Dove was born in Bedminster in 1875. After the death of her husband in 1908 she joined the Women Social & Political Union in Bristol. On 29th June 1909 she was arrested after taking part in the WSPU deputation to the House of Commons and was sentenced to a month's imprisonment.

While in Holloway Prison Mary Dove Willcox went on hunger-strike. She also assaulted a wardress and was sentenced to a further ten days' imprisonment. Mary Blathwayt recalled what happened when she was released from prison: "We drove down to Bristol station, and formed up into a procession; it was to receive Mrs. Dove Willcox and Miss Mary Allen, two ex-prisoners and hunger strikers on their return to Bristol. A military band had promised to play, but they declined at the last moment. First came a carriage containing Mrs. Dove Willcox, and Miss Mary Allen; Annie Kenney and some others walked just behind it and then followed a long procession of ladies with banners and tricolour."

In 1909 Naylor worked alongside Annie Kenney, Clara Codd, Marie Naylor, Vera Holme and Elsie Howey in the West of England campaign. During this period she became a frequent visitor to Eagle House near Batheaston, the home of fellow WSPU member, Mary Blathwayt. Her father, Colonel Linley Blathwayt was sympathetic to the WSPU cause and on 10th May 1910 he planted a tree, a Picea Orientalis, in her honour in his suffragette arboretum in a field adjacent to the house.

Dove Willcox replaced Annie Kenney as secretary of the Bristol branch of the WSPU in 1911. She also employed her home as a place where hunger-strikers, such as Mary Richardson, could recover from their ordeal.

Some leaders of the WSPU such as Sylvia Pankhurst, disagreed with this arson campaign. In 1913, Pankhurst, with the help of Mary Dove Willcox, Keir Hardie, Julia Scurr, Mary Phillips, Millie Lansbury, Eveline Haverfield, Nellie Cressall and George Lansbury, established the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELF). An organisation that combined socialism with a demand for women's suffrage it worked closely with the Independent Labour Party.

Lillian Dove Willcox, who lived in Ealing, died in 1963.

Primary Sources

(1) Mary Blathwayt, diary entry (4th September, 1909)

We drove down to Bristol station, and formed up into a procession; it was to receive Mrs. Dove Willcox and Miss Mary Allen, two ex-prisoners and hunger strikers on their return to Bristol. A military band had promised to play, but they declined at the last moment. First came a carriage containing Mrs. Dove Willcox, and Miss Mary Allen; Annie Kenney and some others walked just behind it and then followed a long procession of ladies with banners and tricolour. I helped to carry a banner marked Finland. A very long line of carriages followed. The roads were muddy and it rained a little at first.