Barbara Ayrton Gould

Barbara Ayrton Gould

Barbara Ayrton, the daughter of William Ayrton and Hertha Ayrton, was born in 1886. Her half-sister was Edith Zangwill. She was educated at Notting Hill High School and University College, where she studied chemistry and physiology.

In 1906 Barbara Ayrton joined the Women Social & Political Union. In 1908 she gave up her post-graduate research in order to work full-time as an organizer for the WSPU. In November 1909 she played the part of Grace Darling in A Pageant of Great Women at the Scala Theatre, a play by Cicely Hamilton.

In July 1910, Barbara Ayrton, married Gerald Gould. A fellow socialist, Gould was a Fellow of Merton College at the University of Oxford. He was also a supporter of women's suffrage and had joined forces with Henry Nevinson, Laurence Housman, Charles Corbett, Henry Brailsford, C. E. M. Joad, Israel Zangwill, Hugh Franklin and Charles Mansell-Moullin to establish the Men's League For Women's Suffrage.

On 4th March, 1912 the WSPU organised another window-breaking demonstration. This time the target was government offices in Whitehall. According to Votes for Women: "From in front, behind, from every side it came - a hammering, crashing, splintering sound unheard in the annals of shopping... At the windows excited crowds collected, shouting, gesticulating. At the centre of each crowd stood a woman, pale, calm and silent." Over 200 suffragettes were arrested and jailed for taking part in the demonstration. This included Barbara Gould was arrested for breaking windows in Regent Street. She was remanded in Holloway Prison but was released without charge.

In October 1912, Christabel Pankhurst told Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence about the proposed arson campaign. When Emmeline and Frederick objected, Christabel arranged for them to be expelled from the the organisation. Emmeline later recalled in her autobiography, My Part in a Changing World (1938): "My husband and I were not prepared to accept this decision as final. We felt that Christabel, who had lived for so many years with us in closest intimacy, could not be party to it. But when we met again to go further into the question… Christabel made it quite clear that she had no further use for us."

Barbara Ayrton Gould also disagreed with the arson campaign and left the WSPU. On 6th February, 1914, she became one of the founding members of the United Suffragists. Other members included Gerald Gould, Evelyn Sharp, Lena Ashwell, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, John Scurr, George Lansbury, Gerald Gould, Hertha Ayrton, Louisa Garrett Anderson, Eveline Haverfield, Edith Zangwill, Israel Zangwill, Laurence Housman and Henry Nevinson. She was also a member of the Tax Resistance League.

In 1921 Barbara gave birth to Michael Ayrton. She was honorary secretary of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She also remained active in the Labour Party and was a member of the national executive for over 20 years. She was also vice-chairman from 1938 to 1939 and chairman from 1939 to 1940. At the fifth attempt, she was elected to represent North Hendon in the 1945 General Election.

Barbara Ayrton Gould died on 14th October 1950.