Bertha Brewster

Bertha Brewster, the daughter of Bertha Lewis Brewster and George Hill Brewster, was born in Lewes, Sussex, on 27th May 1887. Her brother, Philip Brewster, was born two years later. The family lived in the village of Henfield. Her father, John Lewis, was a silk merchant and when he died in 1893 he left effects valued at £110,171. His father, Reverend William Brewster was formerly the incumbent of St Matthew's Church, Toxteth, Liverpool but at the time of his death in Llandudno on 22nd October 1859, he was employed as a "Clerk" and left effects valued at under £3,000. (1)

Bertha and her brother, Brewster attended the progressive boarding school, Bedales. It was founded by John Haden Badley and his wife, Amy Garrett Badley and was the first co-educational boarding school in England. They were socialists, who had been influenced by the writings of William Morris and Edward Carpenter. It has been pointed out that "there are Bedalians who see themselves as left-wing, disapprove of independent schools, and believe passionately in Bedales." (1a)

Amy Garrett Badley, a cousin of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Garrett Fawcett was a supporter of women's suffrage, and probably influenced the political views of Bertha who was an outstanding student and "in 1905 was one of the first two girls to leave school to attend London University although no record has been located of her graduating." (2)

Women's Social & Political Union

Bertha Brewster joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1909. Brewster, Mary Leigh, Rona Robinson and Theresa Garnett, rented a house close to Sun Hall in Liverpool. On 20th August 1909, the women interrupted a speech made by Richard Haldane the Secretary of State for War. The women climbed onto the roof and Leigh addressed the gathering crowd. The Times described Leigh as "a frail little figure of a woman". (3)

Amy Garrett Badley
Amy Garrett Badley

The Liverpool Courier reported that the women "threw bricks and stones through the windows of the Sun Hall with a dexterity which was nothing short of marvellous". (4) After more windows were smashed the police found a window cleaner to get the women down but his ladder was too short and the fire brigade were called. Eventually they managed to bring down the seven women off the roof "in a perilous descent." (5)

Brewster was arrested and after her trial she was sentenced to one month in prison. Five of the women received two months. On their way to Walton Gaol they sang "The Marseillaise", broke the windows of the Black Maria and pushed a "Votes for Women" flag through the ventilator in the roof. The governor of the prison sat alongside the driver, and four policemen rode on the step of the van. (6)

Mary Leigh (c. 1910)
Mary Leigh (c. 1910)

The Liverpool Post commented: "Seven viragos have given a lesson to the country which it will not be slow to profit by, and we trust that the arm of outraged justice administer to them a lesson which they will not soon forget." (7) Bertha was sentenced to one month in prison, whereas the other participants received two months. Bertha protested at the leniency of her sentence which she served at Walton Gaol. The women immediately decided to go on hunger-strike, a strategy developed by Marion Wallace-Dunlop a few weeks earlier. The women were released on 26th August. (8)

Bertha Brewster & David Lloyd George

According to the The Evening News, Bertha Brewster and Emily Hudson entered Louth Town Hall on 14th January 1910: "They explored the building with a portable light, and went up the spiral staircase, eventually discovering a way to the false roof. They had some food with them, including chocolate, hard-boiled eggs and German black bread. The place was very dirty, but they managed to sleep during the night as well as during the day." (9)

After spending twenty-five hours on the false roof they interrupted a speech being made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George. When he began to speak the woman began to drop down suffragette leaflets and yelled: "Votes for Women". (10) He responded by observing "I see some bats have got into the roof Well let them squeal; it doesn't matter". He described their actions as "silly tactics." (11)

The women were detained but on 21st January 1910 Bertha Brewster was sentenced to six weeks' hard labour for smashing fifteen windows in Walton Gaol. (12) Once again Brewster went on hunger-strike but this time she was forced-fed from 24th January. The WSPU organised a well-attended protest meeting outside the prison. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, spoke of the unjustness of the sentence comparing it to the 5 shillings fine metered out to a man who had attacked and knocked down a woman holding a baby. (13) After a week of being forced-fed she was released on health grounds. The Aberdeen Press and Journal reported that "she had received kindness from the prison officials." (14)

Black Friday

In January 1910, H. H. Asquith called a general election in order to obtain a new mandate. However, the Liberals lost votes and was forced to rely on the support of the 42 Labour Party MPs to govern. Henry Brailsford, a member of the Men's League For Women's Suffrage wrote to Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the National Union of Woman's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), suggesting that he should attempt to establish a Conciliation Committee for Women's Suffrage. "My idea is that it should undertake the necessary diplomatic work of promoting an early settlement". (15)

Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) agreed to the idea and they declared a truce in which all militant activities would cease until the fate of the Conciliation Bill was clear. A Conciliation Committee, composed of 36 MPs (25 Liberals, 17 Conservatives, 6 Labour and 6 Irish Nationalists) all in favour of some sort of women's enfranchisement, was formed and drafted a Bill which would have enfranchised only a million women but which would, they hoped, gain the support of all but the most dedicated anti-suffragists. (16) Fawcett wrote that "personally many suffragists would prefer a less restricted measure, but the immense importance and gain to our movement is getting the most effective of all the existing franchises thrown upon to woman cannot be exaggerated." (17)

The Conciliation Bill was designed to conciliate the suffragist movement by giving a limited number of women the vote, according to their property holdings and marital status. After a two-day debate in July 1910, the Conciliation Bill was carried by 109 votes and it was agreed to send it away to be amended by a House of Commons committee. However, when Keir Hardie, the leader of the Labour Party, requested two hours to discuss the Conciliation Bill, H. H. Asquith made it clear that he intended to shelve it. (18)

Emmeline Pankhurst was furious at what she saw as Asquith's betrayal and on 18th November, 1910, arranged to lead 300 women from a pre-arranged meeting at the Caxton Hall to the House of Commons. Pankhurst and a small group of WSPU members, were allowed into the building but Asquith refused to see them. Women, in "detachments of twelve" marched forward but were attacked by the police. (19)

Votes for Women reported that 159 women and three men were arrested during this demonstration. (20) This included Bertha Brewster, Ada Wright, Catherine Marshall, Eveline Haverfield, Anne Cobden Sanderson, Mary Leigh, Vera Holme, Louisa Garrett Anderson, Kitty Marion, Gladys Evans, Cecilia Wolseley Haig, Maud Arncliffe Sennett, Clara Giveen, Eileen Casey, Patricia Woodcock, Vera Wentworth, Winifred Mayo, Mary Clarke, Florence Canning, Henria Williams, Lilian Dove-Wilcox, Minnie Turner, Bertha Brewster, Lucy Burns and Grace Roe. (21)

Sylvia Pankhurst later described what happened on what became known as Black Friday: "As, one after the other, small deputations of twelve women appeared in sight they were set upon by the police and hurled aside. Mrs Cobden Sanderson, who had been in the first deputation, was rudely seized and pressed against the wall by the police, who held her there by both arms for a considerable time, sneering and jeering at her meanwhile.... Just as this had been done, I saw Miss Ada Wright close to the entrance. Several police seized her, lifted her from the ground and flung her back into the crowd. A moment afterwards she appeared again, and I saw her running as fast as she could towards the House of Commons. A policeman struck her with all his force and she fell to the ground. For a moment there was a group of struggling men round the place where she lay, then she rose up, only to be flung down again immediately. Then a tall, grey-headed man with a silk hat was seen fighting to protect her; but three or four police seized hold of him and bundled him away. Then again, I saw Miss Ada Wright's tall, grey-clad figure, but over and over again she was flung to the ground, how often I cannot say. It was a painful and degrading sight. At last, she was lying against the wall of the House of Lords, close to the Strangers' Entrance, and a number of women, with pale and distressed faces were kneeling down round her. She was in a state of collapse." (22)

Several women reported that the police dragged women down the side streets. "We knew this always meant greater ill-usage.... The police snatched the flags, tore them to shreds, and smashed the sticks, struck the women with fists and knees, knocked them down, some even kicked them, then dragged them up, carried them a few paces and flung them into the crowd of sightseers." (23)

The photograph of Ada Wright on the front page of The Daily Mirror the next day caused a great deal of embarrassment to the Home Office and the government demanded that the negative be destroyed. (24) Wright told a reporter that she had been at seven suffragette demonstrations, but had "never known the police so violent." (25) Charles Mansell-Moullin, who had helped treat the wounded claimed that the police had used "organised bands of well-dressed roughs who charged backwards and forwards through the deputations like a football team without any attempt being made to stop them by the police." (26)

The Daily Mirror (19 November 1910)
The front page of The Daily Mirror that showed the attack on Ada Wright (19 November 1910)

Henry Brailsford was commissioned to write a report Treatment of the Women's Deputations of November 18th, 22nd and 23rd, 1910, by the Police (1910) on Black Friday. He took testimony from a large number of women, including Mary Frances Earl: "In the struggle the police were most brutal and indecent. They deliberately tore my undergarments, using the most foul language - such language as I could not repeat. They seized me by the hair and forced me up the steps on my knees, refusing to allow me to regain my footing... The police, I understand, were brought specially from Whitechapel." Bertha Brewster commented that "both arms were very much bruised for over three weeks… I could hardly walk upstairs… the Blackheath policemen were dreadfully rough and cruel… and lifted me right up and flung me as hard as they could many times." (27)

Women's Tax Resistance League

On 22nd October 1909 when the Women's Freedom League (WFL) established the Women's Tax Resistance League (WTRL). (28) The first member to take part in the campaign was Dr. Octavia Lewin. It was reported in The Daily Chronicle that the "First Passive' Resister", was was to be taken to court. It was announced in the same report that "the Women's Freedom League intends to organise a big passive resistance movement as a weapon in the fight for the franchise." (29)

The motto adopted by the Tax Resistance League was "No Vote No Tax". According to Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000): "When bailiffs seized goods belonging to women in lieu of tax, the TRL made the ensuing sale the occasion for a public or open-air meeting in order to spread the principles of women's suffrage and to rouse public opinion to the injustice of non-representation meted out on tax-paying women." (30)

Bertha Brewster joined the campaign and refused to pay the Inhabited House Duty. (31) Sara Paulley has pointed out: "Her refusal to pay the Inhabited House Duty saw the authorities seize a carriage clock to be sold at auction to raise the taxes she owed. At each sale, a crowd of women would attend to protest. On this occasion, in an attempt to outwit the women, the only auction lot was Bertha's carriage clock. A crowd of women gathered both inside and outside the auction room. The auctioneer mounted the podium and opened the bidding and then without a single bid being made turned to a man in the corner of the room handed him the clock and received in return twenty-one shillings. Uproar ensued. The auctioneer found himself surrounded by angry woman. The police had to come to the aid of the auctioneer who then retrieved the clock from the man and started the auction again. As the women had initially intended it was resold to one of their own. The auctioneer departed, and the women used the auction room to make speeches and accepted an apology from the man who had originally bought it." (32)

Militant Propaganda

Bertha Brewster continued to break the law in the campaign of women's suffrage. Votes for Women reported: "On 3rd July 1912, Bertha Brewster was charged of doing wilful damage to a plate-glass window at Rayleigh Post Office. It was alleged that she threw three pieces of lead through the window and then rode off on her bicycle, but was captured by a police constable. She was fined £5, damage £1 7s. 6d., and costs 4s., or a month's imprisonment. This time she allowed a friend to pay the fine and escaped going to prison again. (33)

According to Votes for Women, Bertha Brewster and Winifred Mayo met members of suffragettes when they were released from prison. It said that "they are doing yeoman service; they have been meeting the prisoners as they were released from Holloway, entertaining them to breakfast and in a very special way acting as hostesses". (34)

Brewster wrote to The Daily Herald suggesting that militant activity was justified because of the broken promises of H. H. Asquith and his government: "Those of us who distrusted the Prime Minister's pledge from the first are confirmed in their opinion that by militancy alone, it is possible to obtain justice from the present Government; those who are more confiding will do well to consider whether their confidence has not been misplaced." (35)

On 26th February 1913 Brewster had a letter published in The Daily Telegraph: "Everyone seems to agree upon the necessity of putting a stop to Suffragist outrages; but no one seems certain how to do so. There are two, and only two, ways in which this can be done. Both will be effectual. Kill every woman in the United Kingdom. Give women the vote." (36)

Bertha Brewster wrote several articles for the newspaper, Votes for Women. This included an article on Jane Austen and feminism: "It is usual to speak of her writing as feminine. We frankly confess we do not know what exactly is meant by the term in her case. Her characters live and move in a nicely-ordered world, untroubled by disaster, unmoved by strong emotions; their joys and sorrows are on the smallest possible scale… It is as much owing to this magnificent detachment of hers as to her never-failing sense of humour that we cannot claim her as a fellow suffragist with as much conviction as we can other famous women writers. For detachment and a sense of humour are the reformer's bitterest enemies, and one who can never shake them off will probably be with us in spirit, but will most likely shrink from being with us in body." (37)

First World War

Bertha Brewster disapproved of the Women Social & Political Union's arson campaign. Members of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies were disillusioned by the lack of success using non-militant methods. On 6th February 1914, the United Suffragists movement was formed. Membership was open to both men and women, militants and non-militants. (38)

Bertha Brewster joined the United Suffragettes Executive Committee that included Evelyn Sharp, Henry Nevinson, John Scurr, Barbara Ayrton Gould and Gerald Gould. (39) Other members included Henry Harben, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Mary Neal, Margaret Nevinson, George Lansbury, Charlotte Despard, Catherine Marshall, Robert Smillie, Sylvia Pankhurst, Hertha Ayrton, Israel Zangwill, Edith Zangwill, Lena Ashwell, Louisa Garrett Anderson, Eveline Haverfield, Maud Arncliffe Sennett, Helen Crawfurd, Patricia Woodlock, Julia Scurr and Laurence Housman. (40)

In 1914, Bertha's brother, Philip Brewster, married the militant suffragette, Clara Giveen at St Michael's & All Angels Church, Summertown, Oxford. A daughter, Barbara Brewster, was born in Hampstead in 1920. (41) Philip Brewster was a pacifist and became a conscientious objector during the First World War. They were living in Gray's Inn Road when he was conscripted in 1916 and within a month he was convicted for "disobeying in such a manner as to show wilful defiance of authority and lawful co mmand of his superior officer in the execution of his office." He was sentenced to two years' hard labour which was served in Wormwood Scrubs and Wandsworth prisons. He was released in January 1919. (42)

The Labour Party

After the First World War, Bertha Brewster became an active member of the Labour Party. In the 1921 census Bertha Brewster was recorded at 8 Ivanhoe House, Kenton Street, London, WC1. She is described as working for the Women's International League. (43)

In July 1936 it was reported in The Daily Herald that she had been appointed as Justices of the Peace for the County of London for the area of Westminster. (44)

At the age of 71 Bertha Brewster was elected as the Leominster representative to the Herefordshire County Council. (45)

Bertha Brewster lived at The Cottage, Back Lane, Weobley, Herefordshire. However, she died at Sallanches Hospital at Haute-Savoie in France on 1st August 1959. She left her estate valued at £3495 12s. 6d. to her brother Philip Brewster. (46)

Primary Sources

(1) The Evening News (17th January 1910)

Bertha Brewster and Emily Hudson, Clement's Inn, London, who interrupted Mr Lloyd George's meeting on Saturday night, stated today that they went into Louth Town Hall at twenty-past seven on Friday night, having found the side door in Cannon Street open.

They explored the building with a portable light, and went up the spiral staircase, eventually discovering a way to the false roof.

They had some food with them, including chocolate, hard-boiled eggs and German black bread.

The place was very dirty, but they managed to sleep during the night as well as during the day.

The ventilators were covered with sacking, which they pulled off, and recognising Mr Lloyd George by his long hair they began their interruption by poking tricolour flags through the ventilator.

Altogether they were in the false roof twenty-five hours.

(2) Ottawa Free Press (19th January 1910)

Bertha Brewster and Emily Hudson two suffragettes who had hid in a false roof of the Town Hall here for over 25 hours in order to interrupt the meeting which was addressed by Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George on Saturday night, were arraigned in court yesterday and were discharged with a caution not to repeat the offence. When Mr Lloyd George began to speak the woman began to drop down Suffragette papers and yelled: "Votes for Women".

(3) Sheffield Daily Telegraph (22nd January 1910)

At Liverpool yesterday, Beretha Brewster, a Suffragette who was arrested at Louth, was sentenced to six weeks' hard labour for window smashing in Walton Gaol.

(4) Grantham Journal (29th January 1910)

Bertha Brewster, aged 22, who was arrested at Louth, was sentenced to six weeks' hard labour by the Liverpool Stipendiary, yesterday week, for breaking fifteen window panes in the Walton Prison while undergoing sentence last August.

(5) Aberdeen Press and Journal (1st February 1910)

Release of a Liverpool Suffragist – Miss Bertha Brewster, a suffragist, was released from Walton Gaol, Liverpool, yesterday morning pending an appeal to the next Quarter Sessions Miss Brewster had been forcibly feed since January 24th. Notwithstanding this, she had received kindness from the prison officials. The suffragist in Liverpool announce that Miss Selina Martin, also in Walton Gaol, has been very ill since her imprisonment, and has been in hospital from the third day after her sentence.

(6) Votes for Women (12th July 1912)

At Southend, on July 3, Miss Bertha Brewster surrendered to her bail on a charge of doing wilful damage to a plate-glass window at Rayleigh Post Office. It was alleged that she threw three pieces of lead through the window and then rode off on her bicycle, but was captured by a police constable. She was fined £5, damage £1 7s. 6d., and costs 4s., or a month's imprisonment. The money was paid by a lady in court.

(7) Bertha Brewster, The Daily Herald (1st February 1913)

Those of us who distrusted the Prime Minister's pledge from the first are confirmed in their opinion that by militancy alone, it is possible to obtain justice from the present Government; those who are more confiding will do well to consider whether their confidence has not been misplaced.

(8) The Daily Telegraph (26th February 1913)

Everyone seems to agree upon the necessity of putting a stop to Suffragist outrages; but no one seems certain how to do so. There are two, and only two, ways in which this can be done. Both will be effectual.

Kill every woman in the United Kingdom.

Give women the vote.

(9) Votes for Women (11th April 1913)

Three members of the Women's Tax Resistance League have their goods sold during the week: Mrs Skipwith of Woking, for refusal to pay Property Tax, on April 3; Miss Bertha Brewster for non-payment of Inhabited House Duty, and Miss Raleigh for refusal to pay Imperial Taxes, on April 5.

(10) Votes for Women (3rd August 1917)

On July 19th, 1817, occurred the death of Jane Austen, to many of us one of the greatest of English humourists, at the age of forty-one.

It is usual to speak of her writing as feminine. We frankly confess we do not know what exactly is meant by the term in her case. Her characters live and move in a nicely-ordered world, untroubled by disaster, unmoved by strong emotions; their joys and sorrows are on the smallest possible scale…

It is as much owing to this magnificent detachment of hers as to her never-failing sense of humour that we cannot claim her as a fellow suffragist with as much conviction as we can other famous women writers. For detachment and a sense of humour are the reformer's bitterest enemies, and one who can never shake them off will probably be with us in spirit, but will most likely shrink from being with us in body.

We cannot picture Miss Austen addressing, far less interrupting a public meeting; indeed, we fear she might consider it an unpardonable breach of decorum. But we can very well imagine her making fun of Mr. Arnold's speeches.

(11) Votes for Women, "The Passing of the Grille" (7th September 1917)

On Anti's all, do you recall the days that once you knew,

When you were the majority, and the Suffragists were few?

When women all were womanly, and men were really male,

And bipeds clamouring for votes were promptly put in jail?

When the female of the species was made to know her place,

And hidden in the gallery with bars before her face?

But now all that is at an end, she'll sit where she's a will,

For the House has just consented to removal of the grille.

That prehistoric state of things has gone without a doubt;

The Suffragist is everywhere; you cannot keep her out;

The Anti's ranks are getting thin; their day is nearly done;

Their prominent supporters are converted one by one;

Six million soon will vote and worst - and final blow!

The House will never be again the House they used to know,

For every night in future the gallery will fill

With those who hitherto have scorned to cower behind the grille.

(12) The Daily Herald (13th July 1936)

The following members of the Labour Party have recently been appointed as Justices of the Peace for the County of London.

Miss Bertha Brewster, Westminster; Mrs M. F. Douglas, Battersea; Mr Marcus Dubury, Limehouse; Mr George Jeger, Shoreditch; Miss D. M. Elliot, Hampstead; Mr W. B. Neville, Woolwich; Mr W.J. Sherwood, St. Pancras; Miss M. Slee, Kensington, Mr J. W. Stephenson, Wandsworth; and Mr G. S. Tingle, Bermondsey.

(13) The Kington Times (18th April 1958)

We would like to thank the townspeople of Leominster for conferring upon us the honour of election as their representatives on the County Council for the next three years.

To all who voted for us and to the willing band of people whose great work ensured such a satisfactory result we extend our sincere thanks.

We shall do our best to justify the confidence that has been placed in us.

Irene Booth, Bryn Glas, Bargates; Charles W. Harris, 40, Broad Street; Bertha Brewster, Back Lane, Weobley.

(14) David Simkin, Family History Research (1st June, 2023)


Bertha Brewster was born in Lewes, Sussex, on 27th May 1887, the daughter of Bertha (Lewis) and George Hill Brewster.

Her father, George Hill Brewster, was born in Llandudno, Caernarvonshire, Wales, during the 3rd Quarter of 1859, the son of Ann Jane Hargreaves & Reverend William Brewster (born 1816, Dublin, Ireland - died 1859). (George Hill Brewster was baptised in Llandudno, Caernarvonshire on 6th August 1859). The source of George Hill Brewster's wealth is a mystery. His father, Reverend William Brewster was formerly the incumbent of St Matthew's Church, Toxteth, Liverpool but at the time of his death in Llandudno on 22nd October 1859, he was employed as a "Clerk" and left effects valued at under £3,000. On 14th September 1852, William Brewster, a widower in his mid-30s,had married Anne Jane Hargreaves, the 28-year-old daughter of John Hargreaves, Attorney-at-Law/Solicitor. The 1861 Census records 38 year-old Mrs Anne Jane Brewster as a "Clergyman's Widow". George Hill Brewster was the youngest of three children and was just over a month old when his father died. I can only assume that George Hill Brewster inherited his wealth. On the 1881 Census return, 21-year-old G. H. Brewster has no occupation or profession. In all future census returns he is recorded as either "Living on own means" or on "Private Means". On other documents he is recorded as a "Gentleman". When George Hill Brewster died at the age of 64 on 14th June 1914, he left effects valued at £30,802. 7s 11d.

Bertha's mother, Bertha Lewis was born on 28 September 1863 in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India, the daughter of Mary Balfour and John Lewis (born c. 1836, Brighton), a "Silk Merchant". who later worked as a Civil Engineer. I cannot trace a death date or will/probate for her father, John Lewis. Bertha's maternal grandfather, Joseph Balfour (1806-1893) was also a "Silk Merchant" and when he died on 15th February 1893 he left effects valued at £110,171. I assume that her father, John Lewis must have left a similar amount when he died.

In the 1921 census Bertha Brewster was recorded at 8 Ivanhoe House, Kenton Street, London, WC1 (St Pancras District). She is described as aged 34 years, I month, single, Personal Occupation: "Clerk"; Employer: "Women's International League" - "Out of Work".

At the time of the 1939 General Register, Miss Bertha Brewster (single) was residing at 'The Stream', Burghill, Herefordshire. Personal Occupation: "Private Means".

Bertha Brewster's last residential address was The Cottage, Back Lane, Weobley, Herefordshire. Died at Sallanches Hospital at Haute-Savoie in France on 1st August 1959. She left her estate valued at £3495 12s. 6d. to her brother Philip Brewster. a retired consulting engineer.

[At the time of the 1939 General Register, her mother, Mrs Bertha Brewster (widow) was residing at 7 Somerset Terrace, St Pancras, London. Personal Occupation: "Private Means".]

By the way, the full name of Clara Giveen's father was Butler Mildmay Giveen (1823-1891) and her mother was born Alice Wilmot Madden (1858-1947).

Butler Mildmay Giveen fathered 11 children - 8 with his first wife Fanny de Neufville Lucas (1833–1863), 3 with his second wife Alice Wilmot Madden

(15) Sara Paulley, Bertha Brewster (14th December, 2020)

Bertha Brewster was born in 1887 to George and Bertha who lived in the village of Henfield, near Horsham in West Sussex. Two years after Bertha was born, the family was completed with the arrival of a brother, Philip. Brother and sister attended the progressive boarding school, Bedales, presumably as day pupils as the 1901 census records the family living in Steep, Hampshire, the village location of the school. Founded in 1898 by John Haden Badley, its foundation was in part at the urging of his wife, Amy a suffragette and cousin of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Fawcett. Bertha was academic and in 1905 was one of the first two girls to leave school to attend London University although no record has been located of her graduating.

The first indication of Bertha’s involvement in the suffrage movement is a donation to the fundraising £20,000 appeal to which her mother also donated. By 1909 the family had moved to Osmonds, a substantial country house located between Droitwich and Ombersley in Worcestershire. In August 1909 Bertha was arrested for the first time. A group of suffragettes had rented a house adjacent but separated from Sun Hall in Liverpool by a narrow passage for when Richard Haldane, a Liberal member of Parliament and the Secretary of State for War came to speak. When the meeting started, one climbed onto the roof while another addressed the gathering crowd. According to the press reports, slates and other missiles were thrown from the roof of the house at the gallery windows of the hall forcing Haldane to interrupt his speech. Bertha was sentenced to one month in prison, not the two months her fellow participants received. Bertha protested at the leniency of her sentence which she served at Walton Gaol. Votes for Women reported that on the way to the gaol the women sang the Marseillaise and managed to push through an opening in the roof of the prison van a flag, which had they had smuggled in, which read Votes for Women.

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References

(1) David Simkin, Family History Research (1st June, 2023)

(1a) Roy Wake & Pennie Denton, Bedales School: The First Hundred Years (1993) page 270

(2) Sara Paulley, Bertha Brewster (14th December, 2020)

(3) The Times (21st August, 1909)

(4) The Liverpool Courier (21st August, 1909)

(5) The Times (21st August, 1909)

(6) Diane Atkinson, Rise Up, Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes (2018) page 162

(7) The Liverpool Post (23rd September 1909)

(8) Sara Paulley, Bertha Brewster (14th December, 2020)

(9) The Evening News (17th January 1910)

(10) Ottawa Free Press (19th January 1910)

(11) Sara Paulley, Bertha Brewster (14th December, 2020)

(12) Sheffield Daily Telegraph (22nd January 1910)

(13) Sara Paulley, Bertha Brewster (14th December, 2020)

(14) Aberdeen Press and Journal (1st February 1910)

(15) Henry Brailsford, letter to Millicent Garrett Fawcett (18th January, 1910)

(16) Joyce Marlow, Votes for Women (2001) page 121

(17) Millicent Garrett Fawcett, The Women's Suffrage Movement (1912) page 88

(18) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 176

(19) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) page 342

(20) Votes for Women (25th November, 1910)

(21) Dundee Evening Telegraph (23rd November, 1910)

(22) Sylvia Pankhurst, Votes for Women (25th November 1910)

(23) Sylvia Pankhurst, The History of the Women's Suffrage Movement (1931) page 343

(24) The Daily Mirror (22nd November 1910)

(25) Diane Atkinson, Rise Up, Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes (2018) page 228

(26) Charles Mansell-Moullin, letter to The Daily Mirror (22nd November 1910)

(27) Treatment of the Women's Deputations of November 18th, 22nd and 23rd, 1910, by the Police (1910)

(28) Teresa Billington Greig, The Non-Violent Militant: Selected Writings of Teresa Billington-Greig (1987) page 104

(29) The Daily Chronicle (28th March 1908)

(30) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 672

(31) Votes for Women (11th April 1913)

(32) Sara Paulley, Bertha Brewster (14th December, 2020)

(33) Votes for Women (12th July 1912)

(34) Votes for Women (12th April 1912)

(35) Bertha Brewster, The Daily Herald (1st February 1913)

(36) Bertha Brewster, The Daily Telegraph (26th February 1913)

(37) Votes for Women (3rd August 1917)

(38) Angela V. John, Evelyn Sharp: Rebel Women (2009) page 73

(39) Votes for Women (3rd March 1916)

(40) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 694

(41) David Simkin, Family History Research (18th May, 2020)

(42) Diane Atkinson, Rise Up, Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes (2018) page 539

(43) Census Data (1921)

(44) The Daily Herald (13th July 1936)

(45) The Kington Times (18th April 1958)

(46) David Simkin, Family History Research (1st June, 2023)