Clara Giveen

Clara Giveen

Clara Elizabeth Giveen, the daughter of an army officer, Captain B. M. Giveen and Alice Giveen, was born on 22nd May 1887 in Cooldrrargh, Coleraine, Ireland. (1) She moved to England and interested in the struggle for women's suffrage she joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in November, 1910. (2)

Soon after joining the WSPU she joined a demonstration outside 10 Drowning Street. "Scenes of violence unparalleled in the history of the women's suffrage movement took place in Downing Street, Westminster. For over a quarter of an hour some 300 women members of the Women's Social and Political Union fought fiercely and with the utmost determination in the endeavour to break through the cordon of police which had been hastily drawn up at the entrance to the street in order to guard No 10, the residence of the Prime Minister." Clara Giveen was arrested along with Emmeline Pankhurst, Catherine Marshall, Eveline Haverfield, Mary Leigh, Vera Holme, Louisa Garrett Anderson, Kitty Marion, Lilian Dove-Wilcox and Grace Roe. (3)

Kitty Marion described her as being a "beautiful blonde" of "good family and independent means". (4) On 21 November 1911 Giveen was sentenved to a week in Holloway Prison after being found guilty of holding the bridle of a policeman's horse at a WSPU protest. On 1st March 1912, she was arrested for breaking twelve windows of Jay's women's clothing store in Regent Street. Giveen was sentenced to four months for this offence. (5)

In January 1913, Emmeline Pankhurst made a speech where she stated that it was now clear that Herbert Asquith had no intention to introduce legislation that would give women the vote. She now declared war on the government and took full responsibility for all acts of militancy. "Over the next eighteen months, the WSPU was increasingly driven underground as it engaged in destruction of property, including setting fire to pillar boxes, raising false fire alarms, arson and bombing, attacking art treasures, large-scale window smashing campaigns, the cutting of telegraph and telephone wires, and damaging golf courses". (6)

The WSPU used a secret group called Young Hot Bloods to carry out these acts. No married women were eligible for membership. The existence of the group remained a closely guarded secret until May 1913, when it was uncovered as a result of a conspiracy trial of eight members of the suffragette leadership, including Flora Drummond, Annie Kenney and Rachel Barrett. (7) It has speculated that this group included Clara Giveen, Helen Craggs, Olive Hockin, Kitty Marion, Lilian Lenton, Miriam Pratt, Norah Smyth, Hilda Burkitt, Olive Wharry and Florence Tunks. (8)

Clara Giveen teamed up with Kitty Marion decided that setting fire to the Grand Stand at the Hurst Park racecourse as it "would make a most appropriate beacon". The women returned to a house in Kew owned by Eileen Casey. (9) A police constable who had been detailed to watch the house, saw the two women return and during the course of the next morning they were arrested. (10)

Giveen's local newspaper reported: "One of the two Suffragettes arrested at Kingston charged in connection with the fire which on Monday did £10,000 damage to the stands at Hurst Park racetract was Miss Clara Giveen. Miss Giveen who is a lady of independent means, is known in Bexhill, having been associated for some time with the local branch of the WSPU. When arrested at the residence of Dr Casey, Miss Giveen was found lying on a bed in one of the upper rooms, fully dressed. By her side was a copy of the Suffragette. In her room there was a quantity of resin... Miss Giveen in whose room was found the picture of a house burnt down at Eastbourne, was remanded, bail being allowed." (11)

It seems that the police had been watching the homes of women that had been offering help to those women involved in these arson attacks. "On Tuesday two women, Kitty Marion and Clara Giveen, of independent means, were charged at Richmond with loitering, with intent to commit a felony. A policeman who followed them about various streets at Kew at a quarter past 2 on Monday morning, questioned them, and seen them eventually enter the home of a Dr Casey with a latchkey. A tramcar man identified Marion as being with another women near the racecourse shortly before the fire, and there is other identification evidence. A piece of carpet used to get over the barbed wire of Hurst Park is identified by Marion's landlady as her property." (12)

Their trial began at Guildford on 3rd July. Giveen and Marion were defended by Ian Macpherson, a Liberal Party member of Parliament, who did not call any evidence. "He pleaded to the jury for an unbiased judgment, and to guard against a certain type of female who felt she was being defrauded by the law of the land of what she regarded as a just and proper - the exercise of the vote." Giveen said no evidence should be passed as they had not been tried by their peers. "Until women were on a jury as well as men, no sentence should be passed upon women." (13)

The main evidence against the women involved a fireman called Brown who claimed he saw Marion and Giveen carrying a portmanteau (a large travelling bag). Nearly two hours later he heard a fire hooter and discovered the fire. Soon afterwards he encountered the same woman without the portmanteau. "They were also seen by a tramcar driver named Middleton, who identified Miss Marion. Later the police found tracks leading to the fence bounding the racecourse, and a large piece of Brussels carpet. At the grand stand were found copies of The Suffragette, showing somebody interested in the question had visited it. (14)

Cara Giveen and Kitty Marion were found guilty and sentenced to three years' penal servitude. They both went on hunger strike and after five days were released under the Cat & Mouse Act. (15) They were taken to a Women's Social and Political Union nursing home, and placed under the care of Dr. Flora Murray and Catherine Pine. (16)

On 25th November 1913 Cara Giveen was arrested with Hilda Burkitt for attempting to set fire to the grandstand at the Headingley Football Ground the property of The Leeds Cricket, Football and Athletic Company. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that Clara Giveen had "escaped from the supervision of the police in Birmingham, to which town she went on Saturday, just before the expiration of her licence." (17)

In 1914, Clara Giveen married Philip Brewster (born 8th November 1889, Henfield, Sussex), the brother of the suffragette Bertha Brewster on 8th December 1914, at St Michael's & All Angels Church, Summertown, Oxford. A daughter, Barbara Brewster, was born in Hampstead in 1920. (18)

Clara Giveen
Clara Giveen

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. (19)

After the war Philip Brewster worked as a construction engineer. The couple lived in Peaslake, Surrey. (20)

Clara Giveen Brewster died on 16th May, 1967. (21)

Primary Sources

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

Scenes of violence unparalleled in the history of the women's suffrage movement took place in Downing Street, Westminster. For over a quarter of an hour some 300 women members of the Women's Social and Political Union fought fiercely and with the utmost determination in the endeavour to break through the cordon of police which had been hastily drawn up at the entrance to the street in order to guard No 10, the residence of the Prime Minister, which was the objective of the women ...

Exactly 100 arrests were made, including some of the leaders of the suffrage movement. Later, following on a second concerted attempt to get to Mr. Asquith's house, several more arrests were made... The following is a list of the Suffragettes arrested: Emmeline Pankhurst, Catherine Marshall, Evaline Haverfield, Maude Sennett, Mary Leigh, Vera Holme, Louisa Garrett Anderson, Bertha Brewster, Kitty Marion, Clara Giveen, Eileen Casey, Lilian Dove-Wilcox and Grace Roe.

(2) The Melbourne Argus (13th June, 1913)

This week's most serious outrage is the burning of the stands and other erections at Hurst Park racecourse, early on Monday when £12,000 damage was done. Suffrage literature was found. On Tuesday two women, Kitty Marion and Clara Giveen, of independent means, were charged at Richmond with loitering, with intent to commit a felony. A policeman who followed them about various streets at Kew at a quarter past 2 on Monday morning, questioned them, and seen them eventually enter the home of a Dr Casey with a latchkey. A tramcar man identified Marion as being with another women near the racecourse shortly before the fire, and there is other identification evidence. A piece of carpet used to get over the barbed wire of Hurst Park is identified by Marion's landlady as her property.

(3) Bexhill on Sea Chronicle (14th June, 1913)

One of the two Suffragettes arrested at Kingston charged in connection with the fire which on Monday did £10,000 damage to the stands at Hurst Park racetract was Miss Clara Giveen. Miss Giveen who is a lady of independent means, is known in Bexhill, having been associated for some time with the local branch of the WSPU. When arrested at the residence of Dr Casey, Miss Giveen was found lying on a bed in one of the upper rooms, fully dressed. By her side was a copy of the Suffragette. In her room there was a quantity of resin... Miss Giveen in whose room was found the picture of a house burnt down at Eastbourne, was remanded, bail being allowed.

(4) The Scotsman (4th July, 1913)

The trial took place at Surrey Assizes yesterday before Justice Phillimore, of the two suffragettes, Clara Giveen, 26, and Kitty Marion, 35, who were charged with setting fire to the grandstand and other buildings on Hurst Park Racecourse on June 8, doing damage to the extent of £7,000.

Prisoners, who pleaded not guilty, were defended by Mr Ian Macpherson, M. P., who did not call any evidence. He pleaded to the jury for an unbiased judgment, and to guard against a certain type of female who felt she was being defrauded by the law of the land of what she regarded as a just and proper - the exercise of the vote.

Both prisoners were found guilty. Marion said she had been convicted upon the flimsiest circumstantial evidence.... She would hunger strike, would refuse to come out of jail under the Cat and Mouse Act, and would insist upon staying in Holloway either to die or be released a free woman.

Giveen said no evidence should be passed as they had not been tried by their peers. Until women were on a jury as well as men, no sentence should be passed upon women. His Lordship, said he agreed with the jury's verdict, passed sentence of three years' penal servitude in each case.

An exciting scene followed, Suffragists in the gallery of the Court shouted: "No surrender," to sing the "Marseillance". The demonstrators were removed shouting, "We shall fight and we shall win because their is justice in our cause."

(5) The Suffragette (11th July, 1913)

Fireman Brown of the Hampton Court Palace, while going on duty at 10.15 on the night of the fire, met two women resembling defendants carrying a portmanteau. Nearly two hours later he heard a fire hooter and discovered the fire. He met the same woman without the portmanteau subsequently. They were also seen by a tramcar driver named Middleton, who identified Miss Marion. Later the police found tracks leading to the fence bounding the racecourse, and a large piece of Brussels carpet. At the grand stand were found copies of The Suffragette, showing somebody interested in the question had visited it.

(6) Westminister Gazette (10th July, 1913)

Miss Clara Giveen, who was sentenced to three years penal servitude in connection with the Hurst park fire, was released from Holloway at midday today, after having been on hunger strike since Thursday. Her condition is said to be serious.

(7) Yorkshire Evening Post (10th December, 1913)

Clara Giveen 25 years of age, "has escaped from the supervision of the police in Birmingham, to which town she went on Saturday, just before the expiration of her licence... Hilda Burkett, who after her release from Armley Goal went to a friend's house in Bradford, has also disappeared.

(8) Votes for Women (9th January, 1914)

At the Leeds Quarter Sessions, Miss Hilda Burkett and Miss Clara Giveen failed to appear when charged with attempting to fire a football stand. They had been released on licence.

References

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

(2) Krista Cowman, Women of the Right Spirit: Paid Organisers of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) 1904-18 (2007) page 222

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

(4) Kitty Marion, Autobiography of Kitty Marion (1930) page 232

(5) Diane Atkinson, Rise Up, Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes (2018) page 327

(6) June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (23rd September 2004)

(7) Yorkshire Evening Post (8th May 1913)

(8) John Simkin, The WSPU Young Hot Bloods and the Arson Campaign (26th May, 2022)

(9) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 100

(10) Vivien Gardner, Kitty Marion: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (23rd September 2004)

(11) Bexhill on Sea Chronicle (14th June, 1913)

(12) The Melbourne Argus (13th June, 1913)

(13) The Scotsman (4th July, 1913)

(14) The Suffragette (11th July, 1913)

(15) Westminister Gazette (10th July, 1913)

(16) Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 (2000) page 377

(17) Yorkshire Evening Post (10th December, 1913)

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

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

(20) Krista Cowman, Women of the Right Spirit: Paid Organisers of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) 1904-18 (2007) page 222

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