Constance Virginie Tite was born in Clapham, London, in 1870 to Elisabeth Felicite Virginie Despointes (1849-1898) and Arthur Tite (1841-1894). This union produced at least 5 children. George Ham Tite (1872-1899), John Denis Tite (1874-1927), Felix Tite (1877-1952) and Katherine Tite (1875-1965). Her father was initially a banker's clerk who eventually became a bank manager for N. M. Rothschild & Sons. (1)
At the time of the 1881 Census, 11-year-old Constance was living with her parents and 3 siblings at Amwell House, Great Amwell, near Ware, Hertfordshire. (2) Arthur Tite and his wife employed half-a-dozen live-in domestic servants, including a governess, a butler, a cook, a lady's maid, a housemaid, and a kitchen maid. (3)
In 1901 the 31-year-old Constance Tite was living with her older sister, Katherine Tite, and older brother, John Tite, at 11 Orme Court, Paddington. London, not far from Kensington Gardens. All three siblings were "living on own means" and had no profession or occupation. Five servants were employed at their house in Orme Court, including a parlour maid, a page boy, and a male nurse, who was caring for 27-year-old John Tite, who is described as "feeble minded". (4)
Constance Tite and the NUWSS
Constance Tite was a supporter of women's suffrage and she became a member of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. Tite left the NUWSS to join the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). She approved of what Emmeline Pankhurst had to say about membership of the organisation. "We resolved to limit our membership exclusively to women, to keep ourselves absolutely free from any party affiliation, and to be satisfied with nothing but action on our question. Deeds, not words, was to be our permanent motto." (5)
In a conference in September 1907, Emmeline Pankhurst told members that she intended to run the WSPU without interference. As Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence pointed out: "She called upon those who had faith in her leadership to follow her, and to devote themselves to the sole end of winning the vote. This announcement was met with a dignified protest from Mrs. Despard. These two notable women presented a great contrast, the one aflame with a single idea that had taken complete possession of her, the other upheld by a principle that had actuated a long life spent in the service of the people. Mrs. Despard calmly affirmed her belief in democratic equality and was convinced that it must be maintained at all costs. Mrs. Pankhurst claimed that there was only one meaning to democracy, and that was equal citizenship in a State, which could only be attained by inspired leadership. She challenged all who did not accept the leadership of herself and her daughter to resign from the Union that she had founded, and to form an organisation of their own." (6)
Christabel Pankhurst sent out a letter to all branches of the WSPU stating that this was not in any way a democratic group. "We are not playing experiments with representative government. We are not a school for teaching women how to use the vote. We are a militant movement... It is not a school for teaching women how to use the vote. We are militant movement... It is after all a voluntary militant movement: those who cannot follow the general must drop out of the ranks." As Simon Webb has pointed out: "This is quite unambiguous. Members must not expect to influence policy or question the leader, the role is limited to obeying orders." (7)
Women's Freedom League
As a result of this speech, Constance Tite, Charlotte Despard, Teresa Billington-Greig, Edith How-Martyn, Dora Marsden, Helena Normanton, Anne Cobden Sanderson, Helen Fox, Muriel Matters, Octavia Lewin, Emma Sproson, Margaret Nevinson, Henria Williams, Katherine Vulliamy, Violet Tillard and about sixty-five other members of the WSPU left to form the Women's Freedom League (WFL) in November 1907. Most of its members were socialists who wanted to work closely with the Labour Party who "regarded it as hypocritical for a movement for women's democracy to deny democracy to its own members." (8) Christabel Pankhurst attempted to play down the conflict. She stated, "please don't call it a split there has been no particular row... it is more of a parting of company." (9)
Charlotte Despard, Teresa Billington-Greig and Edith How-Martyn were all members of the Independent Labour Party. However, they distrusted the other political parties who had for so long blocked attempts to extend the franchise to women. Therefore they wanted "a women's suffrage organisation independent of the political parties; an organisation run and controlled by women which would prioritise women's suffrage above all else; a campaign which would be intense and militant, and which would not end until women had achieved their demands - equal suffrage on the same terms as men." (10)
Violet Tillard became Assistant Organising Secretary of the organisation. She pointed out the difference between the Women's Freedom League and the Women Social & Political Union. "The Women's Freedom League differs from the Women's Social and Political Union chiefly in the internal organisation, which in democratic; and in the fact that it is not part of its policy at present to interrupt Cabinet Ministers at meetings; but the societies at one in their aim the removal of the sex disability, and in their policy of opposing the Government at by-elections." (11)
1911 Census Campaign
The Women's Freedom League decided to ask its members to boycott the 1911 Census. Constance Tite was placed in charge of the project. She announced on 18th February: "The subscription list for the Census Protest has been opened, and we hope that all members and sympathisers will send us a donation as soon as possible. The idea is being greeted with enthusiasm everywhere when we hold meetings, and there seems to be no doubt that if all our members give all the help they can by persuading others to join in evading the Census, and by collecting money, it ought to have an overwhelming effect, as it opens an entirely new form of militant protests." (12)
The Portsmouth branch planned events, which including hiring a hall and sleeping in other members homes. All these plans were told to local reporters by the WFL branch secretary Sarah Whetton, who stated that nearly one hundred supporters were intending to resist. In Manchester sixteen houses were placed at the branch's disposal, and in Edinburgh it was reported that the numbers taking part in the protest had "reached four figures". Members later recorded some unusual methods they used to avoid detection. (13)
Katherine Vulliamy and her husband Edward Vulliamy removed themselves from the 1911 Census but the form was completed by a census registrar who suspected that the Vulliamy family and two "female visitors" were residing at the Vulliamy family home at Maitland House, Barton Road, Cambridge, on the night of the census. The census registrar notes that Edward Vulliamy was working as a "College Tutor" and employed three domestic servants at the family home. (14)
Two Swansea members, Clare Neal and Emily Phipps, recalled how they had spent the night in a cave on the Gower coast with friends before going to work the following day as usual. (15) The Vote reported that the campaign had been a great success: "The most effective protest yet made by women against government without consent.... The census of 1911 has been made memorable by the organised revolt of women." (16)
Constance Tite was a member of the Women's Freedom League National Executive Council. She also served as treasurer. Tite was one of the most active members of the organisation. The Vote reported that on 24th September, 1911, she was in the chair of the Mid-London branch of the WFL public meeting when Cicely Hamilton and Nina Boyle, were the speakers. Two days later she was along with Edith How-Martyn one of the speakers at the Lower Essex Hall. (17)
After Teresa Billington-Greig resigned from the Women's Freedom League in 1911, Charlotte Despard became its most dominant figure in the organisation. Some members began to complain about her autocratic style of leadership. One sympathetic journalist, Henry N. Brailsford, a member of the Men's League For Women's Suffrage, compared her to the way Emmeline Pankhurst ran the Women's Social and Political Union. (18)
Constance Tite often found herself in conflict with Despard. She eventually joined forces with Edith How-Martyn, Alison Neilans, Emma Sproson, Constance Tite, Bessie Drysdale and Eileen Mitchell, to send letters to all branches explaining that their president was acting autocratically and blocking the effective work of the NEC. As a result a special conference was organised in April 1912 to discuss this matter. (19)
At the conference one discontent criticised Despard arguing, "I am in favour of democracy... I do not approve of a leader.. I follow a policy, not a personality." Mrs Kathleen Mitchell, an original member of the WFL put forward her views: "The WFL came into existence, in fact it owes its very name to this, that certain people including Mrs Despard, Mrs How Martyn, Mrs Sproson, myself, and many others found it impossible to reconcile their claim for political enfranchisement of women with an autocratic instead of self-governing society... It is with the greatest regret that I have to tell the Conference that my own experience has proved conclusively to me that this principle is in danger of being fatally reversed." (20)
Nina Boyle supported Charlotte Despard who suggested that democracy was secondary to obtaining votes for women. "We are not here as democrats, but as suffragettes, and we are out to get the Vote!". (21) Despard put forward her own explanation of her behaviour. She stated: "I am a democrat. My views are very well known, long long before there was a WFL... Now I am sorry to say that I am what I am. My opinion on these things is before you, and it was before the WFL when it elected me as President. I cannot be tied up. I cannot be told you must say this and you must do that. That is absolutely impossible for me. I must be myself... I simply and solely do what I can to help the WFL, the cause of women and of women's freedom and emancipation... Make someone else your President, or have no President at all, which ever you choose. As I have said already, if the latter is your will, or the former, I shall go out of this room and out of this hall, and those who will, will follow me, and we will continue to work for the suffrage as we have always done. But I am absolutely loyal to the WFL." (22)
As Claire Louise Eustace has pointed out: "Despard's interpretation of democracy differed as much as her colleagues on the NEC from the principles outlined in the constitution. This was a crucial point, because from the discussions which took place at this conference, it is clear that no consensus on the meaning and expression of democracy was possible. This was partly because the practice and principles of militant action favoured strong individual personalities, and quick, spontaneous actions... Charlotte Despard's references to leaving the WFL appear to have decided the matter. The majority wanted to avoid another split in their organisation and this, along with her undeniable popularity among the membership, ensured that the vote of confidence went in Despard's favour by eighteen votes to thirty-five. (23)
As a result of this vote Constance Tite, Katherine Vulliamy, Edith How-Martyn, Alison Neilans, Emma Sproson, Bessie Drysdale and Eileen Mitchell, resigned from the National Executive of the Women's Freedom League. (24) As one newspaper pointed out: "Another split has occurred in the ranks of the suffragettes, the organisation concerned on this occasion being the Women's Freedom League, which has lost several of its most important members… It is interesting to remember that the Women's Freedom League is itself the outcome of a former 'split'. Mrs How Martyn, who was in the early militant days one of the guiding spirits of the Women's Social and Political Union, disagreed, in company with other members of that body, with the present leaders on questions of policy, and they left to form the Women's Freedom League." (25)
Women's Police Force
In 1913 Constance Tite visited Germany to study the first women's police force in Europe. In 1903 Henriette Arendt was appointed as police assistant in Stuttgart. At first Arendt was regarded as an "interloper". However, ten years later there were policewomen in thirty-five towns in Germany and their work was considered indispensable. They mainly dealt with prostitutes, and all cases relating to children and young persons. (26)
In May 1913 Constance Tite was one of the main speakers at a conference organised by the Criminal Law Amendment Committee and produced a paper on Germany's Women's Police. Edith How-Martyn spoke on the advantages and disadvantages of repressing public solicitation. Theodore Gugenheim Gregory dealt with "solicitation from the young man's point of view" and Dr. Helen Boyle spoke on the subject of "The Mental Deficiency Bill in relation to Immorality." (27)
Constance Tite died in Ware, Hertfordshire, on 7th February 1934, aged 63. She left effects valued at £27,422. The executor of her will was her brother, George Ham Tite, a bank official. (28)
(1) Constance Tite, The Vote (18 February 1911)
The subscription list for the Census Protest has been opened, and we hope that all members and sympathisers will send us a donation as soon as possible. The idea is being greeted with enthusiasm everywhere when we hold meetings, and there seems to be no doubt that if all our members give all the help they can by persuading others to join in evading the Census, and by collecting money, it ought to have an overwhelming effect, as it opens an entirely new form of militant protests.
(2) The Vote (16 September 1911)
Mid-London Branch meeting to be held in Caxton Hall, Sunday afternoon, September 24. The speakers on that occasion are Miss Cicely Hamilton and Miss Nina Boyle, and the chair will be taken by our Hon Treasurer, Miss Constance Tite at 4 p.m ….
An important members' meeting will be held in the Lower Essex Hall, Tuesday evening, September 26. This is for members only, and is called for the purpose of discussing plans for the autumn and winter's work. We rely on our members to make every effort to attend the meeting, which will be addressed by Mrs How Martin, Miss Constance Tite and Miss Nina Boyle. The chair will be taken by the secretary at eight o'clock.
(3) The Globe (30th April 1912)
Another split has occurred in the ranks of the suffragettes, the organisation concerned on this occasion being the Women's Freedom League, which has lost several of its most important members.
"We, the undersigned, have severed our official connection with the Women's Freedom League, as we disagree with the internal administration of the League sanctioned by the recent conference." (Signed): Edith How Martin, Bessie Drysdale, Emma Sproson, Eilian Mitchell, Katherine Vulliamy, Alison Neilans, Constance Tite.
All the women concerned are prominent members of the militant section, particularly Mrs How Martyn, Miss Neilans and miss Tite, who have been among the most actively concerned in organisaing the various manoeuvres to which the League has given its sanction.
(4) Shields Daily News (1st May 1912)
Another split has occurred in the ranks of the suffragettes, the organisation concerned on this occasion being the Women's Freedom League, which has lost several of its most important members…
It is interesting to remember that the Women's Freedom League is itself the outcome of a former "split". Mrs How Martyn, who was in the early militant days one of the guiding spirits of the Women's Social and Political Union, disagreed, in company with other members of that body, with the present leaders on questions of policy, and they left to form the Women's Freedom League.
(5) The Common Cause (23rd May 1913)
Miss Constance Tite will read a paper on Women Police, which will be the outcome of the special investigation of the system of women police in Germany, which she has undertaken on behalf of the Criminal Law Amendment Committee. Mr Theodore Gugenheim will deal with solicitation from the young man's point of view, and Mr. Edward Smallwood and Mrs How Martyn, will read papers dealing with the advantages and disadvantages of repressing public solicitation… Dr. Helen Boyle has kindly consented to take the subject of "The Mental Deficiency Bill in relation to Immorality."
(6) The Vote (26th June 1914)
Miss Constance Tite who has spent several months in Germany, studying the conditions under which policewomen work in that country, said at first the women were regarded as interlopers. Sister Henriette Arendt was the first woman appointed as police assistant in Germany. This was at Stuttgart, eleven years ago. Now, thirty-five towns in Germany have policewomen and find their work indispensable. They have the entire dealing with prostitutes, and all cases relating to children and young persons are investigated by them.
(7) David Simkin, Family History Research (13th January, 2023)
Katherine Juliet Felicite Tite (later Mrs Katherine Vulliamy) was born in Brixton, South London, on 7th July 1875, the third of four children born to Elisabeth Felicite Virginie Despointes (1849-1898) and Arthur Tite (1841-1894), a banker's clerk who eventually became a "Bank Manager" for N. M. Rothschild & Sons.
In 1869, at St Luke's Church, Paddington,.Arthur Tite (born 1841, Folkestone, Kent) had married 20-year-old Elisabeth Felicite Virginie Despointes (born 1849, Calais, France).This union produced at least 4 children. Katherine had an elder sister - Constance Virginie Tite (born 1870, Clapham, Surrey - died 1934, Ware, Hertfordshire) - and two brothers - John Denis Tite (born 1874, Brixton, Surrey - died 1927, Folkestone, Kent) and Felix Tite (born 1877, Great Amwell, Hertfordshire - died 1952, Cambridge).
When the 1901 Census was carried out, 25-year-old Katherine Tite was living with her older sister, Constance Tite, and older brother, John Tite, at 11 Orme Court, Paddington. London, not far from Kensington Gardens. All three siblings were "living on own means" and had no profession or occupation. Five servants were employed at their house in Orme Court, including a parlour maid, a page boy, and a male nurse, who was caring for 27-year-old John Tite, who is described on the 1901 Census return as "feeble minded".