On this day in 1704 John Kay, the twelfth child of a Yeoman farmer, was born near Bury in Lancashire. Little is known about his early life but he was living in Bury in 1730 when he patented a machine for twisting and cording mohair and worsted.
For centuries handloom weaving had been carried out on the basis of the shuttle bearing the yarn being passed slowly and awkwardly from one hand to the other. In 1733 Kay patented his flying shuttle that dramatically increased the speed of this process. Kay placed shuttle boxes at each side of the loom connected by a long board, known as a shuttle race. By means of cords attached to a picking peg, a single weaver, using one hand, could cause the shuttle to be knocked back and forth across the loom from one shuttle box to the other.
A weaver using Kay's flying shuttle could produce much wider cloth at faster speeds than before. Some woollen manufacturers used Kay's flying shuttle but were reluctant to pay him royalties. The costs of using the courts to obtain the money owed to him nearly ruined Kay.
In 1753 Kay's house in Bury was ransacked by a mob of textile workers who feared that his machines would destroy their livelihood. Deeply depressed about these events, John Kay left England for France where he is believed to have died a pauper in about 1780.
On this day in 1875 suffrage campaigner Edith How-Martyn was born. She was educated at the North London Collegiate School for Girls, a school formed and run by Frances Buss, an early supporter of women's suffrage. After obtaining a degree from University College, Aberystwyth, she became a lecturer at mathematics at Westfield College, but this came to an end when she married Herbert Martyn.
Edith How-Martyn was an early recruit to the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was arrested in 1906 for trying to make a speech in the lobby of the House of Commons and was one of the first members of the organisation to be sent to prison.
How-Martyn was critical of the dictatorial way that Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst led the WSPU. At a meeting in October 1907, Edith How-Martyn, Teresa Billington Greig, Charlotte Despard and seventy other women attempted to make the WSPU a more democratic organisation.
When their efforts failed, the three women left the WSPU and formed the Women's Freedom League. This new organisation still took a militant approach but unlike the WSPU the Freedom League concentrated on using non-violent illegal methods. As the leading figure of the Women's Freedom League, Edith How-Martyn urged members not to pay taxes and to boycott the 1911 Census.
After the passing of the passing of the Qualification of Women Act, How-Martin stood as an Independent Feminist candidate in the 1918 General Election. This approach failed to appeal to the electorate and she lost her deposit. How-Martyn had more success when she stood for the Middlesex County Council and became its first woman member.
How-Martyn was active in the campaign for birth-control led by Marie Sopes after the war. How-Martyn was particularly concerned about working class women who had little information how to control the size of their families. In 1929 she founded the Birth Control Information Centre to spread such knowledge. Edith How-Martyn emigrated to Australia in 1939 and died there on 2nd February 1954.
On this day in 1911 the WSPU Woman's Coronation Procession took place. It had been organised by Marion Wallace-Dunlop and Edith Downing. Flora Drummond led off on horseback with Charlotte Marsh as colour-bearer on foot behind her. She was followed by Marjorie Annan Bryce in armour as Joan of Arc.
The art historian, Lisa Tickner, described the event in her book The Spectacle of Women (1987): "The whole procession gathered itself up and swung along Northumberland Avenue to the strains of Ethel Smyth's March of the Women... The mobilisation of 700 prisoners (or their proxies) dressed in white, with pennons fluttering from their glittering lances, was, as the Daily Mail observed, "a stroke of genius". As The Daily News reported: "Those who dominate the movement have a sense of the dramatic. They know that whereas the sight of one woman struggling with policemen is either comic or miserably pathetic, the imprisonment of dozens is a splendid advertisement."
On this day in 1939, Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail praises Adolf Hitler in a private letter. "My dear Führer. I have watched with understanding and interest the progress of your great and superhuman work in regenerating your country." The following month Rothermere wrote to Joachim von Ribbentrop: "Our two great Nordic countries should pursue resolutely a policy of appeasement for, whatever anyone may say, our two great countries should be the leaders of the world."
In May 1939, Lord Rothermere wrote a passionate article in support of Hitler: "He is supremely intelligent. There are only two others I have known whom I could apply this remark - Lord Northcliffe and Mr. Lloyd George. If you ask Herr Hitler a question he makes an instant reply full of information and eminent good sense. There is no man living whose promise given in regard to something of real moment I would sooner take. He believes that Germany has a divine mission and that the German people are destined to save Europe from the designs of revolutionary Communism. He has a great sense of the sanctity of the family, to which Communism is antagonistic, and in Germany has stopped the publication of all indecent books, the production of suggestive plays and films, and has thoroughly cleaned up the moral life of the nation. Herr Hitler has a great liking of the English people. He regards the English and the Germans as being of one race."
Meanwhile, Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe announced she was to sue the press baron for what she alleged was breach of contract. She hired one of the most fashionable law firms in London, Theodore Goddard & Partners; the solicitors who, in 1936, had handled the divorce case of her friend, Wallis Simpson. MI5 began to take a close interest in the case. One report said: "Princess Hohenlohe has given us a great deal of work owing to the fact that she is frequently the subject of denunciation to the effect that she is, or has been, a trusted political agent and personal friend of Herr Hitler; that she is a German political spy of a very high order; and that she was given the Scloss Leopoldskron by Herr Hitler for signal services rendered for him."
In March 1939 the MI6 passport control officer at Victoria Station arrested Princess Stephanie's Hungarian lawyer, Erno Wittman. The arresting officer reported what he discovered that Wittman was carrying: "This was astonishing; it appeared to be copies of documents and letters which passed between Lord Rothermere, Lady Snowden, Princess Stephanie, Herr Hitler and others. In the main, the letters referred to the possible restoration of the throne in Hungary and shed a good deal of light on the character and activities of the princess." It was decided to pass on this information to MI5. Amongst the documents were several letters from Lord Rothermere to Adolf Hitler. This included a "a very indiscreet letter to the Führer congratulating him on his walk into Prague". The letter urged Hitler to follow up his coup with the invasion of Romania.
It seems that Adolf Hitler had given Princess Stephanie photocopies of the letters Lord Rothermere had been sending him. As Jim Wilson, the author of Nazi Princess: Hitler, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stephanie Von Hohenlohe (2011) has pointed out: "These letters were secretly circulated within the intelligence services and senior civil servants in key government ministries... Nothing could be more revealing of the press baron's continued support of the Nazi Führer as the inevitable conflict drew closer, but it appears MI5 shied away from actually taking action against the press baron. Certainly there is nothing in the derestricted files to indicate whether Rothermere was warned to cease his correspondence with Berlin, though some information in the files still remains undisclosed.... The MI5 makes it clear that the secret service had warned the government that copies of this correspondence would be produced in open court, which would embarrass not only Rothermere but also a number of other notable members of the British aristocracy, and that these disclosures would shock the British public."
On this day in 1955 suffrage campaigner Evelyn Sharp died in Methuen Nursing Home, 13 Gunnersbury Avenue, Ealing. During her life she had published over thirty books including fifteen novels, several volumes of short stories, the libretto for an opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a history of folk dancing and a life of the physicist Hertha Ayrton.
Evelyn Sharp, the ninth of eleven children, was born on 4th August 1869. Her father, James Sharp, was a slate merchant. Her brother, Cecil Sharp (1859-1924), later gained fame as the leader of the folk-dance revival. Evelyn only had a couple of years of conventional schooling, but successfully passed several university local examinations.
In 1881 Evelyn Sharp, aged twelve, was sent to Strathallan House School. She enjoyed boarding school: "School was the great adventure of late Victorian girlhood, where girls for the first time found their own level." Sharp was an intelligent girl and passed the Cambridge Higher Local Examination in history. Whereas her brothers went to the University of Cambridge, she was sent to a finishing school in Paris.
Against the wishes of her family, Sharp moved to London where she undertook daily tutoring while writing articles for the Pall Mall Gazette and the girls' magazine, Atalanta. She later claimed that a writer should approach children as equals and "make them feel on a level with the author". Sharp also wrote and published several novels including, The Making of a Prig (1897), All the Way to Fairyland (1898) and The Other Side of the Sun (1900).
On 30th December 1901, Evelyn Sharp met Henry Nevinson for the first time at the Prince's Ice Rink in Knightsbridge. She later recalled, "when he took my hand in his and we skated off together as if all our life before had been a preparation for that moment." Although he was married to Margaret Nevinson, they soon became lovers. Nevinson wrote in his diary that Evelyn "was both pretty and wise - exquisite in every way". Evelyn later told him: "The first time I saw you I knew you wanted something you have never got." The situation was further complicated by the fact that Nevinson was also having an affair with Nannie Dryhurst.
Nevinson, who was an experienced journalist, helped her to find work writing articles for the Daily Chronicle and the Manchester Guardian, a newspaper that published her work for over thirty years. Sharp's journalism made her more aware of the problems of working-class women and she joined the Women's Industrial Council and the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. Sharp and Nevinson shared the same political beliefs. He told his old friend from university, Philip Webb, that Evelyn possessed "a peculiar humour, unexpected, stringent, keen without poison" but "above all she is a supreme rebel against injustice.
Evelyn Sharp worked as a journalist and a part-time teacher. In November, 1903, her father died: "I went to Brook Green to live for the best part of a year with my mother... By the time I was free again I had lost my teaching connection, and, rather than attempt to work it up again, I determined to rely instead on journalism for my regular income. I was equally sorry to give up my private pupils and my school lecturing, which not only interested me but also brought me into contact with children at a period when I was writing stories about them. At the same time, I have never regretted a change which caused me seriously to adopt a great profession and led to many journeys and adventures that would not otherwise have come my way."
In 1905 Sharp and Nevinson established the Saturday Walking Club. Other members included William Haselden, Henry Hamilton Fyfe, Clarence Rook and Charles Lewis Hind. According to Angela V. John, the author of Evelyn Sharp: Rebel Women (2009): "Although Evelyn and Henry were serious walkers, both the Saturday Walking Club and dining with friends afforded the opportunity to be together in public in a manner that was acceptable."
In May 1906 she told Nevinson that she would give up all her literary fame to "belong to you openly and fairly." The following month she wrote to Nevinson: "If it isn't true that you love me it isn't true that the sun shines or that my heart beats quicker when I hear you at the door. My heart is only ill because you put a smile into it that will never die, and my heart had not learnt to smile before." Evelyn Sharp was desperate to have children, but as Nevinson remained married this was impossible. She told a friend that she knew that she was "longing for the impossible" and that "I can hardly bear to look at a baby now."
In the autumn of 1906 Evelyn Sharp was sent by the Manchester Guardian to cover a speech by Elizabeth Robins. She later wrote: "Elizabeth Robins, then at the height of her fame both as a novelist and as an actress, sent a stir through the audience when she stepped on the platform. The impression she made was profound, even on an audience predisposed to be hostile; and on me it was disastrous. From that moment I was not to know again for twelve years, if indeed ever again, what it meant to cease from mental strife; and I soon came to see with a horrible clarity why I had always hitherto shunned causes."
As a result of hearing the speech, Sharp joined the the Women's Social and Political Union. Sharp later recalled the differences between the suffragists (NUWSS) and the suffragettes (WSPU). Suffragists had waited and worked for so long that they felt they could wait a little longer. Suffragettes who had become "suddenly aware of an imperative need, could not wait another minute."
Evelyn Sharp made her first WSPU speech at Fulham Town Hall in January 1907. In her autobiography, Unfinished Adventure, Sharp admitted that she was terrified by public speaking and that it caused a "cold feeling at the pit of the stomach". However, she used humour to disarm her audience and Emmeline Pankhurst claimed that she was one of the WSPU's best speakers. She went on a WSPU demonstration with Henry Nevinson on 13th February 1907. He recorded that after being attacked by a police officer he resorted to language that was "something horrible."
In 1907 Sharp began a regular column on women's suffrage for the Daily Chronicle. However, in November the editor decided to stop the articles because they "alienated" so many readers. C. P. Scott, her editor at the Manchester Guardian, disapproved of the WSPU's tactics but admitted that Sharp was "the ablest and best brain in the movement".
In January 1909 Sharp was sent to Denmark to lecture on the militant suffrage movement. The following year she was appointed as secretary for the Kensington branch of the WSPU. Another member was the surgeon Louisa Garrett Anderson and the two women became very close friends. The two women sold Votes for Women in Kensington High Street.
Sharp also published Rebel Women (1910), a series of vignettes of suffrage life. Angela V. John, the author of Evelyn Sharp: Rebel Women (2009), has argued: "It brought together in fourteen revealing vignettes the mundane, yet extraordinary, lives of suffragettes. Evelyn tells tales of the unexpected. we see a working-class mother and lady writer making common cause and a little rebel who seizes the moment to join the boys in her own version of cricket. The stories warn us never to jump to conclusions or judge people by appearance."
Evelyn's mother was unhappy about her daughter being a member of the WSPU and made her promise not to do anything that would result in her being sent to prison. In a letter on 25th March 1911, her mother absolved her from that promise: "I am writing to exonerate you from the promise you made me - as regards being arrested - although I hope you will never go to prison, still I feel I cannot any longer be so prejudiced and must really leave it to your own better judgment. So brave, so enthusiastic as you have been for so long - I have really been very unhappy about it and feel I have no right to thwart you - much as I should regret feeling that you were undergoing those terrible hardships which so many noble and brave women have and are doing still... I feel sure what a grief it has been that you could not accompany your friends: I cannot write more but you will be happy now, won't you?"
Evelyn now became active in the militant campaign. On 7th November she was sent to Holloway Prison for fourteen days for breaking government windows. In her autobiography, Unfinished Adventure, she explained what happened when she arrived in prison: "When the doctor asked me if I minded solitary confinement, I surprised him by saying truly that I objected to it because it was not solitary. You might be left alone for twenty-two out of twenty-four hours, but you could never be sure of being left for five minutes without the door being burst suddenly open to admit some official. Yet this threat of interruption, while it destroyed solitude, which I love, never took me from the horror of the locked door, just as one never lost the irritating sense of being peered at through the observation hole."
On 22nd November Evelyn Sharp wrote from her prison cell: "Just by sitting here with cold feet and being given suet pudding (without treacle) for dinner, and going without a bath, and being treated like rather a dangerous child - one is doing more for the cause than all the eloquence of the last five years." However, later Sharp admitted that she felt uncomfortable about taking militant action: "Who am I to be doing all these ugly things when I only long for solitude and a fairy tale to write.... I only know I shall go on till I drop and so will hundreds of others whose names will never be known."
On 5th March 1912, detectives arrived at the WSPU headquarters at Clement's Inn to arrest Christabel Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Frederick Pethick Lawrence. It was the Pethick-Lawrences who edited and financed the WSPU's newspaper, Votes for Women. As Angela V. John has pointed out: "Frederick Pethick Lawrence believed that Evelyn was the one person with the requisite technical experience and political acumen to take over the paper as assistant editor - it was just twenty-four hours away from going to press - and this she agreed to do." Elizabeth Robins has argued that the newspaper now had an editor of "distinguished ability and rare devotion."
Sharp was also an active member of the Women Writers Suffrage League and on 24th August 1913 she was chosen to represent the organisation in a delegation that hoped to meet with the Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna, at the House of Commons to discuss the Cat and Mouse Act. McKenna was unwilling to talk to them and when the women refused to leave the building, Mary Macarthur and Margaret McMillan were physically ejected and Sharp, Sybil Smith and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence were arrested and sent to Holloway Prison.
The arrest of Sybil Smith, the daughter of the William Randal McDonnell, 6th Earl of Antrim, and the mother of seven children, created problems for the government and Sharp and the other suffragettes were released unconditionally after four days. Henry Nevinson arrived at the prison gates with red roses and a bottle of Muscat. He wrote in his diary that they "had perfect happiness again". Weighing less than seven stone she was taken to the home of Hertha Ayrton where she was looked after by her doctor friend, Louisa Garrett Anderson. A few days later she spent time in the Oxfordshire home of Gerald Gould and Barbara Ayrton Gould.
Sharp continued to be involved with Henry Nevinson. As he was a foreign correspondent he was often out of the country. When he was away she wrote him passionate love letters. On one occasion she said: "Oh I am so glad I love some one who could never make me feel ashamed of what I have given so freely." Women found Henry Nevinson very attractive. Henry Brailsford has argued that "Nevinson was a handsome man, who carried himself with a noble air which earned him the nickname of the Grand Duke. His blend of humanity, compassion, and daring made him a popular figure in his own lifetime." Olive Banks commented: "He obviously admired the courage and determination of the militant leaders. At heart a romantic, his view of women was not without its protective side, and female beauty had a strong appeal to him. On the other hand, his passion for freedom, which inspired so much of his work, gave him sympathy also for women's need for political rights and self-determination."
Angela V. John has argued that: "He was cultured and courteous yet rebellious. He travelled to faraway and dangerous places. A touch of shyness, an ability to listen to others and an appreciation of women's rights and of intelligent women ensured that many found him irresistible." Evelyn Sharp also made a big impression on Nevinson. In 1913 he wrote to Sidney Webb: "She (Sharp) has one of the most beautiful minds I know - always going full gallop, as you see from her eyes, but very often in regions beyond the moon, when it takes a few seconds to return. At times she is the very best speaker among the suffragettes."
Sharp left the Women's Social and Political Union in protest against the expulsion by Emmeline Pankhurst of Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Frederick Pethick Lawrence. The breakaway group formed the United Suffragists and Sharp edited its journal, Votes for Women. Other members of this organisation included Henry Nevinson, Margaret Nevinson, Hertha Ayrton, Israel Zangwill, Edith Zangwill, Lena Ashwell, Louisa Garrett Anderson, Eveline Haverfield, Maud Arncliffe Sennett, John Scurr, Julia Scurr and Laurence Housman.
Unlike many members of the women's movement, Sharp was unwilling to end the campaign for the vote during the First World War. This brought her criticism from the leaders of the WSPU. In 1914 Emmeline Pankhurst announced that all militants had to "fight for their country as they fought for the vote." In
October 1915, the WSPU changed its newspaper's name from The Suffragette to Britannia. Emmeline's patriotic view of the war was reflected in the paper's new slogan: "For King, For Country, for Freedom'. In the newspaper anti-war activists such as Ramsay MacDonald were attacked as being "more German than the Germans".
Her friend and fellow campaigner for women's suffrage, Beatrice Harraden, objected to the unpatriotic tone of some of her articles in Votes for Women. Evelyn was also asked by C. P. Scott, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, to modify the pacifist tone of some of her stories that were published in the newspaper during the war.
During the First World War a group of wealthy suffragettes, including Janie Allan, decided to fund the Women's Hospital Corps. Evelyn Sharp did support this venture and she visited Louisa Garrett Anderson and Flora Murray when they were running the hospital in Claridge Hotel in Paris.
A pacifist, Sharp was active in the Women's International League for Peace that was established soon after the war started. She was one of 156 British women invited to its conference in The Hague in April 1915. Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary, refused permission for the women to go. Only Chrystal Macmillan, Kathleen Courtney and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, who had already left the country, managed to attend the conference.
Sharp was also a member of the Tax Resistance League and refused to pay income tax on her earnings. She argued that to do so amounted to "taxation without representation". By 1917 she owed six years' tax and the authorities declared her bankrupt. Her possessions were seized and sold at public auction. Her friends came to her aid and purchased items that they later gave back to her.
On 10th January 1918, a majority in the House of Lords, voted for the Qualification of Women Act. Evelyn Sharp wrote that later that night she walked around the scenes of their long fought battle. It "was almost the happiest moment of my life" when "I walked away up Whitehall on the evening that the lost cause triumphed." Two days later Henry Nevinson hosted a dinner in honour of the victory. Guests included Sharp, Elizabeth Robins, J. A. Hobson, Gerald Gould and Barbara Ayrton Gould.
Nevinson later argued that the persistence of the United Suffragists that had made the triumph of 1918 possible. He added that all its members would admit that our very existence through those four years from February 1914 to February 1918, were almost entirely due to the brilliant mind and dogged resolution of Evelyn Sharp, who inspired our members to maintain their enthusiasm."
After the Armistice, Evelyn Sharp, now a member of the Labour Party, worked as a journalist for a variety of newspapers, including the Daily Herald and the Manchester Guardian. She visited Russia several times. In November, 1917, she had written in her diary that she was "thrilled at the news of the Russian Revolution". In an article published in The Nation in 1919, Sharp argued that the Bolsheviks were creating a society "in which no one shall starve, and no able-bodied person shall be idle". She added that communism was "the most magnificent ideal of life ever conceived." However, Sharp never joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and by the early 1920s she had become totally disillusioned by the repressive measures of the Soviet government.
In May 1922 the Manchester Guardian started a daily Women's Page. Edited by Madeline Linford, it dealt with "subjects which are special to women" and aimed at the "intelligent woman". Evelyn Sharp was its first regular columnist. Other contributors included Vera Brittain and Winifred Holtby. As Angela V. John has pointed out: "It became renowned, provoking debates about the necessity for space dedicated to women."
Henry Nevinson and Margaret Nevinson still lived together. They used to eat separately except for Sundays. According to her biographer, Angela V. John: "Her final years were lonely ones, plagued by depression." Christopher Nevinson described their home "a cheerless uninhabited house". Henry wrote: "Children are a quiverful of arrows that pierce the parents' hearts."
In 1928 Margaret told friends that she wanted to go into a nursing home "and have done with it". She tried to drown herself in the bath. Henry Nevinson wrote to Elizabeth Robins about her health: "At present I am in great tribulation, for Mrs. Nevinson's mind is rapidly failing, and I am perplexed what is best for her. To send her to a mental home among strangers seems to me cruel, but all are urging it, partly in hopes of reducing the great expense. I am so much opposed to it that I should far rather go on spending my small savings in the hope that she may end quietly here." Margaret Nevinson died of kidney failure at her Hampstead home, 4 Downside Crescent, on 8th June 1932.
Henry Nevinson married Evelyn Sharpon 18th January 1933 at Hampstead Registry Office. Evelyn was 63 and Henry was in his seventy-seventh year. Evelyn wrote that "if age and experience have any value at all, they should help and not hinder the explorer who sets out to sail the uncharted seas of married life." The prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, offered to be best man but they refused as they had not approved of him becoming the leader of the National Government. Evelyn shocked the guests by wearing a black dress for the ceremony. Sharp's autobiography, Unfinished Adventure, was published later that year.
Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War the Nevinsons' house in Hampstead was bombed and in October 1940 the couple moved to the vicarage at Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. Henry Nevinson died aged 85 on 9th November, 1941. Sharp wrote in her diary: "There was a flaming red sunset right across the sky and the reflection of it was across the room."
Margaret Storm Jameson told Evelyn Sharp that "you were woven into his life by memories, going back years and years" and that he had depended on her "as an anchor and centre". Maude Royden claimed that Evelyn and Henry's "happiness had lit up a room like a lamp". George Peabody Gooch added that the "greatest thing in his life was their love for each other".
On this day in 1972 five White House operatives are arrested for burgling the offices of the Democratic National Committee. In 1972 Gordon Liddy joined the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). Later that year Liddy presented Nixon's attorney general, John N. Mitchell, with an action plan called Operation Gemstone. Liddy wanted a $1 million budget to carry out a series of black ops activities against Nixon's political enemies. Mitchell decided that the budget for Operation Gemstone was too large. Instead he gave him $250,000 to launch a scaled-down version of the plan. On 20th March, Liddy and Frederick LaRue attended a meeting of the committee where it was agreed to spend $250,000 "intelligence gathering" operation against the Democratic Party.
One of Liddy's first tasks was to place electronic devices in the Democratic Party campaign offices in an apartment block called Watergate. Liddy wanted to wiretap the conversations of Larry O'Brien, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and R. Spencer Oliver, executive director of the Association of State Democratic Chairmen. This was not successful and on 17th June, 1972, Frank Sturgis, Virgilio Gonzalez, Eugenio Martinez, Bernard L. Barker and James W. McCord returned to the Watergate offices. However, this time they were caught by the police.