Eileen Casey

Eileen Casey

Eileen Casey, the daughter of Dr. Phillip Forth Casey and Isabella Julia Agnes Raey, was born in Deniliquin, New South Wales, Australia, on 4 April 1881. In March 1890 her father's job moved the family back to Europe and lived in Göttingen, Germany. The family eventually moved back to England. (1)

After hearing Emmeline Pankhurst speak in 1910 Eileen and her mother, Julia Casey, joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Its newspaper reported: "Miss Eileen Casey, an Australian has much time to the service of the Union, especially in selling the paper as Captain of the Victoria Pitch. As a native of a land where women have the vote, she writes that she objects most strongly to the appointment of Mr. Lewis Harcourt as Secretary of the Colonies." (2)

Eileen and her mother both sold Votes for Women outside Victoria Station. One day "a female passer-by whom we suspected of being a provocateur tore the paper out of my mother's hand but my mother caught her scarf and when she demanded to let go my mother said, 'yes when you pay me the price'." (3)

In November 1910 she took part in a demonstration at 10 Downing Street against the failure of Herbert Asquith and his government to pass legislation to give women the vote. Votes for Women reported that 159 women and three men were arrested. (4) This included Casey, Catherine Marshall, Eveline Haverfield, Anne Cobden Sanderson, Mary Leigh, Vera Holme, Louisa Garrett Anderson, Kitty Marion, Clara Giveen, Ada Wright, Lilian Dove-Wilcox and Grace Roe. (5)

Sylvia Pankhurst described what happened that day: "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." (6)

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

In March 1912, Eileen Casey along with Olive Walton smashed the windows of Marshall and Snelgrove's shop in Oxford Street. They served two weeks on remand before being sentenced to four months and while in prison joined in the hunger-strike and was forcibly fed. (7) Isabella Casey was also sent to prison for a month for breaking the window of a barber's shop. When a neighbour commiserated with D. Phillip Casey he said: "Well, if they want the vote they are right to fight for it." (8)

Eileen Casey: WSPU Militant

At a meeting in France in October, 1912, Christabel Pankhurst told Frederick Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence about the proposed arson campaign. When they objected, Christabel arranged for them to be expelled from the organisation. Emmeline later recalled in her autobiography, My Part in a Changing World (1938): "My husband and I were not prepared to accept this decision as final. We felt that Christabel, who had lived for so many years with us in closest intimacy, could not be party to it. But when we met again to go further into the question… Christabel made it quite clear that she had no further use for us." (9)

As Fern Riddell has pointed out: "From 1912 to 1914, Christabel Pankhurst orchestrated a nationwide bombing and arson campaign the likes of which Britain had never seen before and hasn't experienced since. Hundreds of attacks by either bombs or fire, carried out by women using codenames and aliases, destroyed timber yards, cotton mills, railway stations, MPs' homes, mansions, racecourses, sporting pavilions, churches, glasshouses, even Edinburgh's Royal Observatory. Chemical attacks on postmen, postboxes, golfing greens and even the prime minister - whenever a suffragette could get close enough - left victims with terrible burns and sorely irritated eyes and throats, and destroyed precious correspondence." (10)

On 30th April 1913 the police raided the WSPU's office at Lincoln's Inn House. As a result of the documents found several people were arrested including (editor of the The Suffragette), Edwy Godwin Clayton, Flora Drummond, Annie Kenney, Harriet Kerr (office manager), Beatrice Sanders (financial secretary), Geraldine Lennox (sub-editor) and Agnes Lake (business manager). (11)

When he was arrested Clayton said: "I think this is rather a high-handed action. I am an extreme sympathizer with the Suffragette causes. What evidence have you against me?" He confirmed he had written the letter but refused to comment on the contents. The letter read: "Dear Miss Kenney, I am sorry to say it will be several days yet before I can be ready with which you want. I have devoted all this evening and all of yesterday evening to the business without success. Evidently it is a difficult matter, but not impossible. I nearly succeeded once last night and then spoilt what I had done in trying to improve upon it. By next week I shall be able to manage the exact proportions, and I will let you have the results as soon as I can. Please burn this." (12)

Young Hot Bloods

During the trial Matthias McDonnell Bodkin read extracts from a document headed "Votes for Women" and underneath "YHB". Bodkin claimed that YHB stood for Young Hot Bloods. The label was derived from a taunt thrown at Emmeline Pankhurst in one of the newspapers, which ran: "Mrs Pankhurst will, of course, be followed blindly by a number of the younger and more hot-blooded members of the union". (13) As a result of them being single women one newspaper described the Young Hot Bloods as "a spinsters' secret sect". (14)

It has been argued that the Young Hot Bloods group included Eileen Casey, Helen Craggs, Olive Hockin, Kitty Marion, Lilian Lenton, Miriam Pratt, Norah Smyth, Clara Giveen, Hilda Burkitt, Olive Wharry and Florence Tunks. (15) On 17 March 1913 Eileen Casey was arrested under the name "Eleanor Cleary" for "placing noxious substance in a Pillar-box work". (16)

Eileen Casey
Eileen Casey

Eileen Casey also aided others involved in arson attacks. Unfortunately, the police were aware of this and kept her house under surveillance. On 8th June 1913 Clara Giveen and Kitty Marion set fire to the Grand Stand at the Hurst Park racecourse as they thought it "would make a most appropriate beacon". The women returned to a house in Kew owned by Eileen Casey. (17) 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. (18)

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 racetrack 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." (19)

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." (20)

Clara 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. (21) 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. (22)

Eileen Casey continued with her own arson campaign. On 24th June 1914 she was arrested at Nottingham and had been found with explosives, detonators, fuses and a substantial amount of flammable material as well as guidebooks to local churches. (23) The 900-year-old Breadsall All Saints' Church had been destroyed on 4th June. Among the treasures lost in the blaze were a 14th-century door, 16th-century ornate carved wooden benches and an Elizabethan altar. The Rev J. A. Whitaker told a Derby Daily Telegraph reporter: "It has been done by suffragettes, I know it has." (24)

Breadsall All Saints' Church in 1914
Breadsall All Saints' Church in 1914

The police suspected that Casey was guilty of destroying All Saints' Church and the planned attempt to burn down Southwell Cathedral.  She was held on remand until 8 July at Holloway Prison. After going on a hunger strike she was forcibly fed by nasal tube at least 46 times, both at Holloway and subsequently at Nottingham and Winson Green Prisons. She was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment on 28 July 1914. (235

First World War

The British government declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914. Two days later, Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the NUWSS declared that the organization was suspending all political activity until the conflict was over. Fawcett supported the war effort but she refused to become involved in persuading young men to join the armed forces. The WSPU took a different view to the war. It was a spent force with very few active members. According to Martin Pugh, the WSPU were aware "that their campaign had been no more successful in winning the vote than that of the non-militants whom they so freely derided". (26)

The WSPU carried out secret negotiations with the government and on the 10th August the government announced it was releasing all suffragettes from prison. In return, the WSPU agreed to end their militant activities and help the war effort. Christabel Pankhurst, arrived back in England after living in exile in Paris. She told the press: "I feel that my duty lies in England now, and I have come back. The British citizenship for which we suffragettes have been fighting is now in jeopardy." (27)

After receiving a £2,000 grant from the government, the WSPU organised a demonstration in London. Members carried banners with slogans such as "We Demand the Right to Serve", "For Men Must Fight and Women Must Work" and "Let None Be Kaiser's Cat's Paws". At the meeting, attended by 30,000 people, Emmeline Pankhurst called on trade unions to let women work in those industries traditionally dominated by men. She told the audience: "What would be the good of a vote without a country to vote in!". (28)

Later Life

As part of the deal all members of the WSPU were released from prison and pardoned for committing acts of arson. Eileen Casey became a gardener at Kew Gardens. From 1923 to 1940 she moved to Japan to teach English. When the Second World War broke out she moved to Australia where she became a translator for the Board of Censors. Casey also resumed her friendship with Edith How-Martyn who had emigrated to Australia. Casey moved back to England in 1951 and worked as a cleaning lady. (29)

Eleen Casey died on 12 October 1972 at 50 Marine Parade, Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire, England.

 

Primary Sources

(1) Eileen Luscombe, Eileen Mary Casey: People Australia, National Centre of Biography (2nd June, 2022)

Eileen Mary Casey (1881-1972) suffragette, translator and teacher, was born on 4 April 1881 at Deniliquin, New South Wales, first child of Dr Phillip Forth Casey, surgeon, and Isabella Julia Agnes Raey.

Dr Casey, a talented cricketer for Ireland prior to immigrating to Australia, was appointed chief vaccinator for the District of Deniliquin in October 1878 and in February 1879 was appointed chief medical officer to the Deniliquin hospital. In April 1882 the family relocated to Hay where Dr Casey was employed at the Hay District Hospital and was visiting surgeon to Hay Gaol.

In March 1890 Dr Casey sold his medical practice and returned to Europe with his family aboard the Nurnberg; Eileen was then 9 years old. The family settled for a time in Gottingen, Germany, where Eileen became fluent in German.

After being inspired by Emmeline Pankhurst at a rally, Eileen joined the Women's Social and Political Union in 1911. That same year she participated in a Window Smashing Raid in London, organized by the WSPU. Although she escaped arrest at least 213 other suffragettes were arrested on that day. At this raid WSPU organisers reminded the Window Smashers that women had the vote in Australia and instructed the women not to smash the windows of nearby offices of Queensland and Victoria businesses...

Eileen worked as a land girl and gardener during World War I and in 1923 went to Japan to teach at a girl's school in Tokyo. She returned to England briefly in 1928 to visit family and friends and to attend commemoration ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the granting of full franchise rights to women. In 1938 she returned to Australia and was a translator for the Board of Censors during World War II. She was known to have a working knowledge of most European languages, including Russia, Japanese and Esperanto.

(2) 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.

(3) Votes for Women (25th November 1910)

Miss Eileen Casey, an Australian has much time to the service of the Union, especially in selling the paper as Captain of the Victoria Pitch. As a native of a land where women have the vote, she writes that she objects most strongly to the appointment of Mr. Lewis Harcourt as Secretary of the Colonies.

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

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.

At first the crowds had pressed up close to the House in all directions, but after a fierce struggle the police drove them back and drew up their cordons so as to keep a clear space from the corner of Palace Yard to the Strangers' Entrance.

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.

The same kind of treatment was meted out to other women. I saw one tall woman in a white coat hit about the head and knocked down several times. Close to where my car was standing two young girls with linked arms were being dragged about by two policemen, and a man in plain clothes came up and kicked one of them, whilst a number of others stood by and jeered.

Never, in all the attempts which we have made to carry our deputations to the Prime Minister, have I seen so much bravery on the part of the women and so much violent brutality on the part of the policeman in uniform and some men in plain clothes. It was at the same time a gallant and a heart-breaking sight to see those little deputations battling against overwhelming odds, and then to see them torn asunder and scattered, bruised and battered, against the organized gangs of rowdies. Happily, there were many true-hearted men in the crowd who tried to help the women, and who raised their hats and cheered them as they fought.

I found out during the evening that the picked men of the A Division, who had always hitherto been called out on such occasions, were this time only on duty close to the House of Commons and at the police station, and that those with whom the women chiefly came into contact had been especially brought in from the outlying districts. During our conflicts with the A Division they had gradually come to know us, and to understand our aims and objects, and for that reason, whilst obeying their orders, they came to treat the women, as far as possible, with courtesy and consideration. But these men with whom we had to deal on Friday were ignorant and ill-mannered, and of an entirely different type. They had nothing of the correct official manner, and were to be seen laughing and jeering at the women whom they maltreated.

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

In connection with the deputation to Downing Street on Tuesday afternoon, and the breaking of the windows of the houses of some of the Cabinet Ministers on Tuesday evening, 159 women and three men were brought up on Wednesday morning before Sir Albert de Rutzen at Bow Street, Mr Muskett appeared for the Commissioner of the Police, and Mr Arthur W. Marshall represented the Women's Social and Political Union.

(6) 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.

(7) 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.

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References

(1) Eileen Luscombe, Eileen Mary Casey: People Australia, National Centre of Biography (2nd June, 2022)

(2) Votes for Women (25th November 1910)

(3) C. Sarah Laughton, The Woman with the Suitcase (2017) page 22

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

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

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

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

(8) C. Sarah Laughton, The Woman with the Suitcase (2017) page 29

(9) Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, My Part in a Changing World (1938) page 281

(10) Fern Riddell, Death in Ten Minutes: The Forgotten Life of Radical Suffragette: Kitty Marion (2019) page 150

(11) Diane Atkinson, Rise Up, Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes (2018) page 394

(12) Aberdeen Press & Journal (3rd May 1913)

(13) The Leicester Daily Post (9th May 1913)

(14) The Weekly Dispatch (11th May 1913)

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

(16) Eileen Luscombe, Eileen Mary Casey: People Australia, National Centre of Biography (2nd June, 2022)

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

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

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

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

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

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

(23) Eileen Luscombe, Eileen Mary Casey: People Australia, National Centre of Biography (2nd June, 2022)

(24) Derby Daily Telegraph (5th June, 1914)

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

(26) Martin Pugh, The Pankhursts (2001) page 300

(27) The Star (4th September, 1914)

(28) Christabel Pankhurst, Unshackled (1959) page 268

(29) Diane Atkinson, Rise Up, Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes (2018) page 531