Ellen (Nellie) Crocker, one of eight children of Elizabeth Pethick Crocker (1833-1912) and Jonathan Crocker (1827–1912) was born in the village of Stogumber, Somerset, on 9th May 1872. Her father was a surgeon and a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons. Her mother's father, was described as a "South American Merchant" who dealt primarily in animal hides and leather. He amassed a substantial fortune and when he died in Bristol on 23rd February 1884, his personal estate was valued at £61,575. (1)
At the time of the 1881 Census, 56-year-old Jonathan Crocker was living with his wife and children: Ellen, Thomas, William, Anne, Henry, Emma, Susan and Ada, in Stogumber, Somerset. At the time they were employing two live-in domestic servants. (2)
Nellie Crocker was a member of the Liberal Party and was the Hon Secretary of the Wallington Women's Liberal Association. She canvassed for the party in the 1906 General Election but soon became disillusioned with the government. In 1907 she "came out on strike against a Government which persecutes women" and left the party "rather than be guilty of traitorship to her sex." (3)
A cousin of Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, was a leading figure in the Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU). Inspired by her actions she also joined the struggle for women's suffrage. (4) Crocker joined Emmeline Pankhurst, Nellie Martel and Rachel Barrett in trying to unseat Charles Buxton, the Liberal Party candidate at the Ashburton By-Election that took place in January, 1908. (5)
Buxton lost his seat and Liberal Party activists blamed the WSPU. Pankhurst later recalled: "Suddenly we were confronted by a crowd of young men and boys, clay-cutters from the pits on the edge of town. These young men, who wore the red rosettes of the Liberal Party, had just heard of their candidate's defeat, and they were mad with rage and humiliation. One of them pointed to us, crying: 'They did it! Those women did it!' A yell went up from the crowd, and we were deluged with a shower of clay and rotten eggs." (6)
In 1908 she made her first speech for the WSPU in support of Mary Blathwayt who was running the Bath branch. She also worked with Adela Pankhurst in the April 1909 Sheffield Attercliffe By-election and helped the election of the Labour Party candidate, Joseph Pointer. (7) Soon afterwards she became the WSPU organiser at Nottingham. (8)
On 29th June, 1909 Nelly Crocker took part in a attempt to enter the House of Commons to confront Prime Minister H. H. Asquith. The first person to be arrested was Emmeline Pankhurst "who was apprehended after twice slapping a police-officer in the face and knocking off his helmet." Over a 100 members of the WSPU were arrested. This included Nelly Crocker, Mary Allen, Grace Roe, Lucy Burns, Winifred Mayo, Kitty Marion, Sarah Carwin, Ada Wright, Mabel Capper, Grace Chappelow, Leonora Tyson, Edith Downing, Theresa Garnett and Alice Paul. (9)
On 4th September 1909 Nelly Crocker took part in a demonstration against Winston Churchill when he visited Leicester to make a speech. "A number of suffragettes and a crowd of over 500 people making a determined effort to force an entrance to the meeting. Great precautions had been taken to prevent suffragettes or there supporters gaining admittance, and there were 300 stewards to prevent any interruptions in the building itself. Outside there was a large force of police, and six females and one man were arrested." (10)
Nelly Crocker, Grace Chappelow and Helen Kirkpatrick Watts were all charged with obstruction. At the police court Crocker said "that since the Government unjustly kept women out of meetings where questions like the Budget were discussed, affecting taxes paid by women, she felt it right to demand admission to such meetings." (11)
All the defendants were bound over to keep the peace, with the alternative of five days' imprisonment. The women went to goal. Alfred Hawkins was bound over. They all declined to be bound over and accepted the alternative of five days imprisonment in the second division. According to one report they "refused food and drink during their incarceration, and would not comply with the prison regulations." (12)
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". (13)
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. (14) 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." (15)
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. (16)
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. This became known as Black Friday. (17)
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." (18)
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." (19)
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. (20) Wright told a reporter that she had been at seven suffragette demonstrations, but had "never known the police so violent." (21) 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." (22)
Sylvia Pankhurst believed that Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, had encouraged this show of force. "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." (23)
Nellie Crocker was one of the many victims of police violence that day. When she was arrested for the eighth time in her suffragette career on 1st March 1912 and sentenced to three months with hard labour in Holloway Prison for breaking the windows of the King's Road post office. She told Bow Street Court that that her actions were a protest against police brutality on Black Friday. (24)
Emmeline Pankhurst gave permission for Christabel Pankhurst, to launch a secret arson campaign. She knew that she was likely to be arrested and so she decided to move to Paris. Attempts were made by suffragettes to burn down the houses of two members of the government who opposed women having the vote. These attempts failed but soon afterwards, a house being built for David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was badly damaged by suffragettes. (25)
At a meeting in France, 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 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." (26) Nellie Crocker, was furious when she heard the news and resigned as a WSPU organiser. (27)
At the time of the 1921 Census, Ellen Crocker, aged 49 years, 1 month, was boarding at the home of Miss Frances E. Green at 23 Winchester Road, Oxford. On the Census form, Ellen Crocker declared that she had no permanent address and no personal occupation. (28)
When the National Register was compiled in 1939, Ellen Crocker was lodging at the house of Mr. & Mrs Harold Trulock at 34 Woodstock Road, Oxford. Under the column heading of "Personal Occupation", Miss Crocker is recorded as living on "Private Means". (29)
Ellen Crocker of 29 Leckford Road, Oxford, died in on 30th May 1958, aged 86, leaving effects valued at £10,289. 18s. 2d. In her will she left the residue of her estate to the Suffragette Fellowship. (30)
In accordance with their announced attention a deputation of the suffragettes last night attempted to enter the House of Commons to wait upon the Prime Minister.
The usual scenes occurred in Parliament Square where an enormous crowd had gathered, and over 100 women and a few men were arrested.
Among the women taken into custody was Mrs. Pankhurst, leader of the Women's Suffrage movement, who was apprehended after twice slapping a police-officer in the face and knocking off his helmet…
The following is an official list of the names of the persons arrested… Nelly Crocker… Grace Roe… Lucy Burns, Winifred Mayo, Kitty Marion… Sarah Carwin, Grace Chappelow… Ada Wright, Mary Allen, Mabel Capper, Leonora Tyson… Edith Downing, Theresa Garnett, Alice Paul… Adrian Corbett.
The Suffragettes have again been on the warpath in London with the organisation of another deputation in the Prime Minister. This is the thirteenth deputation organised by the National Women's Social and Political Union since 1906, and the history of there accomplishments, together with the fate which overcome them, is a remarkable record of persistency in face of every possible discouragement from the authorities.
On October 24th , 1906, ten arrests were effected, and in the three subsequent raids the number did not exceed this figure. On February 14 th , 1907, however, renewed efforts were made, and the Suffragette succeeded in getting 59 of their number put in prison. Then on March 21 st of the same year the number jumped up to 78. This was the high-water mark, for in February of the next year it fell to 50, and on five subsequent occasions, down to March of this year, the number dwindled to less than thirty.
Tonight's raid, however, was organised on a vast scale, and many dark designs were hinted at as the possible outcome.
By half-past ten o'clock one hundred and ten arrests had been made.
The following is a list of names of some of the women arrested: - Mrs. Pankhurst, Mrs. Saul Solomon, Belsize Avenue, Hampstead; Mrs Catherine Isabel Ida Corbett, wife of Mr. Frank Corbett, of Woodgate, Danehill, Sussex, and sister-in-law of Mr. C. H. Corbett, MP, the Hon Mrs Haverfield (daughter of Lord Abinger), Harrogate; Miss Maud Joachim (niece of the famous violinist); Miss Margesson (daughter of Lady Isabel Margesson); Mrs Mildred Mansell (wife of Colonel Mansell of Smedmore, Corfe Castle, Dorset, daughter of the late Mr Arthur Guest, and grand-daughter of Lord Wimborne); Miss Jessie Lawes (cousin of Mrs Pethick Lawrence), Nellie Crocker (another cousin of Mts Pethick Lawrence)… Mildred Mansell (cousin of the Hon Ivor Guest), and many others.
The visit of Mr Winston Churchill to Leicester on Saturday was attended by scenes of disorder, a number of suffragettes and a crowd of over 500 people making a determined effort to force an entrance to the meeting. Great precautions had been taken to prevent suffragettes or there supporters gaining admittance, and there were 300 stewards to prevent any interruptions in the building itself. Outside there was a large force of police, and six females and one man were arrested.
Late in the evening at a special court they were charged with disorderly conduct. The man, Alfred Hawkins, shoe hand, 18, Mantle Road, Leicester, who was ejected from the meeting, consented to be bound over. The six females - Violet Jones, Nelly Crocker, and Grace Chappelow, 4, Clements Inn, London; Helen Watts, Lenton Vicarage, Notts; Mary Rawson, 5, Carlton Street, Nottingham; and Alice Hawkins, 18 Mantle Road, Leicester – all declined to be bound over, and accepted the alternative of five days imprisonment in the second division.
The six Suffragettes, Violet Jones, Grace Chappelow and Nellie Crocker (Clement's Inn, London), Helen Watts and Mary Rawson (Nottingham), and Alice Hawkins (Leicester), who were arrested and imprisoned at Leicester on Saturday for creating a disturbance outside Mr. Churchill's meetings, were released yesterday. They refused food and drink during their incarceration, and would not comply with the prison regulations.
A gathering, organised by the Nottingham branch of the Women's Social and Political Union, was held at the Waverly Hotel, Workshop, yesterday afternoon, and was attended by a large number of the most influential ladies in the town.
Excellent addresses were delivered by Miss Nellie Crocker organiser to the Nottingham branch, and Miss Orton, of London.
Whilst the Budget demonstration at Leicester on Saturday was being addressed by Mr. Winston Churchill, a strong band of Suffragists sought to force an entrance to the Palace Theatre from the front and back entrances. The police were present in force and the raid completely failed; seven arrests being made.
Subsequently, at the police-court, Violet Jones, Nellie Crocker, and Grace Chappelow, giving an address at Clement's Inn, Strand; Helen Watts of Lenton Vicarage, Nottingham; Mary Lawson of Carlton Street, Nottingham; Alice Hawkins of Leicester; and Alfred Hawkins, her husband, were charged with committing a breach of the peace and disorderly conduct outside the theatre…
Mrs Crocker said that since the Government unjustly kept women out of meetings where questions like the Budget were discussed, affecting taxes paid by women, she felt it right to demand admission to such meetings.
All the defendants were bound over to keep the peace, with the alternative of five days' imprisonment. The women went to goal. Alfred Hawkins was bound over.
Nellie Crocker, organiser at Nottingham, is a cousin of Mrs Pethick Lawrence, and some two years ago resigned her position as Hon Secretary of the Wallington Women's Liberal Association as a protest against the Government treatment of the Suffragists. She became organiser of the WSPU in 1908, and was arrested as one of the June Deputation, 1909. At Leicester she was imprisoned and carried out the hunger strike.
Ellen Crocker was born in the village of Stogumber, Somerset, on 9th May 1872. She was one of eight children born to Elizabeth Pethick (1833–1912) and Jonathan Crocker (1827–1912), a surgeon and a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons.
In 1861, in Clifton, Bristol, Jonathan Crocker, MRCS, then a surgeon in his mid-thirties, married 27-year-old Elizabeth Pethick, the eldest daughter of Susan and Thomas Pethick (c. 1806-1884), who is described as a “South American Merchant” who dealt primarily in animal hides and leather. Elizabeth’s father amassed a substantial fortune and when he died in Bristol on 23rd February 1884, his personal estate was valued at £61,575.
The union of Elizabeth Pethick and Jonathan Crocker, MRCS, produced eight children.
(1) Thomas Eastcott Crocker (1862-1908) who became a manufacturer of butter. Died in Canada.
(2) William Crocker (born 1864)
(3) Anne Pethick Crocker (1865-1955) who in 1896 married Daniel Bolton Redler (1871-1940), a corn merchant and flour miller, and around 1904 emigrated to South Africa.
(4) Henry Pethick Crocker (born 1867). Emigrated to South Africa but returned to England in 1901. In 1927 living in Detroit, Michigan, USA.
(5) Emma Crocker (1870-1942). In 1906 Emma married Rev. Thomas Nevison.
(6) Ellen Crocker (born 9th May 1872 - died 30th May 1958). Never married.
(7) Susan Wevill Crocker (1876-1963). Never married.
(8) Ada Mary Crocker (1880-1904). Died in Wellington, Somerset on 11th February 1904, age 23.
At the time of the 1881 Census, Ellen Crocker, aged 8, was living with her parents and siblings in the village of Stogumber, Somerset.
By 1891, Ellen’s father, 66-year-old Jonathan Crocker, had retired and was living with his wife and unmarried children in Wellington, Somerset.
When the 1901 Census was taken, 28-year-old Ellen Crocker was living with relatives at 7 Clifton Park, Bristol. On the census return she is recorded as a niece of the head of household and was living on her “own means”.
Ellen "Nellie" Crocker appears to have spent the last 30 or 40 years of her life in the city of Oxford.