Janie Allan

Janie Allan, the daughter of Alexander Allan, the owner of the Allan Shipping Line, was born in Glasgow on 28th March, 1868. A socialist, Allan was one of the founders of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women's Suffrage in May 1902. Allan, one of its vice-presidents, agreed to represent the society on the committee of the National Union of Suffrage Societies in 1903.

On 11th December 1906 Janie Allan heard Helen Fraser speak about the recent formation of the Women Social & Political Union. The following year she joined the WSPU. In 1909 she gave £100 to the organisation. In November 1910 she gave £250 to the WSPU "War Chest". She also gave financial support to the Women's Freedom League.

In March 1912 the WSPU organised a new campaign that involved the large-scale smashing of shop-windows. Janie Allan agreed to join the campaign. May Billinghurst agreed to hide some of the stones underneath the rug covering her knees. According to Votes for Women: "From in front, behind, from every side it came - a hammering, crashing, splintering sound unheard in the annals of shopping... At the windows excited crowds collected, shouting, gesticulating. At the centre of each crowd stood a woman, pale, calm and silent." Allan was arrested and sentenced to four months' imprisonment. A petition protesting against her imprisonment was signed by 10,500 people from her native Glasgow.

In May she barricaded herself in her cell and it took three men, using crowbars, 45 minutes, to force an entrance. Janie Allan now went on hunger strike and was forcibly fed. She wrote to a friend after leaving prison: "I did not resist at all, but sat quite still as if it were a dentist chair, and yet the effect on my health was most disastrous - I am a very strong woman and absolutely sound in heart and lungs, but it was not till five months later, that I was able to take any exercise or begin to feel in my usual health again."

Janie Allan
Janie Allan

Janie Allan was a supporter of the Tax Resistance League and in 1913 she became vice-president of the National Political League. On 9th March 1914 it is claimed that Allan fired a blank from a pistol at a policeman who attempted to arrest Emmeline Pankhurst.

On 4th August, 1914, England declared war on Germany. Two days later the NUWSS announced that it was suspending all political activity until the war was over. The leadership of the WSPU began negotiating with the British government. 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.

Emmeline Pankhurst announced that all militants had to "fight for their country as they fought for the vote." Ethel Smyth pointed out in her autobiography, Female Pipings for Eden (1933): "Mrs Pankhurst declared that it was now a question of Votes for Women, but of having any country left to vote in. The Suffrage ship was put out of commission for the duration of the war, and the militants began to tackle the common task."

Annie Kenney reported that orders came from Christabel Pankhurst: "The Militants, when the prisoners are released, will fight for their country as they have fought for the Vote." Kenney later wrote: "Mrs. Pankhurst, who was in Paris with Christabel, returned and started a recruiting campaign among the men in the country. This autocratic move was not understood or appreciated by many of our members. They were quite prepared to receive instructions about the Vote, but they were not going to be told what they were to do in a world war." Janie Allan followed these orders and during the First World War she helped provide funding for the Women's Hospital Corps.

After the passing of the Qualification of Women Act the NUWSS and WSPU disbanded. A new organisation called the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship was established. As well as advocating the same voting rights as men, the organisation also campaigned for equal pay, fairer divorce laws and an end to the discrimination against women in the professions.

Janie Allan died aged 100 on 29th April 1968.