Olive Wharry, the daughter of Clara Vickers (1854-1910) and Dr Oliver Robert Wharry (1853-1935) was born in London on 29th September 1886. On her father's retirement, the family moved to Devon and she later studied at the School of Art in Exeter. In 1906 she travelled around the world with her mother and father. (1)
Wharry became involved in the struggle for women's suffrage and joined the Church League for Women's Suffrage and Women's Social and Political Union in 1909. Wharry justified joining a militant organisation in a statement published in Votes for Women: "How can you expect women to obey laws which they have had no hand in making? Women are classed with imbeciles, aliens, and criminals, and are allowed the rights of citizenship. Many social matters come before Parliament which ought to be dealt with by women, but which are only considered by men. For years women have worked quietly and constitutionally, and it is only because constitutional methods have failed that we have adopted militant methods as the only possible means of getting the vote." (2)
On 4th March, 1912, Wharry took part in a window-breaking demonstration. This time the target was government offices in Whitehall. Wharry was one of the 200 suffragettes were arrested and jailed for taking part in the demonstration. She was found guilty of breaking windows worth £195 and was sentenced to six months in prison. As Holloway Prison was full she was sent to Winson Green Prison in Birmingham. (3) Wharry took part in a hunger strike and was released in July. According to the prison doctor, Wharry was "mentally unstable". However, Elizabeth Crawford argued that "Olive Wharry's prison notebook contains no hint of insanity. It is full of delightful drawings of prison life, along with poems, satirical and amusing." (4)
In July 1912, Christabel Pankhurst began organizing a secret arson campaign. According to Sylvia Pankhurst: "When the policy was fully underway, certain officials of the Union were given, as their main work, the task of advising incendiaries, and arranging for the supply of such inflammable material, house-breaking tools and other matters as they might require. Women, most of them very young, toiled through the night across unfamiliar country, carrying heavy cases of petrol and paraffin. Sometimes they failed, sometimes succeeded in setting fire to an untenanted building - all the better if it were the residence of a notability - or a church, or other place of historic interest." (5)
The WSPU used a secret group called Young Hot Bloods to carry out these acts. No married women were eligible for membership. The existence of the group remained a closely guarded secret until May 1913, when it was uncovered as a result of a conspiracy trial of eight members of the suffragette leadership, including Flora Drummond, Annie Kenney and Rachel Barrett. (6) During the trial, Barrett said: "When we hear of a bomb being thrown we say 'Thank God for that'. If we have any qualms of conscience, it is not because of things that happen, but because of things that have been left undone." (7)
Olive Wharry was one of the first people to join this group. Lilian Lenton, a fellow member of the WSPU commented: "Well, I was at the Suffragette Headquarters and announced that I didn't want to break any more windows but I did want to burn some buildings, and I was told that a girl named Olive Wharry had just been in saying the same thing, so we two met, and the real serious fires in this country started and thereafter I was in and out of prison – six times I think it was – and whenever I was out of prison my object was to burn two buildings a week." (8)
It has speculated that other members of the group included Helen Craggs, Olive Hockin, Kitty Marion, Mary Richardson, Miriam Pratt, Norah Smyth, Clara Giveen, Hilda Burkitt and Florence Tunks. (9) It would seem that Helen Craggs was the first to carry out an act of arson. On 13th July 1912 Craggs and another woman were found by P.C. Godden at one o'clock in the morning outside the country home of the colonial secretary Lewis Harcourt. He went towards them and asked them what they were doing. Craggs, said they were looking round the house. The policeman said, "This is not a very nice time for looking round a house. How did you come here? Where do you come from?" Craggs said that they had been camping in the neighbourhood. The police-constable said he had not seen any encampment. She then said they had arrived by the river. Godden seized Miss Craggs and arrested her, and she was taken into custody. (10)
Lilian Lenton explained: "Well, the object was to create an absolutely impossible condition of affairs in the country, to prove that it was impossible to govern without the consent of the governed. A few young men were very anxious to help us. But these young men only seemed to have one idea, and that was bombs. Now I don't like bombs. After all, the rule was that we must risk no-one's lives but our own, and if you take a bomb somewhere, however great the precautions, you can't be one hundred percent sure." (11)
Wharry said that she was inspired by something Charles Hobhouse, Liberal Party, MP for Bristol East, and Postmaster General in the government, said on the subject of women's suffrage at a meeting of the National League for Opposing Women's Suffrage. Hobhouse claimed that women did not feel as strongly as men did on this issue in the 19th century. For example, campaigners had set fire to Nottingham Castle, the home of George Finch-Hatton, 5th Earl of Nottingham, who had opposed the 1832 Reform Act. "In the case of the suffrage demand there has not been the kind of popular sentimental uprising which accounted for the arson and violence of earlier suffrage reforms." (12)
Wharry argued: "Cabinet Ministers have constantly broken their pledges, and therefore the women have revolted. A hundred of thousand pounds' worth of damage was done by men at Bristol who demanded votes, and Mr Hobhouse taunted us with not forcing our demands in a similar way. Our demands have been ridiculed in the past, and therefore we are adopting militant tactics. It is not Mrs Pankhurst who has been inciting, but the Cabinet Ministers. We do not want to go any further, but we must show the Government we mean business." (13)
Wharry joined forces with Lilian Lenton and embarked on a series of terrorist acts. She was arrested on 19th February 1913, soon after setting fire to the tea pavilion in Kew Gardens. In court it was reported: "The constables gave chase, and just before they caught them each of the women who had separated was seen to throw away a portmanteau. At the station the women gave the names of Lilian Lenton and Olive Wharry. In one of the bags which the women threw away were found a hammer, a saw, a bundle to tow, strongly redolent of paraffin and some paper smelling strongly of tar. The other bag was empty, but it had evidently contained inflammables." (14)
At her first appearance before the Richmond Magistrates, Olive Wharry created a sensation by throwing a book and some papers at the Chairman. According to one newspaper at her trial she appeared "a prepossessing young woman, who wore a large buttonhole of violets and primroses." In his summing up the judge commented: "that not very long ago it would have been unthinkable that a well-educated, well-bred young woman could have committed such a crime as that. Unfortunately women as a class had forfeited any presumption in their favour of that kind. They knew that well-educated well-bred young women had committed these crimes, and accordingly it was impossible to approach the case from the standpoint from which they would have approached it a few years ago." (15)
On 7th March 1913 she was found guilty and it was reported by the Daily Mirror that "Wharry laughed when sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment." (16) Wharry made a statement in court where she attempted to explain her actions: "I deny that this court has any jurisdiction over me. A man has the right to be tried by his peers, and so, too, a woman should be tried by women. How can you expect women to obey laws which they have had no hand in making? Women are classed with imbeciles, aliens, and criminals, and are allowed the rights of citizenship. Many social matters come before Parliament which ought to be dealt with by women, but which are only considered by men… I am standing for a great principle and morally I am not guilty, though the jury have condemned me, therefore I shall hunger-strike." (17)
It was claimed in court that the tea pavilion "was absolutely destroyed, and a heavy pecuniary loss has thrown upon the two ladies who held the refreshment contract". It was estimated that the loss suffered amounted to £400. (18) It was reported on 26th April that Dr Oliver Robert Wharry was involved in a scuffle when the two solicitors' clerks, employed by the women with the refreshment contract, tried to serve a writ on his daughter. (19) Wharry responded that "she was sorry that the contents of the building was the property of two ladies, she did not know this at the time, but would say to them that this was war, and in a war non-combatants had to suffer." (20)
Olive Wharry went on hunger-strike and Dr Maurice Craig reported to the Home Office that she was "a very frail person, with a very defective circulation... her hands are cold and very blue; her pupils are widely dilated". (21) According to Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999): "She was released on 8th April after having been on hunger strike for 32 days, apparently without the prison authorities noticing. His usual weight was 7st 11lbs; when released she weighed 5st 9lbs." (22)
As soon as she was strong enough she began taking part in WSPU demonstrations. In May 1914 she was arrested while taking place in a deputation to King George V. The following month she was tried at Carnarvon after breaking windows at Criccieth during a meeting being held by David Lloyd George. Now using the name Phyllis North, she was sentenced to three months in Holloway Prison where she was kept in solitary confinement. Once again she went on hunger strike. (23)
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". (24)
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." (25)
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!". (26)
As part of this deal Olive Wharry was released into the care of Flora Murray on 10th August, 1914. Wharry told the Aberdeen Evening Gazette that she was a "physical wreck". Her eyes were "sunken", her face was pale, her tongue was "blistered and coated" and she spoke with "much difficulty and pain", Wharry had eaten no food and only taken a few drops of water, and felt "rather nervous, and not in a fit condition to tell you everything". (27)
Olive returned to the family home in Holsworthy in North Devon. Olive resumed her art career and exhibited some etchings in an exhibition of work by Devon artists at Exeter Museum in 1917. Olive took an active life in the parish and is reported as taking part in Amateur Dramatics and giving lectures. Later she became secretary of the Launceston and District Women's Unionist Association. (28)
Olive Wharry died in Torquay on 2nd October 1947.
Joyce Lock, otherwise Olive Wharry, one of the two women alleged to have been concerned in the burning of the refreshment pavilion in Kew Gardens, surrendered to her bail at the Old Bailey this morning.
Described as a student, she was charged with having set fire to a building, the property of the King, used in the carrying out of trade, and of having set fire to certain things in the building under such circumstances that had the said building been set to she would have been guilty of a felony.
Miss Wharry, a prepossessing young woman, wore a large buttonhole of violets and primroses. She pleaded not guilty in a firm voice.
It will be remembered that a young woman named Lilian Lenton, arrested in the company of the prisoner in the vicinity of Kew Gardens, was afterwards released by the Home Secretary owing to the state of her health. On her first appearance before the Richmond Magistrates prisoner created a sensation by throwing a book and some papers at the Chairman.
In opening, Mr Bodkin said the tea pavilion to which it was alleged prisoner set fire was absolutely destroyed, and a heavy pecuniary loss has thrown upon the two ladies who held the refreshment contract. It was estimated that the loss suffered amounted to £400, over and above the amount of trade which would be lost. The prosecution submitted that this act was clearly that of the prisoner upon trial.
Summing up, his Lordship remarked that not very long ago it would have been unthinkable that a well-educated, well-bred young woman could have committed such a crime as that. Unfortunately women as a class had forfeited any presumption in their favour of that kind. They knew that well-educated well-bred young women had committed these crimes, and accordingly it was impossible to approach the case from the standpoint from which they would have approached it a few years ago.
At the Central Criminal Court, yesterday, before Mr. Justice Bankes and a jury, Olive Wharry, alias Joyce Lock, twenty-seven, student, was placed on her trial charged with having set fire to the tea Pavillion at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. She pleaded not guilty. Mr. Bodkin and Mr. Travers Humphreys prosecuted; Mr. Langdon, K.C., and Mr. E. D. Muir appeared for the defence.
Mr. Bodkin said that, apart from any technicalities the indictment charged the prisoner with setting fire to a building which was the property of his Majesty. The whole of the Tea Pavillion in Kew Gardens and its contents were destroyed and upon the two women who held the refreshment contract from the Crown a very heavy pecuniary loss had fallen. The contents of the building, which were the property of these two women, were worth £900, but they were only insured for £500. On February 19 the Pavillion was shut up as usual. At 3.15 next morning one of the night attendants noticed a bright light inside the pavillion and running towards the building he saw two people running away from it. He blew his whistle and did his best to extinguish the fire, which immediately broke out, but his efforts were unavailing. At this time two constables happened to be in the Kew-road, and after their attention had been attracted to the refection of the fire in the sky, they saw two women running away from the direction of the pavillion. The constables gave chase, and just before they caught them each of the women who had separated was seen to throw away a portmanteau. At the station the women gave the names of Lilian Lenton - who was too ill to appear before the Magistrate on remand - and Joyce Lock, the accused, who later gave her correct name of Olive Wharry. In one of the bags which the women threw away were found a hammer, a saw, a bundle to tow, strongly redolent of paraffin and some paper smelling strongly of tar. The other bag was empty, but it had evidently contained inflammables. On the way to the station one of the prisoners was seen to drop a little electric lamp. To the policemen prisoner said: "I wonder that the men on duty at the Gardens were doing that they did not see it done." In reply to the charge she said: "Yes: that1s right." The tow prisoners were handed over to the matron, who saw that their hands were covered with filth and grease. In these circumstances counsel submitted that the prisoner's guilt would be abundantly proved.
Sir D. Prain, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, gave evidence to the effect that the Gardens were only opened at certain hours.
Replying to Mr. Langdon, witness said the Gardens were bounded by what was technically termed an unclimbable fence.
Mrs. Katherine Mary Strange, of Duke's-avenue, Chiswick, one of the two leasers of the tea pavillion at Kew Gardens, put her loss at between £900 and £1,000 as a result of the fire.
The matron of Richmond Police Station said she found the rope produced upon the accused whose hands were black and greasy. The bags thrown away by the prisoner and her companion were produced and their contents examined by the jury.
The case for the prosecution having concluded, Mr. Langdon, who did not call evidence, addressed the jury for the defence. He contended that a small woman thickly clad in a long coat, like the prisoner was, could not have climbed the "unclimbable fence," and that the two figures seen in the garden were not those of the prisoner and her companion. Dealing with the portmanteaux and their contents, Mr. Langdon suggested that they were intended for a raid on the neighbouring golf links. The women were discovered in the Deer Park, close to the links and he would not deny that they were there probably for the purpose of committing an offence of some kind or other. They might have their own moral justification for what they were going to do, but their presence in the Park with the intent to commit some offence was very different from being found guilty of the serious outrage at the pavillion.
Mr. Justice Bankes, in summing up, said that "not very long ago it would have been unthinkable that a well-educated, well-brought-up young woman could have committed a crime like this. Not long ago one would have heard appeals to juries to acquit her on the ground that it was unthinkable she could have committed such a crime. But, unfortunately - and this was all he wanted to say about it - women as a class had forfeited any presumption in their favour of that kind. Unfortunately, they knew that well-educated, well-brought-up women had committed these crimes, and as a consequences it was impossible to approach these cases from the standpoint that they would have approached them from only a few years ago. It was open to the accused to give some explanation, but she had not done so, and the suggestion of her counsel was that she was out on a marauding expedition after golf greens. But did they want tow to attack golf greens? Did they want a hammer or a saw or a rope? One would have thought a trowel would have been more appropriate.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty.
Mr. Bodkin said there were two previous convictions against prisoner for smashing windows. The second occasion was in March, 1912, when she broke windows worth £195, and was sentenced to six month` imprisonment.
Mr. Muir said prisoner was the daughter of a country doctor.
Prisoner then proceeded to read a long statement in which she denied the jurisdiction of the Court, contended that women should be on the jury, and generally outlined the case for woman's suffrage. Ministers must be warned by the fires in Regent's Park and at Kew "lest a worse thing befall them." She was sorry that the two ladies had sustained loss, as she had no grudge against them. At the time she believed that the pavillion was the property of the Crown, but she wished the two ladies to understand that she was at war, and that in war even non-battants had to suffer. She would not submit to punishment, but would adopt the hunger strike.
The Judge: I have listened to what you have had to say, and my duty is to pass sentence upon you. It is no desire of mine to lecture you, but I am provoked by what you said to day this, and this only; The statement you have made seems to me to indicate that you have lost all sense of the consequence of what you are doing. You do not seen to realise the lose and injury and anxiety that such acts as yours cause to all classes - not only to the rich but to the poor and struggling; not only to men but to women. You talk about man-made law as if that was the only law that ought to govern people's actions. You must have heard of another law which says: "Ye shall do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you." That is the law you are breaking. I do not punish you for that. I punish you for the law which is made in consequence of it, and my sentence upon you is that you pay the costs of these proceedings.
Prisoner: I shall refuse to do so. You can do anything you like. I will never pay the costs.
The Judge: My order is that you pay the costs of these proceedings, that you be imprisoned in the second division for eighteen months.
Prisoner: But I shall not stay in prison.
The Judge: An, in addition, to find two sureties in £100 each that you be of good behaviour and keep the peace for two years from to-day.
The Judge: Of course, that will cover any time you are in prison. The consequence of your not finding sureties will be when you come out of prison you will be further imprisoned for a period not exceeding 12 months.
Prisoner: But I won't be bound over.
The Judge: I don't ask you to be bound over. I call on you to find sureties.
Prisoner was then removed.
I deny that this court has any jurisdiction over me. A man has the right to be tried by his peers, and so, too, a woman should be tried by women. How can you expect women to obey laws which they have had no hand in making? Women are classed with imbeciles, aliens, and criminals, and are allowed the rights of citizenship. Many social matters come before Parliament which ought to be dealt with by women, but which are only considered by men.
For years women have worked quietly and constitutionally, and it is only because constitutional methods have failed that we have adopted militant methods as the only possible means of getting the vote.
Cabinet Ministers have constantly broken their pledges, and therefore the women have revolted. A hundred of thousand pounds' worth of damage was done by men at Bristol who demanded votes, and Mr Hobhouse taunted us with not forcing our demands in a similar way. Our demands have been ridiculed in the past, and therefore we are adopting militant tactics. It is not Mrs Pankhurst who has been inciting, but the Cabinet Ministers. We do not want to go any further, but we must show the Government we mean business… I am standing for a great principle and morally I am not guilty, though the jury have condemned me, therefore I shall hunger-strike.
"She was sorry that the contents of the building was the property of two ladies, and she did not know this at the time, but would say to them that this was war, and in a war non-combatants had to suffer."