Custodia Honesta: brutality

Custodia Honesta

The Right Refused

Miss Florence Cooke, sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment for taking part in the demonstration of June 25th, 1909, was shut in a dungeon-like punishment cell for having broken her window to obtain air, and in protest she endured the hunger strike for five and a half days.

In the following September (1909), Mr Herbert Gladstone (now Lord Gladstone) instituted the abominable outrage of forcible feeding, as a means of breaking down the resistance of women demanding their rights as political offenders, and Mr. Masterman, his Under-Secretary, was put up to excuse it under the canting pretext of hospital treatment.

The following month (October, 1909) Miss Emily Davison, in hope of escaping this torture, barricaded her cell door, and a firehose was turned on to her through the spy-hole. This happened in Strangeways Gaol, Manchester.

In the same goal (the authorities of which afterwards received a special letter of commendation from the Home Office) Miss Selina Martin and Miss Leslie Hall, while still on remand before trial (December, 1909), suffered the most brutal treatment, one being beaten unmercifully, flung on the floor, thrown handcuffed into a cold punishment cell, dragged by the frog-march to the operating or torture-room, her head bumping on the steps, and forcibly fed with great violence; the other being kept for three days handcuffed in a punishment cell, and also forcibly fed with extreme pain, the doctor cheerily remarking that it was like stuffing a turkey for Christmas. It must be remembered that both these women, being on remand, were assumed under English law to be innocent. Brutality knows no law.

We need not report in detail the similar treatment of Nurse Bryant, Miss Tolson, Miss Liddle, and Miss Shepherd (all in Strangeways Gaol), Mrs Mary Leigh (in Winson Green, Birmingham), Miss Vera Wentworth (Bristol), Miss Florence Spong (Holloway), or Miss Garnett (Bristol).

There were many similar cases besides.

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