404 Hampstead Garden Suburb Virtual Museum : Document : Kathleen Eleanor Roy Rothwell [SUFL27]
Kathleen Eleanor Roy Rothwell
Kathleen Eleanor Roy Rothwell

Overview of Kathleen Roy Rothwell

She lived at 4 Chatham Close

It has only been possible to put together small parts of Kathleen’s story. She was undoubtedly already at Chatham Close by the time of the Census, but she evaded successfully.

She was born in Scotland in North Berwick in 1874 as Kathleen Paterson. She studied in Europe, later teaching violin and languages privately. She married Fred Rothwell July 1906 in Kensington. She died 1917 aged only 43, and still lived in Chatham Close at the time.

She was a committed campaigner for the WSPU, frequently speaking for them in London and Scotland. In 1909, she led a WSPU campaign in Fifeshire, Scotland. The local paper described her as “A clever speaker ; never at a loss to find a word, and ever ready to take up interruptions. She speaks passionately about the need for votes for women” …. “combated the theory that women were in any way inferior to men” and argued that women would be a powerful voice in preventing wars etc.

This was the campaign on which she was accompanied by Winnie Fairchild and some other young suffragettes.

In 1911 she was arrested and imprisoned in Holloway for two months when she participated in the suffragette window smashing campaign on 21 November. When arrested she was found in possession of a new hammer and after being detained dropped a bag containing 14 stones. She is mentioned in multiple press reports eg the Leicester Daily Post - Thursday 14 December 1911:

“Sentence of five weeks upon Kathleen Eleanor Roy Rothwell. 37, for breaking two windows at the Strand shop of Messrs. Dunn, hatters.—His Lordship explained that he made a distinction in Mrs. Rothwell's sentence because she had already been in prison for three weeks. Mrs. Rothwell: ‘I object’.—She left the dock looking disappointed. This concluded the trials.”

After her release  she spoke frequently about her prison experience, when she; “Dwelt on the bright side of her imprisonment …..She spoke forcefully about having learnt that the individual is less important than the cause”. She encouraged other women “to cast aside all personal considerations, remembering that they had the whole future of women to think of, and to take their share in winning the political emancipation of their sex”.

She also spoke about the poor conditions for female prisoners, and criticised the “Inhumanity of the Home Office”. She reported on the lack of a dentist and poor ventilation which caused prisoners to be unwell. Polite petitions were ignored and there was only a response following window smashing and defiant behaviour. For this, she and a friend were put in a punishment cell.  

In February 1912 spoke again at a dinner to celebrate released prisoners and reported that the inhabitants of the little village in Scotland where she lived were very angry with her for having thrown stones, and for leaving her family to go to prison.

Over the next couple of years, she seems to divide her time between Scotland and London. Her Scottish home was in the constituency of the Prime Minister, Mr Asquith and she campaigns against him there in various ways. She:

  • writes letters to and articles for the local press and Scottish press:
  • publicises the details of forced feeding of suffragettes
  • defends the need for suffragettes to smash windows given the treachery of Asquith’s government towards women’s suffrage
  • asks men to petition Asquith for Votes for Women and emphasises that a majority of Scottish MPs had been pro-suffrage for much longer than English ones, that many women were both ratepayers and earners and that Asquith should be representing his constituents as opposed to his own views.
  • She and another suffragette go underground in a coalmine to investigate the position of the miners and understand their attitudes to women’s suffrage and gain their support.
  • Spoke on suffrage issues at public meetings e.g. in Edinburgh to The Northern Men's Federation for Women's Suffrage.

Return to Suffragists and Suffragettes here

Document, SUFL27