Miss Winifred Mayo

Winifred Mayo[1]
Miss Winifred Mayo, 63, (1869-1967) was an actress and a very active suffragrette, frequently imprisoned. With other actresses she founded the Actresses’ Franchise League (AFL) in 1908. AFL performances raised awareness of the suffrage movement, and Winifred assisted in training women in public speaking and performance. Thanks to a 1958 BBC interview when she was in her late 80s, about Mrs Pankhurst, she can tell her own story, of smashing windows and telling the servants and porters why she did it. Winifred not only appeared as Jane Austen in Cicely Hamilton’s “A Pageant of Great Women”, she played that role in life.

Click here to listen to a BBC recording of Winifred speaking in 1958 about Mrs Pankhurst.


My suggested plan for the table: Abbott, Slimon, McFarlane, Helen Archdale, Mayo, Marsh, Betty Archdale and Moore – would allow Winifred to reminisce with both Helen Archdale and Charlie Marsh about dark days in the cells.


Most likely looking forward to catching up with old friends and colleagues as well as meeting new faces. I don’t know if she was still treading the boards of the stage. I wonder if she remembered the younger Laura Wallis Mills on Table 5, who in one of her first roles, acted in the same play at the Comedy Theatre in 1921? She would most likely be familiar with Laura’s father Arthur Mills’ depictions of suffragettes.


Winifred Monck Mason (she called herself Mayo), was born in Bagulkote, Bombay, India on 8th November 1869 to Alice Portia Wolley (1844-1935) and Thomas Monck-Mason, (1838-1874), civil servant in Bombay. Winifred was educated in England, in 1881 living in Bath with her widowed mother, her elder sister Edith Mary (born in Cheltenham) her brothers Roger Henry (born in Calcutta, India and who joined the Munster Fusiliers) and Thomas George, born in Cheltenham. A third sister Dorothea died at the age of 4. In 1891 the family were living in Enniskerry, Devon. Around the turn of the century, when she was living with her mother in Fulham, she was acting, appearing in A Pageant of Great Women (as Jane Austen) and produced Bjornson’s A Gauntlet for the Women’s Theatre season. She also appeared in Hauptmann’s Hannele and as Elizabeth Bennett in The Bennetts at the Court Theatre in 1901.

In 1908 she founded the Actresses’ Franchise League (AFL) with other actresses, including Adeline Bourne. AFL performances raised awareness of the suffrage movement, and Winifred assisted in training women in public speaking and performance. The AFL included a number of famous names, including Ellen Terry, Sybil Thorndike, Lilly Langtry, and many others. The AFL also advised fellow suffragettes in make-up and dressing-up “which enabled many women ‘on the run’ from the police to successfully disguise themselves and elude recapture.”

In 1907 she and her mother Alice joined the Kensington branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and became actively militant. Winifred was imprisoned in 1908 for taking part in a demonstration at the House of Commons and arrested (but released without charge) in 1909 and 1910. But later that year with Florence McFarlane (on this table) and Kitty Marshall, Winifred was arrested on the infamous WPSU Black Friday on 18th November 1910, and imprisoned. In November 1911 she was imprisoned for three weeks for smashing the windows of the Guards Club in Pall Mall, and a BBC radio interview on this survives (as posted earlier on this page).[2] In 1911 she participated in the “No Vote no Census” protest and she, her mother and the other residents of 93 Oakley Street, Chelsea filled in their ages but no occupations or places of birth and no or incomplete names. She gave an incorrect age (45, not 41, in effect rounding it up, her mother also stating 70 not 66).[3] This image is of another boycott in Manchester.

Women boycotting the Vote in Manchester, 1911[4]
Winifred was the Organising Secretary of the Six Point Group and just before Christmas in 1932, on 23rd December, she represented the Group on a deputation to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour with respect to women’s insurance rights. With her on the deputation were Eleanor Rathbone, MP, Mrs Hubback for the National Council for Equal Citizenship, and Mrs Strachey for the London and National Society for Women’s Service.

At this time Winifred was living with her mother at 1 Selwood Place, Onslow Gardens, Kensington, London SW7 (a stroll home from the dinner).


Winifred’s mother Alice died on 7th August 1935, two years after the dinner. In December 1936 Alice, at 65, was sailing home from Fremantle, Australia, on the “Ceramic”, of the Aberdeen White Star Line, and then resident at 9 The Pryors, Hampstead, a smart mansion block close to the Heath. As we know she was interviewed in 1958 for the BBC. Winifred died on 18th February 1967, when resident at 25 New Road, Hythe, Southampton, at 1 Peterscroft Avenue, Ashcroft, in the New Forest, Hampshire in 1967, aged 97, having outlived all her siblings, probate to nephew Major Roger Lewis Monck-Mason.


[1] Image of Winifred Mayo www.thesuffragettes.org

[2] Winifred Mayo: A Smashing Time in Pall Mall accessed 2.3.2018

[3] Winifred Mayo, The Suffragettes of Oakley Street, House Historian accessed 2.3.2018

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