Table 18 “Helen’s Heroines”


If you wanted a table to represent the struggle for women’s rights you’d be hard pressed to come up with a more powerful and representative selection. The most likely “host” or organiser would have been Helen Archdale, 56, certainly Table A material except for the fact, perhaps, that she was the Editor of Time & Tide until she and Margaret disagreed over the direction of policy. But given that they both shared a flat and a house for a while afterwards suggests the “split” wasn’t total. An “intense” relationship, as one biographer has put it.

The alternative name for this table could have been the Six Point Group. Helen was one of four suffragettes on the table, first imprisoned in Dundee, along with fellow guest Florence McFarlane, 65, (known as the “Dundee hunger striker”), Charlotte “Charlie” Marsh, 46, imprisoned hunger striker, with herbeautiful and striking figure with long golden hair and an elegant poise,….. often chosen as standard-bearer for WSPU processions.”, and by Winifred Mayo, 63, the imprisoned, census protesting actress. On their pages we include a BBCTV interview with “Charlie as well as a radio interview with Winifred.

The campaigning spirit was also represented at the table by the Dundee-born Mrs Elizabeth Abbott, 58, suffragist, editor, and feminist lecturer, who co-founded the Open Door Council with Margaret Rhondda and was Secretary of the Six Point Group. She was joined by Miss Minnie Emily Moore, 61, accountant, performing a less glamorous and dangerous role in crunching the numbers for the Six Point Group, one of the first women to break into the bastion of her male dominated profession.

But this was not just about past glories: the next generation was well represented by Elizabeth “Betty” Archdale , 25, and by Miss Frances Slimon, 19, and active suffragist.   Betty, Helen’s daughter, was still training for the Bar at this time, and later would carve out her reputation in education on the other side of the world (as the head of a women’s college in Sydney, Australia) and as an England cricketer.  Both Betty and Frances were out campaigning with Florence McFarlane, as you can see on their pages as they hold their protest against Sir Herbert Austin and his plans to get women back into the home.

A table were there would perhaps be a mix of reminiscing as well as planning future campaigns. On the very short horizon, perhaps conversation turned to the coming weekend’s nuptials of Helen’s son / Betty’s brother Alexander Mervyn Archdale, actor, to the “pretty” actress Lilian Wolseley, daughter of a retired sugar planter. Though it was to be a quiet registry office affair. Don’t break any windows.