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.

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, Helen’s 25 year old daughter, still training for the Bar at this time, someone who 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.

puzzle-piece2-50The eighth “wonder” of this world was Miss Frances Slimon, 19, where the main “wondering” has been in knowing more about her. It now seems certain however that she was the young Scottish born Frances Slimon living in 1933 with three other women at 19a Eccleston Street, London SW1. A young woman making her way in the world, quite possibly assisting Elizabeth Abbott, who had been lobbying with the Open Door Council at the House of Lords two years earlier, and we are told Frances was also involved in lobbying at the Lords around this time.  She is one of four Scots on the table. Our research continues.

Doubtless a little reminiscing went on with tales of Dundee (though suffragettes often had reunions). Or looking to the 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.