Table 22 “Suffrage, The T&T Poet and a Yorkshire Widow”


Mrs Gertrude Roberts, for a long time a mystery guest on this table, I now believe to be the widow of the manager of Yorkshire’s notable Saltaire wool mills. She had moved to London in 1919/20 after her husband Bertram had died young at 36, leaving her (at 33) to bring up their four young children – though she was materially comfortable. She would have been in the company of one of the preeminent husband and wife teams in the suffragette movement, Arthur and Kitty Marshall, both 62, respectively the leading legal defender of the suffragettes and their physical bodyguard. They are joined by Dorothy Auld, the 43 year old suffrage organiser (and her unnamed guest), and by Joy Scovell, a modest 25 year old poet gaining experience of the publishing and writing world at Time and Tide. As Dorothy is an organiser we may be on pretty safe ground thinking she was indeed the hostess/convenor of this table, and one short at the time of the printing of the guest list to be able to complete her table of six.

Arthur and Kitty Marshall and Dorothy Auld would undoubtedly be known to each other. Kitty, leader of Mrs Pankhurst’s Bodyguard, was imprisoned in 1910 on the notorious Black November Day, along with, amongst others, fellow dinner guests Florence McFarlane and Winifred Mayo. Kitty’s husband Arthur was the solicitor defending many suffragettes including Mrs Pankhurst. Though many of this network were serial attendees at dinners and meetings there was quite a unique grouping of suffragettes and suffragists at the dinner. Whether or not they were already acquainted with Mrs Roberts is as yet still a mystery.

Joy Scovell was not yet someone in the limelight and that she now features in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography speaks to her impact despite her modesty: “I have had a fairly ordinary life I think, with normal experiences”.