Emmeline’s 2nd arrest and speech on release
When in 1909 Emmeline was again arrested and sentenced to a term of imprisonment Lady Constance was one of her fellow prisoners. Knowing what Emmeline had suffered during that first imprisonment I was lost in admiration at the pluck and strength of character that would risk the same experience again and yet I knew that she would be able to go through with it because she was in such complete possession of her own soul that the physical and moral surroundings would not count in comparison with what she believed this imprisonment would achieve for the cause for which she had given up everything.
And she did come through it triumphantly, and it was a gallant and triumphant woman whom we greeted on her release and who spoke at the breakfast arranged to welcome her and others on their return to liberty. To me the speech which she made at that breakfast is the best she has ever made because it reveals the inner soul of the message she has always been constrained to deliver and it came white hot from her soul after months of isolation and suffering.
This is what she said:-
“The hardest thing to bear in prison was the clothes. Stained, dirty, heavy, coarse material. I have learned to love those prison clothes. When I understood what they meant then it was that I loved them. I think the revelation came to me the first time that I went into the Chapel and saw 600 or 700 women line after line, row after row, dressed in their prison clothes. You could not have picked out the suffragettes from amongst them. Gone was every mark of distinction between one prisoner and another. No class left, no sign of education left, no distinction of any kind, everything swept away except humanity and womanhood and it was not until you realised all that was gone, that you knew how much these great things were worth that were left. It wasn’t until then that you realised what your humanity meant or what your womanhood meant. Lost in that great multitude I felt aware of a great sea, the sea of humanity, great resistless, infinite, unfathomable.”
From this time onward Emmeline became entirely absorbed in the “Votes for Women” movement and she told me one day: “this Movement absolutely absorbs me and give (sic) me all I need and all I ever dreamed possible of inspiration and joy. Nothing can ever be so worth while as to fight for the freeing of women from the age-long bondage in
which they have lived.” Sometime before this, Mrs. Pankhurst had torn up the original constitution and at the time she asked me to be a member of the new committee as she said she wanted someone with outside interests so as to give the public more confidence in the work. She also asked Miss Elizabeth Robins for the same reason and we both became members of the re-constituted committee. Emmeline became Treasurer.