Suffragist Tax Resister Kate Harvey Imprisoned

The Vote

From the issue of The Vote:

Mrs. [Kate] Harvey’s Imprisonment.

Message From Mrs. Harvey.

Comrades,— I planned a very different first week out of Holloway, but I reckoned without the Governor! And it is a bitter disappointment to be unable to gather up the threads of my life more rapidly; I want, more than I can express, to be working with you again.

The fight, however, is going on, and will go on, until we have done everything in our power to force some logic and common-sense into the rules and regulations of the Home Office; at present they are singularly deficient in both.

Lying here I have learned the history of the last month. I am overwhelmed with the thought of all you have done, and hope before long to have the privilege of showing my keen appreciation of your strenuous efforts and of thanking you for your personal sympathy. Meanwhile, I am trying to let patience have her perfect work, so that all the sooner I may be able to attack arrears of work. ―Yours, as ever,

K. Harvey.

The Government’s Vindictiveness.

The Women’s Freedom League and the Women’s Tax Resistance League have endeavoured ever since the prosecution of Mrs. Harvey to demonstrate the vindictiveness of the Government’s pursuit of that lady; and if further evidence of it were required it would be found in the treatment she has received at the hands of the Governor of Holloway and the Home Office.

Owing to the shameful dampness of her cell — a hospital cell! — after the daily scrubbing, Mrs. Harvey contracted a rheumatic chill at the beginning of the week before her release. Application was at once made to the Governor and the Home Office for the services of a homeopathic doctor, Mrs. Harvey being accustomed to that form of medical treatment. It may be of interest to know that when a similar request was made recently, on behalf of Miss Forbes Robertson [another suffragette, arrested for window-smashing], it was not only granted without delay, but her own medical adviser was brought from St. Leonards at the Government’s expense. In the case of Mrs. Harvey the request was curtly and insultingly refused.

The Governor’s Idea of Her “Satisfactory Condition.”

Had Mrs. Harvey received the necessary treatment at the time she applied for it, there is little doubt that the indisposition would have proved a slight one. In consequence of the attitude of the authorities, and the distress of mind occasioned by it to a woman of frail constitution, her condition changed gravely for the worse, and for several days was very serious, the indisposition having developed into gastric catarrh. Mrs. Harvey suffered great pain, was completely helpless, and her temperature rose. In two days she lost a stone in weight, and her appearance even after much improvement had taken place was a great shock to her solicitor, who was allowed to visit her later on. But in reply to a telegram from her daughter (the greatest anxiety being felt owing to the refusal to allow the attendance of a homeopathic medical adviser), the Governor had the assurance to reply that the prisoner’s condition was “satisfactory.”

…It would almost seem as if prison authorities considered a dangerous illness to be the “satisfactory” state for prisoners who suffer for principle and not for crime.

When Mrs. Harvey requested that a renewed petition be forwarded to the Home Office on this question of medical attendance, the Governor informed her that this could not be done until the result — i.e., the acceptance or refusal — of a prior petition (to be allowed to see her solicitor) was settled. Almost immediately after he had made this excuse for delay, the wardresses wished to prepare Mrs. Harvey for the solicitor’s visit! The object of the Governor’s behaviour, in pretending he did not know of the result of the prior petition when he had already instructed the staff in that result, was to postpone further petitioning until the week-end, and thus to manufacture still more delay.

Such petty meanness and falsehood for no purpose, save more completely to annoy and distress a sick and helpless woman, would be contemptible in a porter or a warder. What is it, then, in the Governor of a Government institution? It reflects beyond doubt the official attitude towards those who are not deemed powerful enough to retaliate.

Solitary Confinement — Solitary Exercise.

Another convenient method of torture was provided by the fact that Mrs. Harvey suffers painfully from deafness. No sound penetrated her cell, nor was she allowed to have her cell-door open, although in the hospital such a privilege is frequently permitted to the sick or afflicted. Rule 243a, specially devised to give privileges to those whose lack of “moral turpitude” entitles them to come under it, became, in her case, an instrument of torture. It guarantees Suffrage prisoners against association with criminals, and allows them to exercise together: but as the only Suffrage prisoners were hunger-striking, and that entails solitary confinement, Mrs. Harvey was not allowed to see them. Her request that she might be allowed to be in the ward with the women and babies was refused. She was exercised alone, as well as locked up alone, in utter silence as well as solitude for the entire month — a refinement of cruelty, we venture to say, which reflects little credit on the gentlemen who indulged in it, or the system which allows it.

We believe these facts speak for themselves, and have only to be placed before the public to secure their condemnation. We maintain that prisoners have as clear a claim to the special form of medical treatment, as they have to the special form of religious ministration in which they believe and in which they feel secure.

There are a few other mentions of the Harvey case scattered around in the same issue, mostly examples of how it served as a rallying cry at various suffrage meetings.