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Dorothy Pethick

Tree planted by Dorothy Pethick

Early Life

Dorothy Pethick, born in Somerset, is the younger sister of Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence. She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, and then in 1906 spent a year training in social work at the Women’s University Settlement in Blackfriars Road in London. She became superintendent of girls’ club work in Nottinghamshire in 1908.


Dorothy attended early meetings of the WSPU in London in 1906, and had been working with Annie in Bristol and the west country since at least 1908. When Annie went to speak in Weston-super-Mare in August 1908, Dorothy went on ahead to make arrangements for the meeting and advertised it by chalking the pavements.

Dorothy was arrested during the WSPU deputation to the House of Commons on 29 June 1909. In October of that year, she and actress Kitty Marion were in Newcastle for the visit of David Lloyd George, and were arrested for breaking the windows of Newcastle General Post Office. Her stone failed to do any damage, so she pleaded “not guilty of smashing, but guilty of trying to” and was sentenced to fourteen days. During this time, she went on a hunger strike, and upon release she wrote in Votes for Women about the lack of hygiene carried out by the prison authorities during the process. She also went to Bristol to join the demonstration where Churchill was to speak.

From 1910 to 1912 Dorothy was WSPU organizer in Leicester, where she worked on the 1910 election campaign. She was sentenced to another fourteen days for taking part in the “Black Friday” demonstration in London on 18 November but was released when her fine was paid without her consent. She was again sentenced for protesting in Leicester, but because of the upcoming general election her fine was again paid, and she was released. In April 1911 she organised a local census protest, in which twenty census evaders spent the night at the WSPU shop and office at 14 Bowling Green Street, Leicester.
Dorothy was one of many suffragettes who sometimes stayed with the Blathwayt family in Batheaston. Mrs. Blathwayt described Dorothy as “an educated lady”. In 1911 Dorothy planted a fir tree in the Blathwayt’s Suffragette Arboretum. She left the WSPU in 1912 when her sister Emmeline Pethick Lawrence was ejected from the organisation by Mrs. Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst after a disagreement about intensifying militancy.

Dorothy planted an Abies Pinsapo on 15 February 1911.

Later Life

Early in 1914 Dorothy was giving talks on women’s suffrage in America. During a speech she gave in New York, she declared that the suffragettes were prepared to die for their cause. She further explained the relationship that she and her sister had with Mrs. Pankhurst, making it clear that they were still in sympathy despite their disagreement on methods. Her sister, Emmeline, did not agree with the method of arson.

During the First World War Dorothy joined the Women’s Police Force and was based in Gretna. In 1916 she joined the United Suffragists and was also honorary treasurer of the British Dominions Woman Suffrage Union. She later worked for many years as a secretary at the Rudolf Steiner school in Hampstead. She died at a home in Markyate, Bedfordshire.


In her account in Votes for Women on her experiences in prison, Dorothy writes, “I always had a very strong feeling of people like Garibaldi, Mazzini and Joan of Arc with me.”