Suffragette Stories

Home > Annie's Arboretum > Florence Haig

Florence Haig

Tree planted by Florence Haig

Early Life

Florence Eliza Haig was born in Marylebone in 1856, the daughter of a Berwickshire barrister. She had two sisters  who were suffragettes.  Their great uncle was apparently a supporter of women's suffrage and imprisoned for this in 1819. 

Florence was a portrait artist, and one of her works remains in the National Portrait Gallery. Like many suffragettes, she was a vegetarian. 

Activism

In 1901, Florence made a £1 donation to the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. In February 1907 she joined the WSPU after hosting a meeting in her studio at which Emmeline Pankhurst spoke. Along with her sister Evelyn, she founded a WSPU branch in Edinburgh. In 1908, she was arrested for a raid on Westminster and sentenced to six week's imprisonment. Another suffragette recalled how Florence, whose hair almost reached her ankles, found the prison comb inadequate. she said that the 'stupidity' of her time in Holloway was forgotten because 'coming out was so delightful'. In 1910, she became Honorary Secretary of the Chelsea branch of the WSPU. Her studio was in the neighbourhood. 

In 1911, she nursed her dying sister Cecilia. Sylvia Pankhurst claimed that Cecilia died as a result of injuries during the 'Black Friday' protest in November 1910. In 1912, Florence, along with another cousin, Janet Boyd,  was sentenced to four months for smashing the windows of D.H. Evans on Oxford Street. Florence went on hunger strike and was released after four days.  

At one stage, Florence recuperated from imprisonment with her maternal aunt in Wales and may have inspired her younger cousin Margaret Haig Thomas, later Viscountess Rhondda. Margaret, a peeress in her own right, later campaigned to take her seat in the Lord's. She also raised funds for a public memorial to Emmeline Pankhurst. Another cousin later became Field Marshal Haig. 

In 1913, Florence was one of 13 women at the meeting founding the East London federation of the WSPU, created by Sylvia Pankhurst. However, she appears to have continued working as a Secretary of the main WSPU, alongside Annie Kenney, until 1916. 

On 11 June 1910, Florence planted a Cupressus Lawsoniana. The plaque has survived and is in the Roman Baths museum.  

Later Life

In 1928, Florence was a pallbearer at Emmeline Pankhurst's funeral. In 1934, she joined the Society of Women Artists. She lived with her sister in Maida Vale London and died in 1952. Her suffragette medal is in the Museum of London. 

Quote

‘It is wonderful how each woman who acts influences her own circle. Friends who before may have been but mildly in favour are converted to active and eager workers for the cause.’ Florence Haig in 1908. 

Read DC Restaino's short story, dedicated to Florence Haig.