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Vera Wentworth by Mia Edmund

This story is inspired by Vera Wentworth who planted a Chamaecyparis Nutkaensis (Cypress) on 22 July 1909.

I am Jessie Spink. I am 17 years old and I now go by the name Vera Wentworth, for reasons that are not important and do not need to be disclosed.

*****

At four o’clock on Tuesday afternoon they brought a nasal tube. They forced me onto my bed and six wardresses held me down. I resisted all I could but it was impossible to hold out against them. That was done twice a day until I came out. Each time even worse than the last.

Later, as I was recovering in my six-by-nine cell, I received a letter from the Blathwayts. They own Eagle House, a place where the injured suffragettes could go after prison to recover from being force-fed. They informed me that because of my past actions I would not be allowed back to the house. When they say past actions, they meant that I, along with Jessie Kenney and Elsie Howey, assaulted the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary on the golf course.

I have no regrets, they deserve everything they got and more. However, I do want to go back to Eagle House. So I wrote them a letter of regret, stating that “if Mr Asquith (the prime minister) will not receive the deputation then we will pummel him again.” Unfortunately my plea letter did not work.

So, on 1 September 1908 I was out of prison, not knowing where to go or who to turn to. I was alone, or so I thought.

*****

A few days later I was with my good friend Elsie Howey, who had very kindly let me stay with her for the time being. We were sitting in Elsie’s kitchen when we heard knocking on her front door. It sounded like some sort of code: three long, sharp raps followed by three short ones. Elsie and I looked at each other as we were not expecting visitors. I nudged her to go and open the door.

As soon as she unbolted the lock the door burst open, almost knocking her to the floor. Three ladies walked into Elsie’s living room, facing us. The first to speak was a rather tall woman with brown eyes.

“Miss Howey, Miss Wentworth, you have been invited to join the secret suffragette society of which you may or may not have heard.”

“We are the Young Hot Bloods Society for the women who actually want to make a difference,” said the lady next to her, a blonde of average height. The third woman, with ginger hair and a fierce look in her eye, added:

“If you wish to make a difference you will meet us at midnight in the tea shop. Come alone and speak to no one about this!”

And with that they were gone.

Elsie and I exchanged another look. This is what we had been waiting for, a chance to make ourselves known.

“We need to go!” I said, buzzing at the thought of our new opportunities.

*****

And now we have won the vote. I will always have some of my fondest memories of the fight, but they were also some of the worst times of my life. However, it was all worth it as we got there in the end.

Happily, all was forgiven after we won the vote and I was welcomed back to Eagle House. I was even lucky enough to plant a Chamaecyparis Nutkaensis in the surrounding grounds of the house on 4 July 1909.

Mia has lived in Norwich all her life. In her spare time, she plays at her local Hockey club.