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"Women Cannot Wear Trousers" said Nobody by Lola Eadie

This story is to remember Aeta Lamb who planted an Irish Yew on 16 April 1911

This story is trying to show all the things Suffragettes and Suffragists have sacrificed for women now, even before they got to London and started protesting.

One: The Plan

It was a cold winter’s afternoon when Florence Thompson was packing her bags for London. All she could hear was her parents arguing about her leaving. She looked around her simple room, at her rickety old bed, the wooden chest of drawers for her clothes and the simple wooden desk where she would spend most of her days painting. She loved her little countryside cottage, but she felt it was time for her to go and do her bit for women in London.

In her old black case Florence packed some clothes, a toffee hammer that her mother had given her, her diary and a painting of her cottage. This was to remind her of her loving mother; how she always believed in Florence and was very proud of her. Her father however, had very different views. He would not let Florence go to London and become a suffragette, as he was against women getting the vote.

How dare Father think women are less than him? How dare he support John and Peter going to London and getting a job? How dare he allow them to follow their dreams and not me? Angry thoughts swirled through her mind as Florence sat on her bed, staring into nothingness. John and Peter, her brothers, were both successful tradesmen in London. Florence couldn't wait to leave and do exactly what her father didn't want her to do.

The sound of footsteps coming up the old, creaky stairs brought Florence back to the present. It was her father. She frantically closed her suitcase and tried to shove it under her bed but it was too late. Her father saw it the moment he came through her door.

“Where do you think you’re going?” He asked Florence.

“London,” she answered quickly.

“Over my dead body are you going to London,” her father declared.

“I don’t care,” Florence cried. “I’m going to help get what I think is right and you can support me or not, it doesn’t change a thing.”

After one last glare at Florence, he left the room. She had never felt so powerful. But there were flutters in her stomach as she wondered how she would ever be able to escape her father. She caught the aroma of Sunday lunch from the kitchen downstairs, which made her stomach rumble. Suddenly there was a knock on her door.

“Come in,” said Florence. It was her mother.

“Have you finished packing?” she asked as she stepped over Florence’s case on the floor.

“Just about. How am I ever going to get out of here, Mother?"

“I’ve only packed this bag in case I am somehow allowed to leave, so if that happens I can get out of here straight away and Father won’t have time to change his mind,” Florence explained.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan. After dinner I want you to pretend you’re going to bed and then at midnight I will come into your room and help you climb out the window. But we have to be ever so quiet or your father will catch us,” explained her mother.

Florence beamed.

Two: The Escape

Once she had finished her lunch, Florence rushed upstairs and put on her best dress, her best shoes and her warmest winter coat. Not quite the most practical clothes, but it was a very special occasion, she told herself. She clambered into her bed for the very last time, trying to contain her excitement. Then she waited.

After what felt like forever, the clock struck midnight. The door creaked slightly as it opened and her mother walked into her room.

“Go quickly, your father is fast asleep,” she said.

Florence got out of bed, took her case from under it and pushed up her bedroom window. She flung her bag out the window and stuck her head through it.

“It’s awfully far down,” she whispered as she looked at her suitcase on the ground below.

“Don’t worry, you can climb down the trellis,” her mother explained.

Florence nodded again. She kissed her mother and gave her a massive hug. She mouthed goodbye as they both stared at each other with tears in their eyes. Then Florence carefully climbed out the window, trying not to catch the heel of her shoes on her dress. She made her way down the wooden trellis where roses used to grow up the side of her house. She was almost at the bottom when she heard her mother shout, “Go!”

She looked up and saw her father staring down at her. She moved faster, her breath coming in short bursts. When she glanced up, her father was no longer at the window. She was almost to the ground. She jumped down, grabbed her bag and ran as fast as she could. Her father was standing at the front door.

“Come back!” He shouted at Florence. But she ignored him as she continued to run, her heart pumping. The wind was in her hair and there was a huge smile on her face. She was so proud. She was free!

Before long, she arrived at the train station. There were people everywhere, coming from every direction.

Three: Train Journey

Florence was so tired. She almost drifted off to sleep on the bench when she heard the whistle for her 1.30am train. She got up and quickly strode to her carriage, got her ticket punched, found her seat and sat down. She took a deep breath.

There weren’t many other people on the train, just a few men in smart suits carrying briefcases. When the train arrived at its second stop, a young lady with a suffragette badge got on, entering Florence’s carriage. She had short, curly auburn hair and green eyes. She was wearing trousers.

I’ve never seen a woman wear trousers. She looks amazing, Florence thought.

Florence quickly grabbed the coat she had taken off, removed her own suffragette pin from it and put it on her dress. The young woman noticed Florence’s badge and went to sit next to her.

“Hello” she said to Florence.

“Hello, I’m Florence. And you are?”

“I’m Penelope, Penelope Smith.” They shook hands.

“You’re a suffragette as well?” Penelope said, pointing at Florence’s badge.

“Yes, I’m traveling to London to help us women get the vote. I’m ever so passionate, I can’t wait! Although this is my first time, I’m quite nervous!” Florence explained.

“Well. You’re just like me! Although I already live in London and I have already worked with the suffragettes. I was just returning from visiting family. Don't be nervous though, all of the ladies are lovely and even though London is big there will always be other suffragettes and suffragists around to help you,” Penelope reassured Florence.

“Oh, good! How much have you done in London already?” asked Florence.

“I’ve done many things. Letter bombing, smashing windows, I have actually gone to jail five times! Some women are not as eager to do the more extreme protests, but not me. I think the only way to get the vote is to get their attention. So, the more things that go into the newspaper the better!”

“I want to be just like you! And wear trousers!” Florence was in awe.

“Well, who said trousers were just for men?” Penelope chuckled.

“Would you mind if I started off with you? So I can get the idea of what to do?” asked Florence desperately.

“We are friends now. Stay with me for as long as you like.”

Florence couldn’t be happier. All she could think of was the adventures she and Penelope were going to have.

Lola Eadie attends Langley school where she enjoys all her lessons, especially PE and History. One of her recent achievements was gaining her Grade 3 LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts) certificate. Lola is an animal-lover and is thinking of being a vet when she is older. She said that her inspiration for her story came from all the amazing women role models who are still fighting for complete equality.