The barely decipherable handwriting on this letter belongs to Charlotte Marsh, a suffragette imprisoned in Winson Green Prison, Birmingham in 1909. In it she gives the first written account of force-feeding of prisoners:
“Matron comes everyday to try and get me to eat but no – she can chase me around my cell! Won’t it seem funny to eat again. Sometimes I am ravenous, aren’t you? Write to me when I come out. No surrender!”
Charlotte had been imprisoned for protesting against the Prime Minister’s visit to the city. Her full letter gives an insight into the conditions inside the prison, the state of mind of the suffragette prisoners and the solidarity between these important radical activists.
The letter only came to light recently when Helen Antrobus was researching a collection loaned to the People’s History Museum. It’s a reminder of the importance of regular and continued research into library and archive material, no matter how old or how recent. Fortunately the museum has placed it on display until February 2019 as part of the Represent! Voices 100 Years On exhibition.