Monday, 20 July 2015

Adela Pankhurst, the anti-conscription movement and Pentridge Prison

Not long ago, my attention was drawn to several articles relating to a crowd of ‘no conscriptionists’ who had gathered outside the Women’s Prison at Pentridge to protest the imprisonment of Adela Pankhurst, daughter of English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and sister of Christabel and Sylvia. Estranged from her family, she had arrived in Melbourne in 1914.

Image of Adela Pankhurst from Wikipedia 

On 7 January 1918, about 50 supporters, mostly women and ‘understood to be socialists’, gathered at the entrance to Pentridge and sang to Adela, who was now Adela Walsh, having married Tom Walsh while on remand in September 1917. She was serving a four month term for repeatedly defying a ban on public meetings. The sounds of ‘Solidarity Forever’, ‘The Red Flag’ and ‘We’ll keep Australia Free’ rang out along Champ Street. Enthusiastic Cooees, meant to send support to Adela on the inside, were heard. Soon a crowd of 300 had gathered.

Front gate of Pentridge Prison c1930. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

The police dispersed the crowd quickly, but Carlton couple Richard and Lilias Mary Land were arrested, charged with ‘offensive behaviour’.  Many in the crowd followed the couple to the Coburg Police Station where they were charged, and while their supporters waited for the Lands to be bailed, they continued singing into the night.

The following articles outline the story:

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 11 January 1918, p.2.

Weekly Times, 12 January 1918, p.10.

Tribune, 10 January 1918, p.5. 

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 11 January 1918, p.1. 

Adela (Pankhurst) Walsh was released on 22 January 1918. Not long afterwards she and Tom Walsh moved to New South Wales.

Punch, 4 April 1918, p.32.

These events at Coburg should be seen against the backdrop of bans on peace or ‘no conscriptionist’ meetings that had been in the news for the previous twelve months. There is little coverage of these meetings in the local newspapers, especially in Coburg where there appears on the surface to have been little support for the anti-conscription or the peace movement. Yet there must have been others in the area who supported the same anti-war and anti-conscriptionist stance as Pankhurst, who was an organiser for Vida Goldstein’s Women Political Association and Women’s Peace Army.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 1 June 1917, p.4. 

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 20 April 1917, p.1 

You can read more about the peace movement, the anti-conscription campaign and other aspects of the Moreland area during World War One on the Moreland Remembers World War 1 exhibition banners.

Let me know if you can add to this story.

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