In search of suffragette Alice Maude Shipley
A women who wouldn't wheesht
On 19 March 1912, Alice Maude Shipley stood trial in London after a window smashing campaign by her and her sister suffragettes. She refused to be bound over, and received a four-month prison sentence in Holloway prison, where she went on hunger strike and was force fed.
At her trial she spoke of the plight of women and girls, and what motivated her to fight for women’s rights.
"More than half my life I have been doing what lies in me to help the poor and unfortunate. As a member of a Vigilance Society, and as a worker in connection with other societies, I know the condition of our women and girls, and the dangers that lie about them and that they have no power to protect themselves; and that knowledge has made me take up the attitude I have today.
I feel our case is a most urgent one, and I feel that only a woman can understand a woman’s needs, that women suffer for the want and care of men, and that their salvation lies in looking after their own needs and in demanding the vote".
Alice, who was born in Northamptonshire, became a dressmaker like her mother, and by 1901 she was a lady’s maid to a Scottish women, Margaret Pairman, who lived in or close to Biggar, in central Scotland.
Alice died in 1951, aged 82, and was buried with the Pairman family. The inscription on the gravestone reads:
‘Alice Maude Shipley, faithful friend of the Pairman family for nearly 60 years’
I have spent much of today searching for her gravestone, and just as I was about to give up, my husband shouted me over. “She’s here,” he said pulling back some ivy.
On the day that the Scottish government issued a news release about cervical cancer screening for “anyone with cervix”, it seems only right to remember one woman who was not afraid to use the word “woman” or to stand up for our rights - at great risk to her own health.
Alice Maude Shipley. A women who wouldn't wheesht.