Lady Constance Lytton
By Bethan Hughes, First Posted On The Herts. Hidden Heroines Project Website: 15th December 2015
Hertfordshire’s Hidden Suffragette,
To me, all that is involved in the making of a heroine can be found within the Suffragette movement.
The courageous women who took part were not only standing up and protesting for what they believed in during a time when their opinions were suppressed, they did it in such a way that completely defied the role of women in society and broke through the boundaries of ‘acceptable’ behaviour for ladies. Damaging property, violence and protests might not be the first things that spring to mind when the word ‘heroine’ is mentioned, yet I believe that by having the courage to stand up and fight for what they wanted, the Suffragettes epitomise the meaning of the word.
As I have a keen interest in this period of history, I was delighted to discover that Hertfordshire has its own Suffragette to lay claim to! Lady Constance Lytton was born into a wealthy family and was in a privileged position of high social standing. When Lytton became aware of the cause, she sympathised with the argument but did not agree with the shocking methods the women were prepared to use to fight. Later on however, she became more enthused by the methods and gained an understanding about why the Suffragettes had been driven to use such tactics. Lytton decided to join the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), known to be a very militant group, much to the horror of her family! During her time in the group, Lytton took part in many protests including one at the House of Commons and one against force feeding, a practise used when imprisoned Suffragettes went on hunger strike to continue their protest. It was at this demonstration that arguably her most courageous story began to unfold.
In November 1909, Lytton was arrested at the demonstration and taken to prison where she began her hunger strike. However, after only a few days, she was released due to concerns about her health. Lytton was angry that she received different treatment due to her title and believed that, had she been poorer, she would not have been released. In January 1910 when she was next arrested, Lytton disguised herself as a poor woman and went by the name of Jane Warton, a decision that proved her theory about the different treatment of prisoners. Lytton once again went on hunger strike under her new identity and was subjected to force feeding eight times. When her true identity was discovered, she was released immediately.
Sadly, Lady Constance Lytton died at just 54, a tragically short life for such an inspirational woman.
Not only did Lytton act as part of the mass effort of ‘Votes for Women’ but she made the brave choice, to take action on her own by disguising herself and ultimately putting herself through pain that she could have chosen to avoid.
Hertfordshire should be proud to have a Suffragette to present who had a truly remarkable life.
Click the link for Information on the: Herts Hidden Heroines Project