Dora Thewlis

Dora Thewlis was a Huddersfield mill worker who was sent to jail aged 16 for storming Parliament to demand votes for women.
Black and white photograph of a young white woman with loose dark hair being marched through the streets by two police officers. Each officer is holding one of her wrists.
Black and white photograph of a young white woman with loose dark hair being marched through the streets by two police officers. Each officer is holding one of her wrists.

Dora was born in Honley in 1890 and had many brothers and sisters, her parents were James and Eliza Thewlis. At the age of 10 Dora would have worked in the mill part-time and spent the rest of the day at school. Education ended at 12 and Eliza would have been in full-time work which was dangerous conditions and poor pay. At this time, it was normal for 12 year olds to have full time jobs!
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Dora was 16, when she started her journey to Parliament.

In 1906, Dora watched Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst (a suffragette) speak to crowds at Market Cross in Huddersfield.
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In 1907 Thewlis joined the Women's Social and Political Union. She was arrested the same year, having been part of a planned break in into the Houses of Parliament. Newspapers loved writing about Dora's story and she appeared on the front page of the Daily mirror.

Dora's parents told reporters that they had supported her actions and she had been brought up in an atmosphere of socilism. They demanded that she was imprisoned, like other suffragettes, despite her young age. In a letter to Dora (whilst in prison) from her mother starts with 'I am very proud of the way you have acted, so keep your spirits up and be cheerful.'

What do you think about how her parents reacted to her being imprisoned?

'Young Huddersfield Suffragette Tells of Her 'Torture' in Prison' was the headline of one newspaper. Dora stated that prison had caused her health to break down. She said 'They tortured me. I can see it all now. They tried to break my spirit, and they succeeded. They held me up to ridicule as a 'baby' and a 'child', and treated me like a criminal rather than a girl under remand...'. Dora was one of the youngest suffragettes, especially in prison, so was made fun of and held up as a bad example of parenting. Horace Smith (the Magristrate on her trial) said 'It is really a shocking thing that you should be brought up to London to be turned on the London streets to come into collision with the police. It is disgraceful. Where is your mother?'

Dora had one request to make to the world in general: 'Don't call me the 'Baby Suffragette. I am not a baby really. In May next year I shall be eighteen years of age. Surely for a girl that is a good age?'