The Swindells Sisters

by Avril Nicholls

Edith Swindells was played by Jenny Haywood / Wendy Owen and Emily Swindells by Pat Hall / Angi Richardson.

. . . .

My dearest Emily and Edith,

Thank you so much for your last letter; it seems such a long time ago that I was home in my beloved Cornwall, sharing luncheon with you both. I am extremely busy with the cause here in London and I see from your letter that the Suffrage Movement is gaining many more supporters in Cornwall.

I am pleased to know that you have had such good speakers at the meetings in Falmouth, where we are so fortunate to have support from the Fox family. Caroline and Anna are our very dear friends and it must be such a pleasure for you to overnight with them when you attend the meetings; also so generous of them to accommodate Jack Prisk, your chauffeur, in the coach house.

Without enfranchisement we cannot hope to address all the social injustices in our land. Emmeline Pankhurst — you heard her speak when you were last in London — thinks that we must become more radical, militant even. She and her daughters Christabel and Anna have founded the new Women’s Social and Political Union whose colours are purple, black and green. Oh and the Daily Mail newspaper have given us the name, ‘Suffragettes’ — I feel sure that you will want to join. This first public meeting will take place outdoors here in London at the end of next week.

I am staying with a new suffragette friend who has a large house in Bloomsbury and she also invites you to stay with her. My dears, you will simply adore her; she is elegant, amusing and well-educated. Emmeline and other guests from many different backgrounds attend her dinner parties; they are always such fun. She is frightfully eccentric and dresses in black and purple velvet, expensive green silks and fine white lace. AND SHE SMOKES! She disrupts parliament and once even chained herself to the gates of Buckingham Palace itself! When she was handcuffed and dragged away by two burly policemen, she sang one of our anthems in a high soprano voice causing a great stir, which you will not be surprised to hear.

I am so looking forward to seeing you, will you travel up by rail or will Prisk drive you? Charlotte will send her driver to meet you at Paddington, or if Prisk drives you, her address is at the end of the letter — there are numerous boarding houses where he can stay.

I remain your dear friend,



. . . .

These two well-to-do unmarried sisters lived long lives. We marvelled to think of the changes they had witnessed. Like many other women very little detail of their lives is recorded. However we found their funeral notices on microfiche in the Cornish Studies Library. They list the mourners – a couple of nephews and a number of other single women. We have taken the liberty of giving them an interest in the Suffragette movement. Perthi Kov member, Sally Smith, has the journal of her great-grandmother, who was imprisoned for her Suffragette activities – we were delighted to be able to include this theme.

Emily Swindells (1856 – 1940)
Edith Swindells (1858 – 1940)