A nasty game of Cat and Mouse

12 Mar

Hello SK fans,

Thanks for checking in today, WHM 12, 2014.


Continuing with the Women in History Month theme, we’re dealing with a heavy topic, force feeding and the Cat and Mouse Act.

On the lighter side of things, SK followers may remember my rants about MAD not buying me my own mouse to play with (he still won’t, btw). That’s all good and fun (although how would I know, as I have yet had a mouse to play with?), but the British suffragettes experienced a severe, nearly life-threatening game of Cat and Mouse.

First a little background.

Emmeline Goulden Pankhurst

Emmeline Goulden Pankhurst

Emmeline Goulden was born into a proper London family in 1858. She received the best of the best and after a polished education in Paris married Richard Pankhurst, a barrister 24 years older than she, who was recognized for his advocacy in allowing women to vote. A match made in heaven, as Emmeline was already spearheading women’s rights issues.

Emmeline began the Women’s Franchise League in 1889 with a mission to allow married women, at least, a right to vote in local elections. This endeavor led to her formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

The Union is really what put the focus on suffragettes, especially with its mission: “dedicated to deeds, not words.”

For starters, members of the all-women union were the first to be called suffragettes, a word with a French origin for devout prayer. Members were also born into either middle-class or the elite class, meaning they were pretty much all educated and well positioned to petition a cause.

Second, Union members sought attention rather militantly. Examples would be smashing windows and setting fires, screaming protests and hurling objects at spectators. Naturally, these acts, regardless of their cause or the social status of the suspects, led to arrests.

Arresting scores of educated well-positioned white women in Victorian Era England was an embarrassment for the British government. For added insult, many of the incarcerated suffragettes continued their advocacy by refusing to eat. This infuriated prison and government officials.


A suffragette is force-fed in HM Prison Holloway in the UK during hunger strikes for women’s suffrage.

They fought back with “force feedings.” Here is a brief description of what the hunger strikers endured:

  • Their mouths were clamped shut

  • The rest of their bodies were restrained with straps and force

  • Rubber hoses were inserted through their mouths and nostrils until they reached their esophagus.

  • A china funnel was inserted on one end of the hose.

  • A pureed food product was placed in the funnel

  • An attendant pressed the food product through the hose in hopes it would reach the stomach.

This worked as well as it sounds it would. The women would vomit, become sicker and endure injuries to the mouths, stomachs, esophagus and extremities, especially if they were tightly restrained.

It did not help the British government’s public relations any, either.

So it fought back with a game of Cat and Mouse. Here’s how that worked:

Upon arrest, suffragettes would automatically go on a hunger strike. This time, instead of being force-fed, officials would let them starve until they became so weak, they could hardly move. If they could not move, they could not smash many windows, so they were released “on license,” much like “on probation,” to their families.

Families naturally nourished the women back to health. The women went back out raising awareness for the right for women to vote. Windows were smashed, objectiles were hurled and arrests were made. If a women “on license” was caught protesting, she was immediately re-arrested  (is that a word? we’re not sure.). The hunger strike would begin again and the game of Cat and Mouse would start all over again.

This would probably still be going on had Germany not invaded Belgium around 1914. England, once nicely protected by the English Channel from the German invasions on the mainland, decided to protect its interests in France and Belgium, so it declared war on Germany. Government officials had to turn their attention to foreign battles instead of domestic games of Cat and Mouse. Who would have thought that World War 1 would put an end to such foolishness?

For the record, World War 1 ended in 1918, which is the same year women in the United Kingdom won the right to vote.

Meryl Streep is portraying Emmeline Pankhurst in the upcoming movie “Suffragette.” We love Meryl. The movie is being shot right now in the UK!

And, for a little fun fact, the UK’s most famous feminist Emmeline Pankhurst disowned her daughter Sylvia for not marrying her child’s father.

Back to serious stuff: Cats in Great Britain and the U.S.,  still do not have the right to vote. What is up with that????

Well, there you are, a little piece of the history on how women struggled for the opportunity to cast votes to help shape their governments. Many never lived to experience their own success, so therefore, try to remember their efforts every time you cast a ballot.

xo, LMA


15 Responses to “A nasty game of Cat and Mouse”

  1. Carol Jamison March 12, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Another wonderful post, Ms. Alcatt! Can’t you convince MAD to purchase at least a toy mouse for you?

    • Louisa May Alcatt March 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

      Thanks Carol, I will look for an opening for a good time to approach MAD, xo LMA

  2. Robin March 13, 2014 at 1:31 am #

    Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t heard the story of these ladies before (of course not much UK history is covered in US schools). You are only kind of right about cats not being able to vote in the US. When Obama was running for re-election his campaign sent out thousands of voters registration cards to people who were dead, dogs, and cats too. I saw a few of those.

    • Louisa May Alcatt March 13, 2014 at 6:24 am #

      of course, we forgot about that. thanks for bringing it to our attention. Did Manna and Cinco get to vote? xo LMA

      • Robin March 14, 2014 at 2:44 am #

        Cinco and Manna did not get to vote, but I did take their opinions very seriously when I cast my ballot. They are very smart kitties 🙂

  3. tamagochi89 March 13, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    I didn’t know this part about UK’s history. Did they cover this up? Well a lot of cruelties against women are not published anyway.

    I’m just glad women are allowed to vote nowadays. Although, making the votes count for genuine democracy is another story.

    • Louisa May Alcatt March 13, 2014 at 10:05 am #

      We don’t think it was covered up, but it certainly has not been promoted. A movie “Suffragete,” is expected to come out next year and has a great cast. Let’s hope that portrays the grim reality behind so many issues that women – and other minorities face. as for the genuine democracy, which you mention, yes, we still have so much work to do, again thanks for taking up your share, xo LMA

  4. Bruce Thiesen March 14, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Another excellent post, LMA!. I wanted to reach into the screen and release the brave woman being tortured by the bullies. I’m with you on most matters, as you know. However, I think the feline’s place is in the home, catching mice, writing blog posts and such, not in the voting booth. Sorry. Lastly, I think you missed your chance for a house mouse when the resolute MAD was softened up and beaming with his slick rain gear.

    I’m sending this SK post over to FB, btw.

    • Louisa May Alcatt March 16, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

      HI there Bruce,

      Yes, isn’t it awful what people endured (and in some places and situations still do) just to experience a simple freedom? To think torture was considered a way to keep women from voting.

      as for the mouse, a compromise – albeit in MAD’s favor – was reached. I will be posting a photo, xo LMA

  5. soonie2 March 15, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    Fascinating stuff! I learn so much from your posts!

  6. soonie2 March 15, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    Oh..and I love Meryl too…will definitely be watching for that movie release!

    • Louisa May Alcatt March 16, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

      We love her too, and if anyone can capture the emotion and spirit of this important piece of history, it is Meryl, xo, LMA

  7. sued51 March 16, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    The force feeding sounds horrendous! The movie should be great…love Meryl!

    • Louisa May Alcatt March 16, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

      Horrendous is a good word. yes, hard to believe what women and other minorities endured. We love Meryl, too and if anyone can get the message of women suffrage out, she is the one, xo LMA

  8. cat health tips March 26, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    This is tremendously FANTASTIC. Two thumbs up for this work of art.

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