Alice Hawkins Suffragette - a Sister of Freedom
Alice Hawkins

Alice Hawkins

Alice’s Prison Notes Transcript

Below is a transcript of Alice’s notes on life in prison, written whilst she was in Holloway Jail, from February 1907.

Her original hand written notes can be found on the previous page and an audio recording is available to listen to on the audio page.

“Being sentenced to 14 days at Westminster for asking for the rights of women, we were held at Westminster Police Court until after 3 o’clock. We were then brought in a Black Maria and arrived about 4 o’clock. I felt rather sorry for the female officers when about 60 were handed to them at once. It made a great deal of work for them. They had to place us in cells of 6 to 8 together so that we passes the time fairly well until they could get the cells ready for us, which was not until 10 o’clock at night. Some were even later than that when we arrived in our separate cells we were told to get our beds ready. This consisted of a mattress and pillows, a pair of rough blankets and a counterpane, but as you imagine, there was not much sleep for me in a bed.

We had to get up at 6 o’clock had breakfast about 7 and clean up in our cells and be ready for chapel by 8 o’clock, which lasts until about 9.15. Then we had a visit from the doctor if needed and the Governor if you want to ask for anything. About 10 o’clock you go out for exercise which consists of walking around a few paths of gravel for about an hour after which we do as we like in our cells. Either we sew or write until dinner time.

The afternoon is lonely as we see no one until tea time between 4 and 5, unless a warder lets us out to empty any dirty water we may have. After tea we are locked in again until morning and so on day after day, excepting Sunday when we go to Church twice. I may say we are allowed a book twice a week and after the first Sunday we had a newspaper so that we were not altogether without news from the outer world.

Now this is the daily routine for the 1st class prisoners. I don’t think the others are allowed anything as well as this. As for food, it is enough to keep a person alive providing they can eat it. Every morning we got a pint of tea and a small loaf of brown bread. Dinner is slightly better as there is a change each day. One day we had haricot beans and potatoes, another day pressed meat and potatoes and another suet pudding and potatoes with brown bread and so on for the 14 days. Tea time we get, a pint of cocoa and a loaf of brown bread.

But oh the long, long nights from 8 o’clock when the electric light is put out until 6 in the morning when it’s turned on again. Lying on a hard mattress until every bone in your body aches and you are only too pleased to see the light again so that you may get on your feet again.

Some of the faces I saw were rather interesting. One in particular that I saw in church set me thinking, ‘what ever could have brought her to prison? She was a girl not more than 16 with, oh, such a sweet face and pathetic eyes. I could not keep my eyes of her every time we went to church. Some had such lovely faces. It was impossible to think they could have committed any crime. Some looked down hearted, but many were quite cheerful.

When we were out for exercise, I saw women put to some fearfully heavy work, such as stoking and pushing trucks about loaded with very heavy looking material and carrying heavy loads of water and provisions. And I saw women pulling garden rollers along, in fact, it seemed, as far as I could find out, that women do all the work for the gardens of the prison specified by them.

One day, whilst at exercise, I saw a number of women with babies in their arms, and, on asking the warders about them, she informed me that they were allowed to have their babies under 12 months, and said that they were well looked after. But, oh, the thought that a young life just born into the world should have to spend its first months of life in prison. It was one more injustice added to our cry for the right to stop some of these horrible things being allowed. For I am quite convinced that a great alteration could be made to our prison lives.

The regulations are very strict, we are not allowed to speak to each other, neither at church or exercise. But of course, we manage a word now and again. The prison itself is beautifully clean, very little wood is used in its construction, so there is not much fear of fire.

Our cells are lit by electricity and a bell is fitted in each cell, but you might ring it 20 times a day and not get it answered, unless it happens that the matron, governor or Chaplin were in the corridor. Many’s the time my heart ached for the poor women that are in hard labour, for it is one long grind from early morning until late at night. I have just had a visit from the Chaplin wishing me God’s speed and good-bye.”

Holloway Jail – February 1907

Alice's Votes For Women sash

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