From the office: A tale of murder plots, miscarriages of justice and Suffragettes

By Deputy Editor, 2 May 2013 - 11:26am

A chance discovery sees deputy editor Claire Vaughan trying to establish family ties with a jailed WW1 female campaigner…

Thursday, 2 May 2013
Claire Vaughan, deputy editor
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It’s a lovely sunny day here today at Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine HQ. Weather aside, I’m feeling very cheerful as I’ve just uncovered something very interesting about a branch of my ancestors.

With the centenary of the death of Emily Davison (following injuries sustained under the hooves of the King’s horse at the Grand National) coming up next month, I am currently working on a feature about Suffragettes. So when I spotted a related story on the BBC History Magazine website, intrigued, I clicked on it.

It was about the honouring with a Blue Plaque of Suffragette Alice Wheeldon, who lived in Derby. A large bell bonged in my head when I read this. My great grandmother was a Wheeldon from that area. Could Alice be a distant relative?

Shopkeeper Alice was accused, along with her daughters, of a plot to murder Prime Minister David Lloyd George in 1917 using poison darts. Anti-war campaigner Alice was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She went on hunger strike and nine months later was released, but died shortly after. Historian Dr Nicholas Hiley, University of Kent, investigated the Government's story and, according to the BBC website, branded the whole thing a travesty. He said: “The truth about Alice Wheeldon deserves to be publicised and the Blue Plaque is the beginning of that. The Wheeldons should be honoured and remembered for the stand they took during the war.”

If you think you might have Suffragettes in your family, there are some great websites to check out. Try the Women’s Library site; Woman and her Sphere; and Tracing Ancestors in the UK. For more details, look out for the feature in the next issue of the magazine.

Although I haven’t been able to work out exactly how Alice and I are related yet (I’m looking forward to an afternoon’s internet research trying to pin it down), I feel proud to have a link – however tenuous – with someone who stood by her principles as she did.

Have you come across any Suffragettes or other women campaigners in your family? If so, I’d love to hear from you

 

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