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Maud Arncliffe Sennett

John Simkin

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In January 1906 Maud Arncliffe Sennett read a letter from Millicent Fawcett about women's suffrage in The Times. As a result she joined the London Society for Women's Suffrage. Soon after she became a member of the Hampstead branch of the Women Social & Political Union (WSPU). According to her biographer "her experience as an actress made her a most effective speaker".

In June 1908 Sennett resigned from the WSPU. She now joined the Women's Freedom League and later became a member of its national executive. In her autobiography she commented on the WFL's two leaders, Teresa Billington-Greig and Charlotte Despard: "Billington-Greig was brilliant, but, I think, weak secretary who held the fort for the absent leader and kept grip of the machine. Mrs Despard, the popular reformer, did not organise; she was president and a sort of flaming torch that toured London and the country." Maud Arncliffe Sennett resigned from the WFL in July 1910.

Sennett was also active in the the Actresses' Franchise League. In her autobiography she claims that "there was more peace and harmony among these gracious women, and more generosity of mind and less jealousy than one had seen in the other groups." She also gave donations to the Men's League For Women's Suffrage.

In November 1911 she was arrested for breaking a window in the office of The Daily Mail. In court she explained it was a protest against the paper's policy of ignoring the fund-raising success of the WSPU. She added: "I broke the windows of the Daily Mail as a protest against the corruption of the Press for withholding, with malice aforethought, the truth about the suffrage movement from the great British public. I am an employee of male labour, and the men who earn their living through the power of my poor brain, the men whose children I pay to educate, whose members of Parliament I pay for, and to whose old-age pensions I contribute - these are allowed a vote, while I am voteless." Her subsequent fine was paid by Lord Northcliffe, the owner of the newspaper.

Despite no longer being a member, Maud Arncliffe Sennett, continued to give money to the Women Social & Political Union until it started its arson campaign. In June 1913 she also gave £100 to The Daily Herald. Later that month she resigned from the Actresses' Franchise League. In 1914 she joined the United Suffragists.


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