Florence Eliza Haig, the third daughter of Helen Fell Haig (1821-1876) and James Haig (1813-1891) was born on 17th April 1855 in Marylebone, London. Her father had been born in County Galway, Ireland, and had studied Law at Dublin University, but after he married the Scottish-born daughter of Janet and Captain Michael Edwin Fell, an army officer, in Edinburgh in 1848, he had made his home in Scotland. As a Barrister-at-Law at London's Lincoln's Inn, James Haig also maintained a home in London. (1)
Florence was the sister of Cecilia Haig and Evelyn Haig, and the cousin of Margaret Haig Thomas. (2) She was also the cousin of Douglas Haig who during the First World War would be promoted to the rank of Field Marshall and commander in chief of the British Expeditionary Force. (3) It was also claimed that Henry Orator Hunt, who was imprisoned for 18 months for supporting universal suffrage at the Peterloo Massacre in 1819 was her grand-uncle. (4)
Florence Haig: Artist and WSPU
In 1871, 15-year-old Florence Eliza Haig, alongside her parents and siblings, was staying with her Great Aunt, Margaret Haig, at 16 Lansdowne Crescent, Edinburgh, Scotland. (5) When the next census was taken 10 years later, Florence, now 25, she was living at 7 Merchiston Avenue, Edinburgh, with her father, James Haig, described as a 68-year-old "barrister-at-law, retired", and two of her sisters, Helen Haig, aged 24, and Cecilia Haig, aged 20. No occupations are given for the three young women. (6)
Florence Haig was an artist and she began exhibiting her paintings in 1886. (7) A supporter of women's suffrage, she donated £1 to the London Society for Women's Suffrage in 1901. She was a member of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies but in 1907 she joined the Women Social & Political Union and along with her sisters, Cecilia Haig and Evelyn Haig, established a branch in Edinburgh. (8)
At the time of the 1901 Census, Florence Haig was staying at the home of her uncle, George Augustus Haig, an 80-year-old widower, in Llanbadarn Fynydd, a village in Radnorshire, Powys, Wales. (9)
In March 1906 Florence Haig exhibited with 12 other women artists, at the Dore Gallery. She had a studio in Chelsea, at 4 Trafalgar Studios and was a neighbour of Dora Meeson Coates who described her as "hospitable and sincere, like the true Scotswoman she is, and George Coates had good admiration for her good portraiture. He said she could paint a better portrait than a great many men, which was high praise in those days, when there were not so many fine artists." (10)
On the 30th June, 1908, she was selected to be a member of a deputation led by Emmeline Pankhurst from Caxton Hall, taking a resolution to the House of Commons demanding an immediate effective measure to give votes to women. During the procession several women were arrested. This included Florence Haig, Mary Postlethwaite, Maud Joachim, Florence Haig, Marion Wallace-Dunlop, Mary Phillips, Jessie Kenney, Elsie Howey, Edith New, Mary Leigh, and Vera Wentworth. (11)
On 1st July, 1908, the women appeared in court. Mr Muskett, who appeared for the Metropolitan Police, said that there was really nothing new to be said in regard to these cases."Many ladies in the Union came there with the intention of being arrested." (12) Florence Haig said: "Mr. Asquith has shown us that peaceful demonstrations are useless." (13)
Mary Phillips argued that: "The government has forced women to adopt these tactics, and the Government is responsible for them." Elsie Howey said, "I don't think I obstructed the police, the police obstructed me." Had also a previous conviction. She had to said to a constable, "I am so glad you arrested me; I wanted to be arrested." Florence Haig was ordered to find a £20 surely or go to prison for a month. (14)
Zoe Proctor, a fellow prisoner, commented: "Miss Haig, whose hair nearly reached her ankles told me she had been given a small comb for use (in prison) which was of cause inadequate." (15) When she came out of prison she argued: "It is wonderful how each woman who acts influences her own circle. Friends who before may have been but mildly in favour, are converted into active and eager workers for the cause. Coming out is so delightful that the stupidity at the time in Holloway is forgotten." (16)
In 1909 Florence Haig spoke at Women Social & Political Union (WSPU) meetings. In 1910 she was the WSPU organiser in Chelsea. Elizabeth Crawford, believes that she was involved with Edith Downing and Marion Wallace-Dunlop with the preparations for the 18th June 1910 joint WSPU and the Women's Freedom League, "Prison to Citizenship" procession through London. (17)
The Conciliation Bill
The Conciliation Bill was designed to conciliate the suffragist movement by giving a limited number of women the vote, according to their property holdings and marital status. After a two-day debate in July 1910, the Conciliation Bill was carried by 109 votes and it was agreed to send it away to be amended by a House of Commons committee. However, when Keir Hardie, the leader of the Labour Party, requested two hours to discuss the Conciliation Bill, H. H. Asquith made it clear that he intended to shelve it. (18)
Emmeline Pankhurst was furious at what she saw as Asquith's betrayal and on 18th November, 1910, arranged to lead 300 women from a pre-arranged meeting at the Caxton Hall to the House of Commons. Pankhurst and a small group of WSPU members, were allowed into the building but Asquith refused to see them. Women, in "detachments of twelve" marched forward but were attacked by the police. (19)
Votes for Women reported that 159 women and three men were arrested during this demonstration. (20) This included Florence's sister Cecilia Haig, Ada Wright, Catherine Marshall, Eveline Haverfield, Anne Cobden Sanderson, Mary Leigh, Vera Holme, Louisa Garrett Anderson, Kitty Marion, Gladys Evans, Maud Arncliffe Sennett, Clara Giveen, Eileen Casey, Patricia Woodcock, Vera Wentworth, Mary Clarke, Lilian Dove-Wilcox, Minnie Turner, Lucy Burns, Grace Roe and Henria Williams. (21)
Sylvia Pankhurst later described what happened on what became known as Black Friday: "As, one after the other, small deputations of twelve women appeared in sight they were set upon by the police and hurled aside. Mrs Cobden Sanderson, who had been in the first deputation, was rudely seized and pressed against the wall by the police, who held her there by both arms for a considerable time, sneering and jeering at her meanwhile.... Just as this had been done, I saw Miss Ada Wright close to the entrance. Several police seized her, lifted her from the ground and flung her back into the crowd. A moment afterwards she appeared again, and I saw her running as fast as she could towards the House of Commons. A policeman struck her with all his force and she fell to the ground. For a moment there was a group of struggling men round the place where she lay, then she rose up, only to be flung down again immediately. Then a tall, grey-headed man with a silk hat was seen fighting to protect her; but three or four police seized hold of him and bundled him away. Then again, I saw Miss Ada Wright's tall, grey-clad figure, but over and over again she was flung to the ground, how often I cannot say. It was a painful and degrading sight. At last, she was lying against the wall of the House of Lords, close to the Strangers' Entrance, and a number of women, with pale and distressed faces were kneeling down round her. She was in a state of collapse." (22)
Several women reported that the police dragged women down the side streets. "We knew this always meant greater ill-usage.... The police snatched the flags, tore them to shreds, and smashed the sticks, struck the women with fists and knees, knocked them down, some even kicked them, then dragged them up, carried them a few paces and flung them into the crowd of sightseers." (23)
Death of Cecilia Haig
Cecilia Haig was one of those who received a beating from the police. As the Votes for Women pointed out: "Miss Haig was entirely unaware of the presence of any illness, and, indeed, felt quite well. But on Black Friday, she was not only subjected to assault of a most disgraceful kind, but was also trampled upon." Florence Haig nursed her but she died on 31st November 1911. (24)
Sylvia Pankhurst claimed that she died because of the beatings they endured that day. "I saw Celilia Haig go out with the rest; a tall, strongly built, reserved woman, comfortably situated, who in ordinary circumstances might have gone through life without receiving an insult, much less a blow. She was assaulted with violence and indecency, and died in December 1911, after a painful illness, arising from her injuries." (25)
Soon after her sister's death Florence Haig took part with her cousin Janet Haig Boyd in a mass window breaking campaign in London's Oxford Street. Haig and Boyd were found guilty of breaking two windows at the premises of D. H. Evans and Company. causing damage of £66. Boyd, having been previously convicted, was sentenced to six months. Florence Haig, refused to be bound over because she "should feel like a soldier deserting in the middle of a battle, received a sentence of four months". (26) Florence went on hunger-strike and was released early from her sentence without being force-fed. (27)
East London Federation of Suffragettes
Sylvia Pankhurst grew increasingly unhappy about the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) decision to abandon its earlier commitment to socialism. She also rejected the WSPU attempts to gain middle class support by arguing in favour of a limited franchise. (28) Florence Haig agreed with Pankhurst and in 1913, she joined the East London Federation of Suffragettes (29). An organisation that combined socialism with a demand for women's suffrage it worked closely with the Independent Labour Party. Pankhurst also began production of a weekly paper for working-class women called The Women's Dreadnought. (30)
As June Hannam has pointed out: "The ELF was successful in gaining support from working women and also from dock workers. The ELF organized suffrage demonstrations and its members carried out acts of militancy. Between February 1913 and August 1914 Sylvia was arrested eight times. After the passing of the Prisoners' Temporary Discharge for Ill Health Act of 1913 (known as the Cat and Mouse Act) she was frequently released for short periods to recuperate from hunger striking and was carried on a stretcher by supporters in the East End so that she could attend meetings and processions. When the police came to re-arrest her this usually led to fights with members of the community which encouraged Sylvia to organize a people's army to defend suffragettes and dock workers. She also drew on East End traditions by calling for rent strikes to support the demand for the vote." (31)
Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst objected to the formation of the East London Federation of Suffragettes. Christabel also complained about ELF's close links with the Labour Party and the trade union movement. She especially objected to her attending meetings addressed by George Lansbury and James Larkin and her friendship with Keir Hardie and Henry Harben. In view of all this, Christabel concluded, Sylvia's East London suffragettes had to become an entirely separate organization, having proven their inability to operate in compliance with WSPU policy. (32) Emmeline Pankhurst wrote to Sylvia: "You are unreasonable, always have been, and I fear always will be." On 29th January 1914, Christabel expelled Sylvia from the WSPU. (33)
First World War
Florence Haig remained in the WSPU and agreed with its approach to the First World War. For example, Christabel Pankhurst wrote an article in The Suffragette where she argued: "A man-made civilisation, hideous and cruel enough in time of peace, is to be destroyed... This great war is nature's vengeance - is God's vengeance upon the people who held women in subjection... that which has made men for generations past sacrifice women and the race to their lusts, is now making them fly at each other's throats and bring ruin upon the world... Women may well stand aghast at the ruin by which the civilisation of the white races in the Eastern Hemisphere is confronted. This then, is the climax that the male system of diplomacy and government has reached." (34)
The WSPU carried out secret negotiations with the government and on the 10th August the government announced it was releasing all suffragettes from prison. In return, the WSPU agreed to end their militant activities and help the war effort. Christabel Pankhurst, arrived back in England after living in exile in Paris. (35) Pankhurst told the press: "I feel that my duty lies in England now, and I have come back. The British citizenship for which we suffragettes have been fighting is now in jeopardy." (36) In another interview she stated: "We suffragists... do not feel that Great Britain is in any sense decadent. On the contrary, we are tremendously conscious of strength and freshness." (37)
After receiving a £2,000 grant from the government, the WSPU organised a demonstration in London. Members carried banners with slogans such as "We Demand the Right to Serve", "For Men Must Fight and Women Must Work" and "Let None Be Kaiser's Cat's Paws". At the meeting, attended by 30,000 people, Emmeline Pankhurst called on trade unions to let women work in those industries traditionally dominated by men. She told the audience: "What would be the good of a vote without a country to vote in!". (38)
On 14th June 1928, Emmeline Pankhurst, aged 69, died in a nursing home in Hampstead. Four days later her funeral procession was likened to "a dead general in the midst of a mourning army." (39) More than a thousand women wearing purple, green and white processed to the graveyard. (40) Florence Haig was chosen as one of the pallbearers. (41)
Florence Haig continued to paint and continued exhibiting until at least 1929. in 1934 she joined the Society of Women Artists. At the time of the 1939 National Register, 84 year-old Florence Eliza Haig was residing with 82-year-old Sybil Margaret Rhondda, at Llanwern Park, Magor and St Mellons, Monmouthshire, Wales. (42)
Florence Haig lived with her sister, Evelyn Haig, in Maida Vale London and died aged 97 on 20th November 1952 at 7 Westover Road, Wandsworth Common, London SW18. Florence Haig left effects valued at £10,742. 14s. 3d. (43)
(1) Sheffield Daily Telegraph (2nd July 1908)
Mr Muskett, who appeared for the Metropolitan Police, said that there was really nothing new to be said in regard to these cases. It had come to the notice of the Commissioner of Police that the Women's Social and Political Union had arranged for a large demonstration of their supporters to be held in Parliament Square last night. He administered a caution to the ladies of the Union, but that warning, which was given in the interests of the public, was disregarded. Many ladies in the Union came there with the intention of being arrested, and six of those who were actually taken in charge formed part of the deputation…
Mary Phillips then entered the dock, and Superintendent Wells, giving general evidence on the subject of the scene in the square, said it was absolutely necessary to call out the mounted police…
Miss Phillips then entered the dock, and Superintendent Wells, giving general evidence on the subject of the scene in the square, said it was absolutely necessary to call out the mounted police…
Miss Phillips, who was stated to have run into the Palace Yard, said: "The government has forced women to adopt these tactics, and the Government is responsible for them."
Rose Neville Howey, who said, "I don't think I obstructed the police, the police obstructed me." Had also a previous conviction. She had to said to a constable, "I am so glad you arrested me; I wanted to be arrested." She was ordered to find two sureties of £25 each, or go to prison for three months.
Jessie Kenney, who was said to have driven up in a hansom and began to give an address, was ordered to find a £20 surely or go to prison for a month.
Mary Postlethwaite, who was stated to have been a member of the afternoon deputation, was similarly dealt with.
(2) Votes for Women (9th July 1908)
As a consequence of the proceedings of Tuesday, June 30, described in our last issue, twenty-seven of the defendants appeared before Mr Francis at the Westminster Police Court, all charged with obstructing the police in the execution of their duty….
Mary Garth, 21, was found trying to force her way to the gates of the House of Commons, and refused to go away. She was ordered to find a surety in £20 for twelve months good behaviour, or be imprisoned for one month – second division.
Rose Elsie Nellie Howey, 23, said that, in reality, the police obstructed her. Having appeared before, she was ordered to find two sureties in £25, or go to prison for three months.
Jessie Kenney, 21, Mary Emily Postlethwaite, 33, and Constance Bray, 31, were ordered to find two sureties in £25, or go to prison for one month.
Florence Haig said: "Mr. Asquith has shown us that peaceful demonstrations are useless."
Having appeared before, she was ordered to find two sureties in £25 each, or go to goal for three months.
(3) Votes for Women (25th November 1910)
Miss Cecilia Wolsey Haig of Edinburgh is a member of a well-known Berwickshire family, and spent many years doing social work. Her parents were both in favour of Women's Suffrage, and a grand-uncle of hers suffered eighteen months' imprisonment in 1819 for a speech in favour of suffrage reform. She has helped indefatigably in election work. The two imprisonments of her sister, Miss Florence Haig, made her see that if all helped the end would be won.
Miss Evelyn Cotton Haig, daughter of James Haig, daughter James Haig, barrister-in-law, is an artist, studied in Edinburgh and Paris, and has exhibited in the Paris Salos, Royal Academy, and elsewhere. She was brought into the movement through her sister, Miss Florence Haig. She has done a great deal of by-election and other voluntary work for the Union. She and her sister were among the five women who originally started the Scottish WSPU in Edinburgh in 1908.
(4) Votes for Women (5th January 1912)
Another name has been added to the roll of those who have been given their lives for the cause of women's emancipation – Miss Cecilia Wolseley Haig, after a year's painful illness brought on in consequence of the terrible treatment to which she was subjected on Black Friday, passed from this life on Sunday last – when she went on the Deputation, on November 18, 1910, Miss Haig was entirely unaware of the presence of any illness, and, indeed, felt quite well. But on Black Friday, she was not only subjected to assault of a most disgraceful kind, but was also trampled upon.
Although Miss Haig was perhaps better known in Edinburgh, where she and her sisters worked unremittingly for the cause from the time of the imprisonment of their sister, Miss Florence Haig, the influence of her life extends far beyond any boundaries of place and time, and the thought that will be in the minds of all members of the WSPU today will be: How long are such sacrifices to be demanded. Her sympathies went out specially to helpless young girls. Shortly before her death she asked: "Who will take care of the unprotected girls."
The sympathies of all will be with Miss Florence Haig who nursed her sister with devoted care, and with other members of the family. The funeral took place at Highgate Cemetery on Wednesday.
(5) Votes for Women (5th April 1912)
Mrs Janet Augusta Boyd and Miss Florence Elisa Haig were indicted for breaking two windows each at the premises of D. H. Evans and Co., damage £66. Miss Boyd, having been previously convicted, was sentenced to six months. Miss Haig, who said that if bound over she should feel like a soldier deserting in the middle of a battle, received a sentence of four months.
(6) David Simkin, Family History Research (25th June, 2020)
Florence Eliza Haig (1855–1952). Born 17th April 1855 in Marylebone, London. Died unmarried. Worked as an artist. Exhibited her work between 1886 and 1929.
At the time of the 1871 and 1881 Census, Florence Eliza Haig was living in Scotland. In 1871, 15-year-old Florence Eliza Haig, alongside her parents and siblings, was staying with her Great Aunt, Margaret Haig, at 16 Lansdowne Crescent, Edinburgh, Scotland. When the next census was taken 10 years later, Florence, now 25, she was living at 7 Merchiston Avenue, Edinburgh, with her father, James Haig, described as a 68-year-old "barrister-at-law, retired", and two of her sisters, Helen Haig, aged 24, and Cecilia Haig, aged 20. No occupations are given for the three young women.
At the time of the 1901 Census, Florence Eliza Haig was staying at the home of her uncle in Llanbadarn Fynydd, a village in Radnorshire, Powys, Wales. On the census return her uncle, George Augustus Haig, is described as an 80-year-old widower, a former employer now "Living on own means". Forty-five year old Florence Eliza Haig gives her profession or occupation as "Artist".
According to the electoral rolls, between 1915 and 1927, Florence Eliza Haig was living at 4 Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, near the King's Road, Chelsea, London, SW3. A number of artists rented studios in Manresa Road during this period e.g. the sculptor Frank Dobson, the maritime painter Ernest Dade, and Nelson Dawson, a member of the Arts and Crafts movement.
At the time of the 1939 General Register, 84 year-old Florence Eliza Haig was residing with 82-year-old Sybil Margaret Rhondda, another veteran suffragette at Llanwern Park, Magor and St Mellons, Monmouthshire, Wales. According to the General Register, both women were living on "Private Means".
Sybil Margaret Thomas, Viscountess Rhondda was born Sybil Margaret Haig, the daughter of George Augustus Haig, the merchant and landowner from Radnorshire, Wales, with whom Florence was staying in 1901. George Augustus Haig (1820-1906) was the younger brother of Florence's father, James Craig, (i.e. Florence's uncle. Sybil and Florence were cousins).
The Probate Calendar and Index of Wills reports that Florence Eliza Haig of 21 West Side, Clapham Common,
London SW4 died on 20th November 1952 at 7 Westover Road, Wandsworth Common, London SW18.
Florence Eliza Haig left effects valued at £10,742. 14s. 3d.
Florence Eliza Haig was 97 years old at the time of her death.