It is always difficult to talk about yourself, and especially to tell the story of your whole life. In the current circumstances, this is especially difficult to do, my mind is clouded with hunger, and the pain from the beatings makes it difficult to concentrate. But I will try because I am part of a unique generation and my voice must be heard.
I remember my childhood very badly, my first childhood memory is how I heard that my mother was screaming and crying, and when I entered the room that she shared with my father, I saw her huddled in a corner from fear and a drunken father with a palm clenched into a fist. Noticing me, my mother immediately changed her face, she tried to smile and said: “Cassie, baby, go to bed, everything is fine.”
My parents and I lived on our farm in England, not far from a small town. My family survived thanks to our farm, my father sold meat, milk, eggs, and wool, and my mother worked with him on the farm, sometimes mending clothes for other workers, having very little income from this. My father has always been a gloomy and strict person, if not cruel, my mother is his complete opposite, gentle, affectionate, and truly loving. She cared about me, tried to protect me from my father’s cruelty. Looking at their relationship with my father, I could not come to terms with the fact that such a life awaits me too because from childhood I was prepared for the fact that one day I would marry and become a good housewife and loving wife, then I will have a strong family and I will find real female happiness. Is it a woman’s happiness to be beaten and live in fear of her husband? I could not ask my mother this question, so I pretended that I dreamed of marriage, and in my soul, I was shaking with horror from just the thought of marriage.
While we lived on a farm, like beetles in amber, fenced off from the whole world by our tiny town, the world around us was changing, and soon these changes took us by surprise. One day, Tony, our farmworker, brought my father a newspaper with the news that new factories were opening in England for the production of fabrics, clothes, and even food. “What nonsense!” – answered my father, spitting at his feet. – “Who will sell all this? Who should buy it? ” But buyers and sellers were found. Soon the first shop with factory clothes was opened in the town next to our farm. People were delighted, a huge assortment, and even very cheap. And over time, fewer and fewer people from the city started coming to the farm for food. My father could not find an explanation for this and decided to go to the city, find out what was happening there, and when he returned, he was so angry that I decided to get out and spent the whole night in the barn. In the morning I found out that a new store had opened in the city, cheap factory products were sold there, so there was no need for people to come to the farm anymore. Our farm no longer brought in income, my father did not know what to do with himself, because this was the business of his entire family, the farm was passed down from generation to generation, and apart from working on it, my father did not know how to do anything else. Out of anger and resentment, my father began to drink even more, literally every day, and the drunk beat my mother, and sometimes I got it too. A few months later, my mother fell seriously ill and died, because we no longer had the money for doctors and medicines, and we could not live by subsistence farming. The father dismissed all the workers, buried his mother, sold the farm for a pittance to some entrepreneur who planned to build a holiday home in its place. Together with me, my father decided to move to Birmingham. The money from the sale of the farm was enough only for a small apartment in the slums of the city. Somehow my father managed to get a job at a factory, one of those that took away his earnings and his usual way of life.
A couple of years later, I also got a job at a factory, my father’s aggression grew every day, he regularly drank and beat me. A plan was needed to get away from him, to get out of these slums. The factory paid little, an average of 10 shillings a week. This money was sorely lacking. Many women did not like this, because men received much more for the same job. However, everyone was silent because they were afraid to lose even these tiny crumbs of income. Once walking near one of the factories, I saw a woman shouting “A woman has the right to climb the scaffold; she should also have the right to enter the podium. ” A few minutes later, the police came up to her, took her by the arms, and took her away. Subsequently, more and more often I began to notice disgruntled women around, they shouted in the streets, smashed shop windows, came out with posters. Quite by chance, I met one of these women. Ellen proudly called herself a suffragist and belonged to the movement of women trying to achieve their rights, including economic ones. By that time, I had nothing to lose, so I joined them. Initially, I thought that this was a bunch of desperate women who did not achieve anything and now walk, scream, resentful to the whole world because of their failures. But the more I talked to them, the more I realized what brave and smart people they were. Especially, Ellen, she spoke so captivatingly and convincingly that it was impossible not to believe her. In the end, she convinced me to run away from my father’s apartment and live with her, as well as become a full-fledged member of the suffragette movement. Ellen called me to one of the marches, I agreed. So, I became a real suffragette, went to marches, painted posters, helped rejected and unhappy women. I finally saw a different future. A future without fears about mandatory marriage, a future that I will build myself. Once I blamed industrialization for taking my ordinary life, my native farm, and all my plans from me, later I realized that it gave me freedom from family traditions and foundations, only this freedom was limited by our world, the world where men rule. The fight against the social order, the fight against the male world gave me strength, gave me faith in a better future. I imagined how I could earn decent money by doing honest work, acquire a small apartment in a good area and never again depend on anyone: neither my father nor my husband. One way or another, my dreams were not destined to come true.
On one of the marches, the police detained me, like Ellen and many others. The authorities are tired of our attacks, and they decided to stop our small movement before it grew to a large scale. And here I am, I and the other suffragettes are being held here as political prisoners, but nobody cares. As soon as I got here, I immediately went on a hunger strike, I have not eaten for three days. In response to this morning, the police came to the cell, there were two of them: one put his hands behind my back, breaking my fingers in parallel, and the second hit me in the stomach, legs, and face. The feeling that I had broken ribs and twisted knees, no one called the doctor, and was not going to. Strength is less and less, writing with broken fingers is real torture. On this, I will end my confession, dear reader. (Will this message reach someone or will it remain in this cell, I’m afraid I will never know.
Cassie died from the beatings at the police station and was found dead the next morning.
A huge number of suffragettes were repressed and imprisoned as political prisoners. Many of them went on hunger strikes and were also harassed by the police. All these women sacrificed themselves for the future of other women, for their right to choose and build their lives in a world free from discrimination and prejudice. And although the suffragettes fought for their country, their movement had an impact on other countries, including the USSR. Thus, Alexandra Kollontai, a member of the interim government, relying on the experience of Western colleagues, achieved for Soviet women the rights to work, property, abortion, and the opportunity to participate in the political life of the country. The contribution of suffragettes to modern progressive society will never be forgotten.