• March of the Women

Kate Harvey (1862-1946)

Women’s Freedom League, Votes for Women badge
(The Women’s Library collection, LSE Library).

Felicia Catherine Glanvill, known as Kate, was born in Peckham in 1862. At some point in her youth she lost her hearing, probably due to illness but after she had learnt to speak. She married Frank Harvey, a cotton merchant, on the 12 November 1890, in Cuddapah, Madras, India. They are recorded in the 1901 census as living in Croydon, with their two daughters Marjorie and Phyllis. A third daughter, Rita, was born a year later in 1902. Tragically Frank died in 1905, leaving Kate with their three daughters but with a healthy pension supplying a governess for the children and four servants.

After Frank’s death Kate set up a home for handicapped children in Bromley and it was through this project that she met Charlotte Despard. Charlotte was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) but was becoming alienated by the radical suggestions of leaders Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter, Christabel. In 1907 Charlotte and several other WSPU members left the group forming a new branch of the movement called the Women’s Freedom League (WFL). It is not known if Kate was a member of the WSPU prior to 1907 but she joined the WFL that year.

Women’s Freedom League back of leaflet for meeting on 19 February 1909 with ‘Proclamation’
(The Women’s Library collection, LSE Library).

The WFL were a militant, non-violent group that aimed to get the government’s attention to the suffrage cause though tactics such as tax evasion. In 1909 Charlotte urged WFL members to avoid the newly introduced National Insurance (NI) tax on servant wages. Around 10,000 women, not only suffragettes, boycotted this tax for varying reasons, and about 100 of them went to prison.

In 1912 Kate had avoided paying the tax for several months when a warrant was issued for the seizure of goods to be sold to pay the amount she owed. Not one to give up easily, Kate barricaded herself inside her house, it was several months before police broke in with a crow-bar. The Suffragette reported on this incident in November 1912.

A year late, still refusing to pay NI tax on her servant (named Asquith), Kate improved her barricades, so that this time a battering ram was required by the police to gain access to the property. She was arrested twice in August 1913 and sent to prison for two months. In October 1913 The Suffragette reported that the Home Office refused Kate access to a homeopathic doctor while in Holloway Prison; however, she was released a month early due to health issues.

At the outbreak of the First World War the WFL refused to call off their suffrage action and instead supported the Women’s Peace Council. Kate’s children’s home was renamed Brackenhill Theosophical Home School and it offered a vegetarian diet, self-government and a Montessori Department.

Kate died at the age of 75 in Hartfield, East Sussex, in 1946. In November 2005 her WSPU prison medal sold at auction for £840.

Contributed by Holly Parsons, ‘The March of the Women’ Project Officer.


Coverage of the sale of Kate Harvey’s Holloway Prison medal at auction
UCL’s blog about Kate Harvey
For Kate Harvey’s marriage entry, see the India Select marriages, 1792-1948, on Ancestry.co.uk

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