Clara Mary Lambert (1874-1969) had a remarkable life and was a militant suffragette in her early days. She was the daughter of George and Elizabeth Lambert. She died in 1969, aged 94, in Farncombe where she had lived for the last 18 years with her close friend of 50 years, Miss Violet Louise Croxford. According to Kelly’s Directories for 1953 to 1965/6 they lived in Farncombe. Clara was a regular worshipper at St John’s Church, Farncombe and a member of the Women’s Club.
Clara’s life as a militant suffragette was told to her friend, Miss Croxford, who wrote down her activities. They record that Clara was an associate of Mrs Pankhurst and an original member of the Women’s Social and Political Union formed in 1903. In 1910 she was a member of the Walthamstow Branch. Clara printed the organ of their publication The Suffragette and later Britannia, often having to move the printing press from the house of one sympathiser to another. She is recorded trying to see Asquith at Waterloo Station on his way to a wedding, concealed with a dog whip, but missing him, boarded the train with wedding guests and took a taxi to the house, again missed him, and proceeded to set fire to a haystack. Another time she produced a tomato and threw it at the Public Prosecutor, Mr Archibald Bodkin, was arrested and held until court rose. She entered the House of Commons dressed as a boy, was detected and escorted out. She smashed the windows of the Strand Post Office and windows of adjacent shipping lines offices, having concealed a hammer in her muff, was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment. Clara kept a piece of glass as a souvenir of her time in prison after they used a shoe to break a glass pane to admit fresh air, while prison officers thought it was their own dot and dash tapping on hot water pipes running through the cells. She recalls Black Sunday, 11th November 1910, when there was a confrontation between policemen and suffragettes outside Parliament. Clare used two alias names, Catherine Wilson and May Stewart. The police put out a notice for her arrest after she smashed up valuable exhibits in the British Museum with a meat cleaver.
The 1913 Cat and Mouse Act (C & M) meant suffragettes were released under licence from prison when death from starvation appeared imminent, nursed back to health by friends, and then re-arrested when fit to serve their sentence. Clara was taken to a sympathiser’s house in Holland Park, watched by detectives, but was carried out through the back of the house by friends while detectives watched the house in vain. She was awarded a medal with bars which show she was Fed by Force 1st March 1912 and imprisoned on 28th January 1913, 17th March 1914 C & M, 9th April 1914 C & M.
Clara went on a delegation to the Minister of Food to press for food rationing during the First World War. She joined the first Women’s Police Service (WPS) as it was named in 1915, and was sent to Pembury, South Wales, where she was engaged on welfare work among girl munitions workers, and is pictured in her WPS dark-blue uniform. It was while with the WPS that she met her friend Violet Louise Croxford. After the war she was appointed to Revd. Dick Sheppard’s Society and was successful in helping with rescue and preventative work among girls in the west end of London. Clara and Violet set up a refuge for unfortunate ladies in 1926 in a boarding house in Hythe, Kent, and when they retired in 1953 they moved to Farncombe, Surrey.
The photographs below show of Clara’s citation, three bars with the dates of her imprisonment.
Clara was awarded a medal with three bars giving the dates of her imprisonments:
JANUARY 28TH 1913
MARCH 17TH 1914 C & M
APRIL 9TH 1914 C&M
On the back of the medal:
And inscribed on the bottom bar
FED BY FORCE 1/3/12
Clara’s citation reads:
BY THE WOMEN’S SOCIAL AND POLITICAL UNION
IN RECOGNITION OF A GALLANT ACTION,
WHEREBY THROUGH ENDURANCE
TO THE LAST EXTREMITY
OF HUNGER AND HARDSHIP
A GREAT PRINCIPLE OF POLITICAL JUSTICE
Miss Croxford's notes
Godalming Museum © 2015