Charlotte Marsh

Charlotte "Charlie" Augusta Leopoldine Marsh (1887–1961) was a militant British suffragette. She was a paid organiser of the Women's Social and Political Union and is one of the first women to be force fed during one of several terms of imprisonment for militant protest. She was chauffeur to David Lloyd George.

Charlotte Marsh
Charlotte Marsh
Charlotte Marsh in 1911
Charlotte Augusta Leopoldine Marsh

Died1961 (aged 73–74)
Occupationsuffrage organiser and activist
Years active1908–
Known forOrganising suffrage demonstrations


Marsh was born in 1887 in Newcastle. Her father, Arthur Hardwick Marsh, was a noted watercolourist.[1] She was educated locally at St Margaret's School and then at Roseneath in Wrexham before completing her education in Bordeaux.[2]

Marsh is shown here planting a tree at Eagle House witnessed by Annie Kenney, Mary Blathwayt and Laura Ainsworth

In 1907 she joined the Women's Social and Political Union, but did not become active. It is thought that her training as a sanitary inspector opened her eyes to the plight of women.[2] Marsh became a full-time organiser for the WSPU.[3] She helped Mary Philips in pavement chalking in Lambeth, whom Philips noted 'gamely stood the jeering and rough handling' the women got in the process.[4] She was also seen on parade which was considered less likely to attract violence, with Dora Spong with Dorothy Hartopp Radcliffe, Hilda Dallas handing out Votes for Women, and publicising with a placard the Women's Parliament on 30 June 1908.[5] Then on 30 June 1908 she was arrested with Elsie Howey and imprisoned in Holloway for a month on charges of obstructing the police. She was also seen on parade with Dora Spong with Dorothy Hartopp Radcliffe, Hilda Dallas with a placard promoting the Women's Parliament on 30 June 1908.[5]

On 17 September 1909 Marsh, Mary Leigh and Patricia Woodlock [4] climbed onto the roof of Bingley Hall in Birmingham to protest at being excluded from a political meeting where the British Prime Minister Asquith was giving a speech. They threw roof tiles which they levered up with an axe at the Asquith's car and at the police. She was sent to trial and then on to Winson Green Prison. In protest about not being treated as a political prisoner they went on hunger strike.[6] Marsh, Leigh and Woodlock became two of the first suffragette hunger strikers to be forcibly fed.[3][7]

Marsh was invited as a leading suffragette to Eagle House in Batheaston in April 1911. This was the home of Mary Blathwayt and her parents and they invited leading suffragettes to plant trees. Colonel Blathwayt would take a photo and a plaque was made to record the event. Marsh planted Picea Polita. Mary's mother, Evelyn Blathwayt, recorded that Marsh was not eating meat but seemed to have recovered from her imprisonment.[2]

Procession of Suffragettes on The Strand on 30 June 1908. The Suffragettes are (left to right) Dorothy Hartopp Radcliffe, Dora Spong who appears to be holding a pile of Votes for Women newspapers, Hilda Dallas and Charlotte Marsh carrying the placard

Marsh had been given a Hunger Strike Medal 'for Valour' by WSPU.

During World War I she worked as a mechanic and chauffeur for Lloyd George, whilst continuing her activism. Lloyd George was aware of her background but he wanted to make a political bridge to those wanting suffrage. Moreover, he wanted to employ a woman as he was campaigning for women to join the workforce to replace then men who were in the armed forces. George drove his car but also served as its mechanic. Marsh also worked for the Land Army.[8]

By 1916, Marsh was frustrated with the WSPU's refusal to campaign on suffrage issues during the war. She founded the breakaway Independent Women's Social and Political Union to continue the campaign, publishing Independent Suffragette.[9]

After the war she worked for the WILPF peace movement and then as a social worker in San Francisco. She returned to London where she returned to her expertise in public health working for London County Council.[1] She was involved with Edith How-Martyn in setting up the collection of the Suffragette Fellowship documenting the movement.[10] In 1952, she was gave a speech at the inaugural meeting of the National Assembly of Women and presented a declaration of women's solidarity for equality and peace.[11]

Marsh died in 1961.[2]


  1. ^ a b Krista Cowman (15 July 2007). Women of the Right Spirit: Paid Organisers of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), 1904-18. Manchester University Press. pp. 228–. ISBN 978-0-7190-7002-0.
  2. ^ a b c d "Charlotte Marsh". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b "The Suffragette Organiser Charlotte Marsh: 1909, National Women's Social and Political Union". Museum of London Prints. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b Atkinson, Diane (2018). Rise up, women! : the remarkable lives of the suffragettes. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781408844045. OCLC 1016848621.
  5. ^ a b "Poster Parade of Suffragettes". Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  6. ^ Myall, M. (2004-09-23). Leigh [née Brown], Mary [Marie] (b. 1885, d. in or after 1965), militant suffragette. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 1 December 2017
  7. ^ The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928
  8. ^ David Lloyd George’s suffragette chauffeur
  9. ^ Smith, Harold L. (2009). The British Women's Suffrage Campaign 1866-1928. Routledge. p. 80. ISBN 978-1408228234.
  10. ^ "Museum of London | Free museum in London". Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  11. ^ Tebbs, Betty. A Short History of the National Assembly of Women. Manchester, UK: National Assembly of Women, 1993.