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Vera Louise Holme, also known as Vera 'Jack' Holme, (1881–1969)[1] was a British actress and a suffragette.[1][2] She was known as the Pankhursts' chauffeur.

"Jack" Holme
Vera "Jack" Holme as WSPU Chauffeur, c. 1910 (cropped).jpg
Vera "Jack" Holme as WSPU chauffeur
Born
Vera Louise Holme

29 August 1881
Birkdale, England, UK
Died1 January 1969
Glasgow, Scotland, UK
NationalityBritish
OccupationActress, activist, chauffeur, administrator
Known forCross dressing and being "the Pankhursts' chauffeur"

LifeEdit

Holme was born in Birkdale in Lancashire on 29 August 1881. Her parents were Richard and Mary Holme. Little is known of her early life but she may have been to school in France. She was able to sing, act, ride horses and to play the violin. She became an actress[1], and in 1906-1907 and 1908-1909 she was a member of the women's chorus in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's Gilbert and Sullivan London Repertory Seasons at the Savoy Theatre in London.[3] By 1908 she had joined the Actresses' Franchise League,[1] and became involved in the militant suffrage campaigning group the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). One notable escapade was when she hid in the large organ of a public hall in Bristol.[4] Holme waited there overnight with Elsie Howie their objective of shouting "Votes for Women" at a political address by a Liberal MP the next day.[1]

 
A 1909 photograph recording Holme planting a tree with Mary Blathwayt, Jessie Kenney and Annie Kenney

In 1909 Holme was invited to Mary Blathwayt's home at Batheaston where the leading suffragettes met. Significant visitors were asked to plant a tree to record their achievements on behalf of the cause e.g. a prison sentence.[5] In 1911 she was arrested for stone throwing and imprisoned in Holloway Prison.[1]

During these years she was best known as the Pankhursts' chauffeur.[1]

 
Vera "Jack" Holme and Dorothy Johnstone

Upon the outbreak of war in 1914 Holme joined Evelina Haverfield's Women's Volunteer Reserve, and went on to join the Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH) as part of their transport unit.[1] She was Haverfield's partner and she was appointed a major.[6] She was based in Serbia and Russia. Holme was imprisoned again; this time she spent some months as a prisoner of war in Austria.[1] In 1917 she was sent back to England to carry a personal message from Dr Elsie Inglis to Lord Derby, the Secretary of State for War.[7]

Holme had met Haverfield before the war, and they were companions from 1911 until Haverfield's death in 1920.[1] Although during 1919 she was living in Kirkcudbright where she had an affair with the artist Dorothy Johnstone,[8] Holme was left £50 a year for life by Haverfield. In the 20s she spent time with Christabel Marshall's ménage à trois partners, Edith Craig and Clare Atwood.[7] She was known throughout her life for adoption of masculine dress and mannerisms, well documented in the photographs held in her archive.[9][10]

Holme died in 1969 in Glasgow.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Crawford, Elizabeth (September 2004). "Holme , Vera (1881–1969)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  2. ^ Kisby, Anna (February 2014). "Holme , Vera (1881–1969)". Women's History Review. 23: 120–136. doi:10.1080/09612025.2013.866491.
  3. ^ A Savoyard Suffragette (PDF) by David Stone, 2014, retrieved 7 March 2019
  4. ^ Diane,, Atkinson, (2018). Rise up, women! : the remarkable lives of the suffragettes. London: Bloomsbury. p. 144. ISBN 9781408844045. OCLC 1016848621.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  5. ^ Simkin, John (September 1997). "Mary Blathwayt". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Women's Emergency Corps". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b "Vera Holme". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  8. ^ Vera ‘Jack’ Holme – one of the stars of the Women’s Library Collection, Gillian Murphy, LSE, Retrieved 15 Mar 2017
  9. ^ "Papers of Vera 'Jack' Holme' (1881–1969)". Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  10. ^ Allsopp, Jenna. "Negotiating Female Masculinity in the early twentieth century". Retrieved 3 November 2016.