History

votes for women
In 1914 Scotland was in the grip of a terrorist campaign of bombing and burning. The prime movers used false names and disguises to outwit the police. Their supporters belonged to every social class, and lived in every corner of Scotland. They had two things in common: they were women, and as women they were not allowed to vote.
perth_prison

Perth Prison at the turn of the 20th century
Image courtesy of Perth Museum and Art Gallery

After a series of high-profile attacks on Scottish buildings, the Liberal Government decided that jailed Scottish suffragettes who went on hunger and thirst strike would be force fed. Just one man was prepared to do this job: prison physician Dr Hugh Ferguson Watson.

cricket-club

Perth cricket pavilion, burned by suffragettes in 1913. Image: AK Bell Local Studies Library, Perth and Kinross Council

In the summer of 1914 four militant campaigners for women’s votes were force-fed in Perth Prison. Suffragettes from all over Scotland descended on Perth to support them. For five weeks the town witnessed unprecedented scenes of public disorder including mass-marches through the streets, shouting in churches and cinemas, and even an attack on the royal car.

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force feeding – how it was done

Force feeding was traumatic, painful, humiliating and dangerous. Two of Dr Ferguson Watson’s “patients” nearly died as a result. Ethel Moorhead contracted pneumonia after food got into her lungs, and Frances Gordon found it impossible to breathe with the feeding tube in her throat.