Helen Archdale

Helen Archdale

WSPU Organizer



45 Marlborough Road, Sheffield.



Helen (1876-1950) was educated at St Andrews University in Scotland, and in 1901, married Lt Colonel Archdale who was stationed in India. Together they had two sons and a daughter. Helen returned from India in 1908 and almost immediately joined the WSPU. In October 1909, she was arrested and convicted - with Emmeline Pankhurst's youngest daughter Adela and three others - for breach of the peace, disturbing a meeting attended by Winston Churchill in Dundee. The women including Helen, were imprisoned and went on hunger strike. For reasons that are not entirely clear - perhaps because of family and political connections - none of the women were forcibly fed despite other suffragettes being so treated at that time across the country. They were released after four days. By March of 1910, Helen had become an organizer in Sheffield, but due to ill health, her position was taken over by Adela who moved into Helen's family home in Sheffield. There the two - as suffragettes - took part in the suffrage boycott of the 1911 census on the night of the 2nd of April. Both Helen and Adela resisted the census - just their names were recorded by the census official. However, they also hosted a mass 'evasion' at the house. A total of 57 people (54 of them female) slept there all of whom aside from Adela, Helen and her children, are unidentified. The male occupants that night included one invited newspaper reporter who wrote about the census evasion: 'It was the merriest of parties...the floor is crowded with sleepers...Their faces are white and drawn with weariness'. Later in 1911, Helen moved to London to become the WSPU's Prisoner's Secretary helping organize whatever was needed for suffragette prisoners. She was herself sentenced to two months in Holloway prison in December this time for breaking a window. Helen continued to work for the WSPU which in 1914 threw itself wholeheartedly into supporting the government's War effort. Between 1917-18 she worked for the Ministry of National Service and continued her involvement with the women's movement through roles in the Six Point Group of Great Britain; Equal Rights International; the Open Door Council; and the Federation of Business and Professional Women among other organizations. Helen also worked throughout her life as a journalist. Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928 (London: 2001); Jill Liddington, Vanishing for the Vote: Suffrage, Citizenship and the Battle for the Census (Manchester: 2014).


Helen Archdale in 1928. Source National Portrait Gallery Photograph Collection NPG x42311.png
adela pankhurst helen archdale sheffield census GBC_1911_RG14_27735_0155.jpg
45 Marlborough Road, Sheffield.png
Helen Archdale Police Surveillance Photograph, circa 1913. Source The Museum of London..png



“Helen Archdale,” Mapping Women's Suffrage, accessed November 21, 2019, https://www.mappingwomenssuffrage.org.uk/items/show/160.

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