The Suffragette in my House
by Isabeau Kemp
MWS Youth Voice
Hi, my name is Isabeau and I’m 11 years old. I am going to tell you the story and my thoughts about a girl who grew up in my house over 100 years ago and became a suffragette. Her name was Ethel Baldock.
A couple of years ago my family was sent a picture of the Baldock family who used to live in my house in Orchard Place, Maidstone, by a lady writing a book about Suffragettes in Kent called Jennifer Godfrey. Can you imagine my surprise when we opened the letter and there was an old photo of a family sitting outside my house! SHOCKED!!! And that one of the girls was a suffragette. It was so cool! This is the photograph of the Baldock family outside my house in 1899. Ethel is on the left, holding a book. Underneath is a picture of my family outside the house. I’m the one in the middle!
We didn’t know the names of the family members at first, but I remember talking to my mum about how the girls looked just like me and how many children lived in the house. Where did they all sleep?
As you can see above, my house only has two bedrooms, so OMG, if I lived then I would have to share a bedroom with my stinky brothers! Ewww!! Luckily, they are in the cellar now and I have my own room! I wonder if the two Baldock boys slept with their parents and the three girls shared a room? I cannot imagine the three girls sharing, I wonder if they argued. They probably did. Did they even share a bed? Can you imagine sharing a bed with two other people!?
I had done a little bit in school about suffragettes, and I knew that they were trying to get votes for women and that some of them were treated badly. Knowing Ethel was a suffragette and lived in my house made me want to find out more.
Ethel Violet Baldock was born in 1893 in Gravesend, Kent, to Samuel and Frances. In 1899, when she was only six years old, her mother and her elder sister died within weeks of each other. Her father married again shortly after. This is when the family photograph was taken outside my house.
I think that Ethel probably went to St Michael’s school, which is around the corner from my house and was built about 1860. There she would have learned reading, writing, and arithmetic, and I think it would have been very strict. I love art most and the thought of doing math’s every day. UUrrghh!
Girls probably had to be on their best behaviour too. I think I would have gotten into trouble as I can’t last a minute without talking and shouting across the classroom and we’re all very loud and silly! I find it hard to understand why girls and boys were taught separately then. I would not like that because I only chat with the boys in my class.
After that, when she was twelve, Ethel went into service. I’m eleven and a half now and I can’t imagine leaving my family to go and work in a strange house. This probably made her want to become a suffragette because she wanted a better life for herself and all women. In 1912, Ethel took part in the WSPU window smashing campaign to demonstrate against not having the right to vote with lots of other women and was arrested. She was sent to Holloway prison briefly but was then released. She must have been very brave.
I have enjoyed doing research into Ethel’s life and the suffragettes. One of my favourite bits was looking at the fashion back then. My mum even made me an outfit - which was awesome - except for the stupid bloomers, which there is no way on earth I am ever, ever, ever, putting on! I would not be caught dead wearing them!
Because of the horrible pandemic and boring home-schooling, I took the opportunity to do a questionnaire to find out what my neighbours knew about suffragettes and votes for women, which wasn’t very much! So, I told them about Ethel and what she did and asked them what they thought. You can see my questionnaire and the results below. I also did a power point which I shared with my class. My teacher was very impressed with the work I had done and some of my classmates asked lots of questions - and my class are never that interested in stuff!
I’m so glad that there were ladies like Ethel who fought for equality so I can be free to do what I want and be respected. I wouldn’t want to live under the rules of my father for the rest of my life. I’m not very good at listening to him now, so he would still be shouting at me to tidy my room when I’m 30!! And there’s no way I will be told what to do by my husband!
I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog for Tara (Mapping Women’s Suffrage). I have really enjoyed doing it, and I hope you feel inspired to find out more about the suffragettes - you never know, one might have lived in your house too!
To find out more about suffragette (WSPU) Ethel Baldock, you can visit her on our map in Kent at Little Mount Sion where she lived in 1911. You can also read our previous blog by Suffragettes of Kent author Jennifer Godfrey and watch our video starring Jennifer & Isabeau for the Festival of Social Science - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd5oQ1gKIw4
Are you a teacher or student interested in putting some votes for women campaigners in your town on our suffrage map? Or do you know a campaigner lived in your house? Contact us
About the author
Isabeau has recently started secondary School where her favourite subjects are English and Art. In her spare time she likes baking cakes and sweet treats, sewing and crafting. When she gets older, she would like to be a vet or a chef. She still lives in Orchard Place with her (amazing!) mum, dad, older and younger brothers, and a ginger cat.