Rosa May Billinghurst launched the Greenwich chapter of the Women’s Political and Social Union. This is the third blog post in the Remember the Suffragettes blog series, looking at the lives of four suffrage campaigners from our Women’s Library.
Rosa May Billinghurst was born in Lewisham, the second of nine children. Due to contracting polio as a child, Rosa used an adapted tricycle to get around – famously using it to charge police officers during protests.
In 1907 she joined the Women’s Political and Social Union and launched its Greenwich chapter only two years later. Rosa attended the march to the Royal Albert Hall in 1908 and the Black Friday demonstration in 1910 during which the Metropolitan Police meted out violent behaviour toward the protestors.
Rosa was arrested several times as part of her activism, twice for taking part in window smashing campaigns and once for damaging post boxes in Blackheath. In 1913 she described her experience of hunger-strike and forced-feeding in Holloway prison in The Suffragette newspaper:
Dr Ford forced my teeth apart using an iron instrument. He first tried my front teeth with all his force but could not move them. Finally, he chipped a piece off one of my side teeth to make a place to insert his instrument, which he finally succeeded in getting in between my teeth and forcing my mouth open for food
After the women’s vote was won Rosa retired from activism though she is noted to have attended the funeral of Emmeline Pankhurst in 1928.