Turbulent Londoners: Minnie Baldock, c.1864-1954

Turbulent Londoners is a series of posts about radical individuals in London’s history who contributed to the city’s contentious past, with a particular focus on women, whose contribution to history is often overlooked. My definition of ‘Londoner’ is quite loose, anyone who has played a role in protest in the city can be included. Any suggestions for future Turbulent Londoners posts are very welcome. My next Turbulent Londoner Minnie Baldock, an early member of the WSPU who helped establish the organisation in East London


minnie-baldock-1909

A postcard of Minnie Baldock, in about 1909 (Source: Museum of London).

Minnie Baldock was an early member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), who helped the organisation establish a presence in London, particularly amongst the working class women of the East End. Born in the East End in about 1864, she worked in a shirt factory as a young woman, and had two sons after her marriage to Harry Baldock.

Female suffrage was not the cause which brought out Minnie’s radicalism; she was a member of the Independent Labour Party, and in 1903 held a public meeting to complain about women’s low wages with her MP, Keir Hardie. As a member of the WSPU, however, Minnie flourished as an activist.

Minnie joined the WSPU early on, before it moved to London, and was soon involved in many of its activities in the capital. In December 1905 she was ejected from not one but two public meetings for heckling Herbert Asquith and Henry Campbell Bannerman, leader of the Liberal Party. In January 1906, Minnie established the first London branch of the WSPU in Canning Town, in an attempt to recruit working class women. Several other branches soon followed in the East End. Minnie was at the heart of networks of radical women in London; she helped Annie Kenney make connections when she first moved to London, she knew Sylvia Pankhurst and Charlotte Despard, and was a mentor to Daisy Parsons.

Also in 1906, Minnie became a full-time organiser for the WSPU. For the next few years she toured the country, promoting the cause of female suffrage. In October that year she was arrested at the opening of Parliament. She was arrested again outside Parliament in February 1908, and this time spent a month in Holloway Prison. She was worried about leaving her two sons alone with her husband, which illustrates the tension many female activists feel between their activism and their caring responsibilities.

minnie-baldock-christabel-pankhurst-and-edith-new

Minnie Baldock with Christabel Pankhurst and Edith New in December 1906 (Source: Museum of London).

Minnie worked for the WSPU until 1911, when she became seriously ill with cancer. She did not return to the WSPU after she recovered, although she remained a member of the Church League for Women’s Suffrage, which united all kinds of suffragists who were also religious. This suggests that she had become disillusioned by the WSPU’s methods rather than their main objective; they became increasingly violent, authoritarian, and dismissive of the concerns of working class women in the years before the First World War. Minnie moved to Southampton with her family in 1913, and was living in Poole when she died in 1954.

The WSPU was much more than the Pankhurst family; women like Minnie Baldock were essential to the successful running of the organisation. Minnie helped the WSPU establish a presence in London, and went on to campaign tirelessly for them around the country. Her name may not have survived the lottery of history, but the impact of her actions still resonates.

Sources and Further Reading

Brooker, Janice. “Suffragette.” Lost in London. Last modified 1st May 2007, accessed 11th October 2016. Available at http://www.brooker.talktalk.net/suffragette.htm

Simkin, John. “Minnie Baldock.” Spartacus Educational. Last modified January 2015, accessed 12th October 2016. Available at http://spartacus-educational.com/WbaldockM.htm

Walker, John. “Forest Gate’s Proud Suffragette Legacy.”E7 Now and Then. Last modified 6th March 2015, accessed 14th October 2016. Available at http://www.e7-nowandthen.org/2015/03/forest-gates-proud-suffragette-legacy.html

5 thoughts on “Turbulent Londoners: Minnie Baldock, c.1864-1954

  1. I love this. Thank you so much for featuring Minnie. This is my great-great grandmother, and I am so proud of her. She is going to be featured on a piece by BBC Radio Solent to celebrate the centennial of British women getting the vote.

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    • To: Sarah Downing
      My mother’s name was Doris Madge Baldock and she was born in Bow on November 18th 1906 and died on April 5th1980. My grandfather was William Baldock born in 1877 and died on 4th December 1947. I only learned about Minnie Baldock earlier this year and the more I learn about her the more my admiration for her grows. I am trying to find out whether I have a family connection to Minnie. Do you have a family tree for Harry and Minnie Baldock. My father, Sidney Horace Brown born 26th May 1906 and died 13th December 1998 worked for Poplar Borough Council for virtually the whole of his working life and knew George Lansbury who was a great supporter of the WSPU and the ELFS.

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      • Hi Val,

        There is so much on the web about Minnie and she’s also mentioned in several books. She even has her name on a statue in London (mentioned in her new Wikipedia entry). It’s a lot to live up to and in my daily work in healing I strive to uplift other women around me, as I’m sure she must have done.

        We do have a family tree, but none of those names ring a bell. That said, considering Minnie was born in Bromley-by-Bow, I wouldn’t rule it out. My Uncle John would be the better person to ask. I just sent hm an email and will let you know if I hear back from him.

        Feel free to contact me via my website in this comment and I will email you directly.

        Cheers,

        Sarah

        Like

  2. Pingback: Turbulent Londoners: Dora Montefiore, 1851-1933 | Turbulent London

  3. Pingback: Turbulent Londoners: Flora Drummond, 1879-1949 | Turbulent London

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