The British Suffragettes Attack Golf Courses

"We are not fighting you because you play golf. 
We are not fighting you at all, but trying to stir you up."
Emmeline Pankhurst



From  the American Golfer October 6, 1912

All the world has heard by this time of the strange proceedings of the British suffragettes in what they conceive to be the furtherance of their cause. Just lately their enterprises have been set in a new direction, and the peace of golf has been disturbed in consequence. 

To all the many and exasperating difficulties of the game we are now threatened with a new one in the form of suffragette raids on our golf courses while the players are busy upon them. In a sense they have begun at the top for the first course to receive their unwelcome attentions has been the private one of King George at Balmoral in Scotland, the King himself being in residence at his Highland castle at the time. One morning it was found that during the night the red and white flags in the holes had been removed and in their place were stuck new flags of suffragette colors, chiefly purple and to them were pinned small pieces of paper with such inscriptions as "Cabinet ministers stop forcibly feeding women," and "Votes for women means peace for Cabinet ministers." A Cabinet minister happened to be staying at Balmoral at the time and this was evidently the cause of the mild sort of demonstration that was made. 

This, however, was very far from being the worst. About three weeks ago two of the women, Miss Mitchell and Miss Howey, who were believed to have been associated with the Balmoral demonstration, at all events they subjected Mr. Winston Churchill to their attentions at Aberdeen nearby about the same time. Second, up at Dornoch, when the Prime Minister. Mr. Asquith, and the Home Secretary, Mr. McKenna, were playing on the fine links, there, a terrible scene ensued.

The ministerial golfers were half way through a pleasant game and were putting on the tenth green when the advocates of votes for women appeared, Miss Mitchell at once shouting out: "Mr. Asquith, you are responsible for forcibly feeding and torturing our women!" It ought to be explained for those who do not take any interest in the antics of these women and have little or no knowledge of what is going on, that very frequently when they are sent to prison for doing damage to property they go on the "hunger strike" as it is called, refusing to take any food whatsoever while their liberty is denied them. 

When this happens an effort is sometimes made by the prison authorities to feed them by force, but this often fails and when at last they become positively ill through lack of nourishment, if they can carry their determination so far, they are generally released. 

Royal Dornoch Golf Club site of sufferagette attacks on the Prime Minister.
Royal Dornoch Golf Links

When Miss Mitchell began her attack on the tenth green on this occasion, the Home Secretary tried to push her away. Miss Howie then exclaimed, "You will be answerable for what happens to Mrs. Leigh," referring to a suffragette who was imprisoned at Dublin and who had gone on the "hunger strike." Mr. McKenna then tried to seize her also, and a struggle ensued, Miss Mitchell in the meantime haranguing with Mr. Asquith. At this crisis a detective ran breathlessly to the rescue of the golfers and tried to chase Miss Mitchell away. 

Miss Howey, a British sufferagette involved in golf course attacks.
Miss Elsie Howey


"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," she shouted out to Mr. McKenna, who retorted, "How dare you annoy the Prime Minister?" This amazing episode continued for some time. Miss Howey freed herself from the grip of the detective and ran again towards the Prime Minister, but the Home Secretary intercepted her and handed her over again to the officer of the law, who, however, found that the task of holding these two struggling women was too much for him, Miss Howie again escaping. 

The Home Secretary then appealed to the caddies to give them assistance, but they were evidently finding some enjoyment in this departure from the ordinary routine of their work and failed to make any response. "If anything happens to Miss Leigh you shall answer for it," screamed Miss Howey. "Don't think your safety lies in her being in prison. You would be safer if she were at liberty." Then Miss Mitchell yelled at the Prime Minister, "How dare you accept the freedom of the town and refuse it to women?" referring to the proposal of the Dornoch town council to present him with the freedom of the borough. The Prime Minister now appealed to the detective to do his best to get Miss Howey away, declaring that she was the worst woman of the two. "Why do you forget you are a lady?" Mr. McKenna asked Miss Mitchell. The two ministers then moved away, but Miss Mitchell followed them until at last an inspector of police arrived and the two women were led off the course. Was ever a stranger scene enacted during the progress of a game of golf?


From the American Golfer March 1913 by Henry Leach 

There are suffragettes in America, but they have not the same intensity and eccentricity of disposition that are possessed by those of the English variety, which are, as you may say, "doing some." At the present time, they have hit upon an original idea in destruction and are now waging a war in different parts of the country, which is most alarming to all who are associated with the game. You may remember that lately I told you of their attack on one of the King's courses, and likewise of how they have given the Prime Minister and other members of the Cabinet a very bad half hour while the game was being played by these great men. It is somewhat peculiar that they should thus wage war upon golf considering that it has become the favorite recreation of their own sex; but there it is, one more example of the unreasonableness of women. 
Now on the courses at Walmley, Ebybaston, King's Norton and Robin Hood, in the Midlands, they have given evidence of their vindictiveness, the putting greens having been damaged, the turf in many cases having been torn up all over, while on others the battle cry of "Votes for Women" was traced by means of a destructive acid. 

Three greens were ruined at King's Norton, the acid having burned and shriveled up the turf. Six greens were damaged at Dalmley by a similar acid. There is reason to believe that this is only the beginning of a grand policy of destruction, and if so, heaven help us golfers and at the same time keep from the knowledge of these amazing women the places where our championships are to be played. scientific war on golf courses in different

A vintage photo of the golf course at Walmley.
Walmley Golf Course

A photo of the golf clubhouse at Kings Norton,
King's Norton Clubhouse

From The American Golfer April 1913

All these matters are interesting and very important, and yet while writing upon them I feel as if I were something like the Roman emperor who fiddled tunes while his city was in flames. For here and now our golf greens are being torn up and rendered ugly and useless and unfit to be played upon. This is no joke; it is a terribly serious business. Of course it is the Suffragettes again; the golfers of America will appreciate better than other people the lengths to which these women are going in their mad campaign for an object that certainly never will be achieved while they continue thus to act, when they know that they have entered upon a settled policy believing that thus they strike a heavy blow against the other sex, and only their vast ignorance of golf and all attending it has prevented them from doing much more damage than they have already done. For instance, in one case they destroyed or damaged the putting greens on a ladies' course ! 

A golf photo of the great J.H. Taylor designer of the Mid-Surrey Golf Courses.
Golfing Great J.H.Taylor
Designer of the Mid-Surrey Golf Courses


I told you about the opening of this campaign in my last dispatch; but did not then realize that it was so soon to assume so much more serious dimensions. All of a sudden they attacked some of the leading courses in different parts of the country. Three of them were in the London district. The Mid-Surrey club at Richmond prides itself on having some of the finest putting greens in the world. They have been brought to their present state of perfection after many years of the most scientific, intelligent and industrious treatment by one who, I believe, is the best living greenkeeper, Peter Lees. In the darkness of a night nine of these greens were most seriously damaged. They had been torn up, apparently by gardener's trowels, and in the hole on the eighteenth green was a paper advocating "votes for women." 

Then at Acton, a pretty suburban course, five greens were torn up and the words "Votes for Women" were cut out on them. The same words were outlined in other parts of the course by the use of corrosive fluid, and six empty bottles were found, one of them bearing the address of the offices of the women's organization. The damage at Acton was estimated at 750 dollars. 

Then at Raynes Park, another suburban course, portions of three greens were cut up, and on two of them the words "Votes for Women" and "No Surrender" were cut out. Among the other courses attacked was the championship course at Sandwich, where much damage was done, the grass on several of the greens being destroyed by vitriol, and the words "Votes for women" burned out. Here, however, in one instance the ignorance of the women saved a green, for they damaged the place where the seventeenth used to be—in the hollow—and not where it is now, on the plateau to the left. 

On the course of the West Essex club at Chingford, four or five greens were damaged and the words "Justice before Sport" were neatly cut in the earth in letters about a foot in length and an inch in depth. At Cromer, a nice seaside course on the east coast, six greens were ruined and at Sheringham, another seaside course not far away, there were eight spoiled. Holes were cut in the turf and the words "Votes for women," "No votes, no golf," "Peace with honour," "Votes or War," "Justice" and "No Surrender" were carved on the greens. Little flags with suffragette mottoes and threats upon them were placed in the holes. At Panteg in Monmouthshire the words "Votes for women" were burnt in the turf, the windows of the club pavilion were smashed, a golf bag was cut to pieces and the clubs smashed, and the bottoms of several other bags were ripped out, while several pairs of golfer's boots were hacked about and rendered useless. 

Since then raids have been made by night on other courses in different parts of the country; but the women will find it more difficult to do damage in the future for the clubs will not stand idly by and see their courses done to death. They have night watchmen on now. Things have come to a pretty pass. The underwriters at Lloyds, the great insurance exchange in London, are now quoting a rate to cover the risk of damage to golf courses by these women. The premium is equivalent to two per cent, and at present all eighteen-hole courses in England are being accepted on the same terms whether they have already been raided or not. 

Mrs. Pankhurst, the women's leader, made a speech in a London theatre soon after the damage was done, in which she referred to the attack they were making on the golfers. "We are not fighting you because you play golf," she shouted out to the men in the audience. "We are not fighting you at all, but trying to stir you up. Tell us you sympathize with us. We are determined even at the price of your sympathy to stir you up to do something." Mrs. Pankhurst added that during the previous weekend she had been staying in a quiet country house and, while there, had been rung up on the telephone by several enthusiastic members of golf clubs, some of whom threatened that if these new guerilla tactics continued they would have to turn out the lady members of their clubs. And it did not even stop at all this, dreadful as it was. Bombs! Explosions! 

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd George, has become a keen golfer in these days, and arranged for a house to be built for him alongside the golf course at Walton Health, some twenty miles away from London, where he plays most. The arrangement was that Sir George Riddell, who owns most of the land hereabouts, should build the house, and when it was finished Mr. Lloyd George should take it over, but the Suffragettes did not know of these details. They thought the house belonged to Mr. Lloyd George from the start, and so one night soon after the greens had been damaged, two of them got into the uncompleted house and laid there two canisters of gunpowder with nails and other things mixed with the powder, and they fixed an arrangement of lighted candles alongside by means of which the explosions would occur after they had got well clear. In due course one of the cans did explode and a big piece of the house was blown up into smithereens ; but luckily the wind force of this explosion blew out the other candle or the whole lot of the building would have been done for. 

A photo of the Golf Course at Walton Heath.
Walton Heath Golf Course
A photo of suffragette Mrs. Pankhurst being arrested.
Mrs. Pankhurst being arrested

Some clues were found by the police among the ruins; but they were very thin, and the perpetrators have not been caught. Mrs. Pankhurst, however, immediately made another great speech in which she expressed her deep admiration of what had been done, and said that it was useless for the authorities to search for the women who committed the act, for she and she alone took full responsibility, having incited the women to such acts all the time. Thereupon she was arrested, brought before the magistrates on the full charge, and has been committed to the Assizes which will take place next month. Mr. Lloyd George was in the south of France while all this was being done. The queer thing is that he himself is in favor of votes for women. I do not know what the end of this business will be. of making as many of our best golf courses as possible unfit for play.

From the American Golfer May 1913

Just recently the Suffragettes, whose attacks upon the golf courses in this country I have described previously, have been giving rather less attention to our playing places than they have to race courses, where they have been burning down grand stands and that sort of thing.

A vintage photo of The Royal Liverpool Golf Club clubhouse.
The Royal Liverpool Golf Club

   Yet here and there they have perpetrated mild damage to links, and the Royal Liverpool Club at Hoylake, where the Open Championship will take place in a few weeks' time, gathered suspicions, based on good reasons, that if they could manage it the "wild women," as they are being called, meant to do some considerable harm to this famous course and interfere as far as they could with the success of what is expected to be the biggest championship meeting that has ever taken place. But the Royal Liverpool Club is very well and  thoroughly managed and in a crisis of this kind it does not take any risks. When I was along at Hoylake the other day I had described to me the precautions that the club was taking in this matter. 

The club has the sympathy and support of the local village community because it allows them free golf on the course and gives them prizes for an annual competition. In the emergency the club called on the villagers to assist them in the protection of the course, and the villagers responded by providing an efficient sentry patrol over the whole course between seven o'clock in the evening and midnight. From midnight to daylight six sentries are provided by the club. A shopkeeper acts as a kind of captain or quartermaster of the volunteer village watchers. Six men go on duty at a time, the first watch being from seven to nine o'clock and the second from nine until midnight. Two putting greens near the roadway are each guarded by a special man, while the other watchers look after groups of greens which are close together. During these two watches members of the Royal Liverpool Club go around the links in pairs to see that all is well.  These precautions will be maintained until the championship meeting. As an acknowledgment of their services the club has extended the privileges of the villagers on the course and increased  the value of the prizes. According to the story of one of the guards, an automobile, containing three women and a man, recently drew up alongside one of the greens in the small hours of the morning, but moved on again quickly when it was discovered that the course was guarded.

From The American Golfer September 10, 1913 

Another golfing matter in which a statesman has been involved is a less pleasant thing to consider. The suffragettes have been at it again, and not for the first time the Prime Minister himself, Mr. Asquith, has been the object of their attack. It was a very ugly business. Mr. Asquith had gone away for a golfing holiday to that favorite retreat, Lorriemouth, near Elgin, in the north of Scotland, and on one of the closing days of August the trouble occurred. For some time there had been rumors that suffragettes were in the vicinity, and a close police watch was kept on the links. 
Two militants, however, evaded the guards, and at about 5:30 o'clock in the afternoon, when the Premier was playing a round with his daughter and had reached the seventeenth green, two women suddenly appeared, rushed at him, knocked his hat off, struck him on the head with a book, and then proceeded to drag him about. Miss Asquith grappled with the women, and a struggle was waged, the militants shouting wildly about "justice for women." 

After some moments detectives ran up and seized the women, though they had difficulty in pulling them away from the Prime Minister. They were taken to the clubhouse and subsequently to the Elgin Police Station. A large crowd assembled, hissed them, and threatened to throw them into the sea. The women refused to give their names or addresses. The Premier calmly finished his game and he was loudly cheered by the spectators. When the women were being driven to the police station the crowd showed a very angry demeanor and shouted out: "Let us get at them: we will duck them in the sea!" Comment on these proceedings is quite unnecessary.

A photo of the Lorriemouth Golf Links
Lorriemouth golf links 

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