Kitty Marion: Radical Suffragette

Kitty Marion (Katherina Maria Schafer), by Criminal Record Office, after  Unknown photographer - NPG x45561
Criminal Records Office c.1913
Kitty Marion (1871-1944) was born Katherina Maria Schafer in Westphalia in 1871. Her mother died when she was two years old and when she was fifteen went to live with her aunt in England. She learnt English and it became clear that her ambition was to become a music hall actress, which she achieved three years later in 1889 when she was cast in a pantomime in Glasgow. 

She joined the Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) in around 1908, taking part in their marches on parliament and selling copies of their journal 'Votes for Women' in the street. When the Actress' Franchise League began in 1909, she was one of the first members. That same year she was arrested for the first time. The second arrest came in Newcastle a few months later when she threw a stone through the window of a post office, an offence for which she received a month's prison sentence. In Holloway jail she was force fed and reacted by setting her cell on fire. Further attacks on property ranging from breaking windows (Mar 1912) and a fire alarm (late 1912) to burning properties (Levetleigh House in Sussex in April 1913, the Grand Stand at Hurst Park racecourse in June 1913, various houses in Liverpool in August 1913 and Manchester in November 1913). These incidents resulted in a series of further terms of imprisonment during which force-feeding occurred followed by release under the Cat and Mouse Act

Fellow WSPU workers finally took her to Paris in May 1914. At the outbreak of war in Aug 1914, Marion's position became doubly uncertain: firstly, there was some question, soon dropped, of returning the suffragette prisoners to jail to serve the rest of their term; secondly Marion was a German by birth and therefore suspect. Despite briefly resuming her career on the stage, she was finally deported, going to America in 1915 where she would spend most of her remaining years. There she quickly became active in the family planning movement and after 1917, she began working with the Birth Control Review published by New York Women's Publishing Company under Margaret Sanger. Marion, with her experience selling 'Votes for Women', became a street hawker, selling the Review in New York for 13 years. She was arrested several times for violating obscenity laws, and was imprisoned for 30 days in 1918. She was granted US citizenship in 1924. 

She returned to London in 1930 to attend the unveiling of the statue to Mrs Pankhurst and began work in the Birth Control International Centre under Edith How Martyn. However, she finally returned to New York where she worked in Sanger's office once more before retiring to the Margaret Sanger Home in New York State where she died in 1944.

read more here:



read also:
  • Death in Ten Minutes: Kitty Marion: Activist. Arsonist. Suffragette by Fern Riddell
  • The Company She Kept: The Radical Activism of Actress Kitty Marion from Piccadilly Circus to Times Square by Christine Woodworth
  • Rise Up Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes by Diane Atkinson
  • The Suffragette Bombers: Britain's Forgotten Terrorists by Simon Webb

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