Charlotte Despard

Charlotte Despard (1844-1939)

Charlotte Despard

Charlotte Despard (née French) was a prolific activist, a member of the Suffragettes, vegetarian and an anti-vivisection advocate.

After being encourgaged to take up charitable work after her husbands death, Despard's eyes were opened the the levels of poverty and suffering in London. She spent her time working with the poor in Battersea, even living above one of her welfare shops in the area of Nine Elms.

She became a pacifist, forming the group The Women's Peace Crusade and campaigning against the Boer War and WWI specifically conscription in WWI.

She was very religious and had converted to Roman Catholicism and later Theosophy, becoming an Executive Member of the World Congress of Faiths in the 1930s.

She was imprisoned twice in Holloway for her actions with the Suffragettes, being primarily a memebr of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies but later joining the more radical Women's Social and Political Union.

in 1907 she became disheartened with the way the WSPU was run and became one of the three forming members of the Women's Freedom League, a group that was militant in it's actions focussing on non-violent illegal actions. This change in direction saw her spending five months of the group's first year touring the country in a caravan, meeting with members and giving talks to supporters. It was with this group that she chained herself to the Ladies Gallery in Westminster and took part in the 'No taxation without representation' campaign, a campaign that saw her furniture repeatedly seized.

As well as activism Despard was a prominent member of the Labour Party and was selected to be a candidate for Battersea North in 1918 going on to recieve a third of the votes.

Despard was politically active well into life and addressed anti-fascist rallies in the 1930s when she was in her late 80s and early 90s. She passed away in 1939 aged 95 after a fall at her home near Belfast.