Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

The Honest Truth: Caroline Phillips’ fascinating life as a female reporter and suffragette

Caroline Phillips with her cousin Agnes
Caroline Phillips with her cousin Agnes

SARAH PEDERSEN, professor of communications and media at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, tells Laura Smith the Honest Truth about Caroline Phillips, a pioneering journalist who put her career on the line to spearhead the suffragette movement in North-east Scotland.

 

How did you first find out about Caroline Phillips?

I was doing a PHD on Edwardian women who wrote to newspapers about politics and came across a collection of Caroline’s letters.

The fact she was both a journalist and a suffragette was fascinating to me.

Who was she?

Caroline was born in 1874 in Kintore, near Aberdeen. She was a female journalist for the conservative Aberdeen Daily Journal, which was very unusual at that time.

She was also honorary secretary of Aberdeen’s WSPU branch, more familiarly known as the suffragettes, from 1907-09.

How did she contribute to the suffragette movement?

She organised the Aberdeen branch, wrote letters to the press and organised a march in Edinburgh in 1907.

She organised different suffragette leaders coming up to Aberdeen, including Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Sylvia and Christabel, which we know though their correspondence.

She also gives her opinions about policy in some of the letters, some of which is not taken very well by the leadership.

Tell us more about her letters.

This resource is unique as there isn’t much archive material associated with the suffragettes.

After 1910 they became very militant and didn’t keep a lot of documents with people’s names and addresses on them due to police raids.

What’s amazing is Caroline writes on newspaper-headed notepaper, so she’s mixing her roles as a journalist and suffragette leader.

Her correspondence is addressed to her at the newspaper office on Broad Street.

One letter from her editor warns that if she doesn’t stop being involved in women’s politics she may lose her job.

How did Caroline juggle her roles as suffragette and journalist?

There were very few women reporters in the UK at the time.

The Daily Journal was vehemently against women’s suffrage but Caroline was able to get pro-suffrage arguments into more conservative newspapers through the Letters To The Editor column.

But it was a problem for her job. In one letter she complains to the Liberal Party she’s been asked to cover their meeting but they won’t let her in because they think she’s a suffragette and she’ll disrupt it.

What was her relationship with the Pankhursts?

There was tension between Caroline and the Pankhursts after she was hesitant to attack the Music Hall when Chancellor of the Exchequer, Herbert Asquith, visited in November, 1907.

A later letter from Christabel warned Caroline she wasn’t being militant enough. She was trying to walk a line between being a militant suffragette and getting on with people in Aberdeen and faced criticism for it.

Then in 1909, a telegram said Sylvia Pankhurst was to take charge of the Aberdeen branch and Caroline was out. She was the last Aberdonian woman to lead the movement.

Things then became more militant in Aberdeen and across Scotland.

What did Caroline do then?

That was the end of her involvement in the suffragette movement.

In 1913 she inherited a hotel in Banchory and left journalism. In her going-away speech, her editor said: “If only she hadn’t been involved in other things she would have made a good reporter.”

How can people find out more about her?

There’s a free event about Caroline at The Glasgow Women’s Library on Saturday.

There will be a talk and conversation café, and attendees will get an edition of her letters.