Human letters

In 1909 two suffragettes mailed themselves to the the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Human letters
LSE Library / No restrictions

When the British suffragettes were not engaging in arson or jujutsu they were apparently sending themselves by post. Elspeth Douglas McClelland and Daisy Solomon really wanted an audience with the prime minister to plead the case for women’s suffrage. The prime minister, H. H. Asquith, had no desire or intention to meet with the suffragettes, and managed to dodge their delegations many times. (Solomon’s mother Georgiana was also a suffragette, and a few years later both Solomons were sent to prison for smashing windows in the House of Lords in a bid to get legislative and popular attention for their cause.) The solution for McClelland and Solomon: they would mail themselves to the prime minister’s office and be delivered as letters.

This sounds daffy, but it was actually legal and acceptable at the time. There are several notable examples of people mailing themselves in boxes – one day I’ll write about the extraordinary journey of the slave and mesmerist Henry “Box” Brown – but in this case the two suffragettes simply bought a stamp (for thruppence), called a telegram delivery boy, and set off for 10 Downing Street.

They got past the first round of no doubt amused police, but were stopped at the door and told that the PM would not accept delivery – they were in fact “dead letters.” It didn’t really matter at that stage: their audacious stunt earned them front page headlines and popular acclaim.


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