Black Friday Remembered in Library Display

Display in Jubilee Library

Black Friday is an Americanised term for a day of cheap bargains in the shops. It is a means of selling. The fact that this celebration of consumerism happens in November, the month of remembrance, is particularly galling for anyone wishing to remember the sacrifices made by suffragists and suffragettes and the terrible events of 18th November 1910, also called ‘Black Friday’. Three women died as a result of these events, of whom Mary Clarke was the first.

It was on 18th November that Mary, along with 300 other suffragettes, assembled peacefully to petition Parliament. Over several hours, the women were systematically physically and sexually attacked by London police officers who had been given instructions not to arrest the women, but had clearly been given licence to abuse them. Some police told the women they had been told they could do anything they liked “today”. The women were often subjected to violent attack, but the assaults of Black Friday seem to have been particularly vicious and sustained.

Front page report of Black Friday

There are several heart-rending accounts of the terrible way women were treated and injured. We don’t know exactly what happened to Mary, just that afterwards she was bed-ridden for three days. She was advised not to get up even then, but she insisted on going back to London to protest about the police’s treatment of the women. There she was arrested and imprisoned for one month, during which time she was forcibly fed. She died of a brain haemorrhage two days after her release from prison. 

Mary’s sister Emmeline Pankhurst, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and other leaders of the WSPU all blamed the events of Black Friday for Mary’s death.

Each year we try to commemorate Black Friday by arranging a display in foyer of the Jubilee Library. This year the display includes the bronze maquette of Mary Clarke along with information about the targeted violence of Black Friday. We do not forget that Mary also experienced domestic abuse as well as state violence. 

We are conscious that the 25th November is the U.N. Designated Day of Action against Violence Against Women and that it begins the U.N. 16 Days of Action against Violence against Women. This year our display is being held in the Jubilee Library from 13th to the 26th November. 

Mary Clarke Statue Appeal