Catalogue description Autograph Letter Collection: Taylor Collection

This record is held by London University: London School of Economics, The Women's Library

Details of 9/26
Reference: 9/26
Title: Autograph Letter Collection: Taylor Collection

The collection contains correspondence amongst the Taylor Family and their friends between 1910 and 1914 related to events and in particular the imprisonment of Mrs Mary Ellen 'Nelly' Taylor, Mark Wilkes and the Pethwick-Lawrences.


Correspondents include:


* Mrs Mary Ellen 'Nelly' [sometimes Nellie] Taylor,


* Dr Elizabeth Wilkes, sometimes addressed as Mrs Wilkes, known as Lily or Lilla.


* Captain Thomas Smithies Taylor, Nelly's husband, addressed as 'Tom'.


* Mark Wilkes,


Ramsay MacDonald and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence.


Letters addressed to Tom refer to her husband Thomas. Letters addressed to Tom and children refer to her husband and her children, Dorothea and Garth. Mrs Elizabeth Wilks,

Date: 1910-1964
Held by: London University: London School of Economics, The Women's Library, not available at The National Archives
Copies held at:

A copy of this archive is available on microfilm held at The Women's Library.

Language: English
Physical description: 1 A box (1 volume
Access conditions:

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. Available on microfilm only.

  • Women's Social and Political Union, 1903-c1919
  • MacDonald, James Ramsay,1866-1937, statesman
  • Wilkes, Elizabeth, fl 1910, suffragette
  • Taylor, Mary Ellen, fl 1910-1914, suffragette
  • Taylor, Smithies-, Thomas, fl 1910-1914, captain and suffragist
  • Wilkes, Mark, fl 1894-1914, suffragist and teacher
  • Womens suffrage
  • Prisoners
Administrative / biographical background:



James Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937), was born in Lossiemouth, Morayshire in 1866, the illegitimate son of Ann Ramsay, a maidservant. He studied at the local school from 1875 until 1881 before becoming a pupil-teacher. Aged nineteen, he went to Bristol before moving to London in 1886, where he was employed as a clerk for the Cyclists' Touring Club. Poverty and ill-health ended his attempts to win a science scholarship and be became a clerk to Thomas Lough, MP. MacDonald joined the Fabian Society around this time and there met others such as George Bernard Shaw, Annie Besant, Walter Crane and the Webbs who were concerned with issues such as socialism and women's suffrage. In 1893 the Independent Labour Party was formed by members of this group, including Philip Snowden, Robert Smillie, Tom Mann, John Bruce Glasier, Ben Tillett and James Keir Hardie.


Mrs Mary Ellen Taylor (fl 1910-1914) and her husband Captain Thomas Smithies Taylor were friends of the Pethick Lawrence family, Dr Elizabeth Wilkes (her sister) and her brother-in-law Mark Wilkes. By early 1912 Mrs Taylor was an active member of the Women's Social & Political Union which was then engaged in a campaign of militant action against government and private property. On 4 Mar 1912 she took part in a window smashing party with a Miss Roberts and a Miss Nellie Crocker, attacking a post office in Sloane Square. They were arrested and brought before a magistrate at Westminster Police Court, who referred their case to the Sessions. From the 5-22 Mar 1912 they were placed on remand at Holloway Prison until Taylor went before Newington Session and was given a three months sentence. While in prison, she went on hunger strike, though she was not forcibly fed, and was subsequently discharged and taken to her sister's house on the 27 Apr 1912. She was imprisoned a second time in Jul 1913 under the alias of Mary Wyan of Reading. Mrs Ellen Mary Taylor refused release under the Cat and Mouse [Temporary Discharge for Ill-health] Act of 1913. She claimed complete discharge and declined to give the prison governor any address. When she was conveyed to a nursing home she refused to enter until her full release was granted and continued her strike on a chair in the road outside. The police then removed her to the Kensington Infirmary where she eventually gave up her protest. Around this time, the Woodford assault case took place, touching the Taylor's immediate circle of friends.


Captain Thomas Smithies-Taylor (fl 1910-1914) was the husband of Mrs Mary Ellen Taylor. He was a supporter of the militant suffragettes based in Leicester. He wrote letters to the national and local press on this and related subjects.


Dr Elizabeth Wilkes (fl.1910) was married to Mark Wilkes, he was a teacher employed by London County Council and a member of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage. She was also a suffragist and a member of the Women's Tax Resistance League. On the occasion when she refused to pay her taxes, her husband was obliged by law to pay the amount on her behalf. However, Mark Wilkes refused to do so and was sent to Brixton prison for this action. The Men's League organised a protest march to the prison and the Daily Herald interviewed Wilkes while in prison. He went on hunger strike and was released due to ill health. A meeting was subsequently organised by the Women's Tax Resistance League at the Caxton Hall in honour of the couple.


Mark Wilkes (fl. 1894-1914) was a teacher and the husband of Elizabeth Wilkes (1861-1956). Elizabeth refused to complete a tax return or to pay taxes herself and informed the tax authorities that as a married woman her tax papers should be forwarded to her husband. He, in turn, claimed that he had neither the means to obtain the necessary information to complete the forms nor to pay his wife's tax bill and was imprisoned for debt. The Tax Resistance League took up the case and achieved much publicity for it.

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