Suffragette, Playwright and Warrington’s First Woman Journalist

Today I am posting another Women’s Suffrage themed blog entry written by our volunteer Carol. You may have already read on our website a little about Carol’s subject for today, Mabel Capper. But this article should help you to put a little more meat on the bones of the subject:

Mabel Capper

I first came across Mabel Capper in a Warrington Examiner article dated 06/01/1917,  with the headline Lady Journalist For Warrington, “Examiner Innovation”.  Reading through the article I realised that the article contained details which could help my research. Not only that, but the article included a photograph.  I was unaware that Mabel Capper was a well-known Suffragette until I started to investigate further.

I noted the salient points: her journalist brother who edited the magazine of the Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, the fact that she was Drama Critic to the Manchester Weekly Times and Manchester Courier, wrote book reviews for papers including the Manchester Guardian, the production of her play in London in October 1912, her V.A.D (Volunteer Aid Detachment) nursing work during WW1 and she had been on the committee of The Manchester Playgoer’s Club.

From online searches I found a number of references to her family history, membership of the Manchester branch of the W.S.P.U. (Women’s Social Political Union) and her relationship with the Pankhurst family. She also had a letter published in the Manchester Guardian 18/12/1908 arguing for the enfranchisement of women as a citizen’s right. There are also descriptions of her militant protests as a Suffragette, the ensuing court appearances and periods of imprisonment. During these periods of imprisonment she went on hunger strike several times and Mabel Capper was one of the first to be forced fed.

The production of her play at the Royal Court Theatre in London October 1912 “The Betrothal of Number 13” is mentioned several times. The theme of the play is the stigma of imprisonment. There are references to her V.A.D. nursing during WW1, marriage to writer Cecil Chisholm in 1921, her move to Hastings and finally her death in St Leonards near Hastings in 1966.

These sources were from online searches and history booksThroughout reading and searching for biographical and historical details there was no mention of her work on the Warrington Examiner so I decided to take my research further as I wanted to make sure it was the same Mabel Capper.

The way to tackle this was to find primary evidence of her family background, her journalistic work in Manchester, the letter she had written to the Manchester Guardian in 1908 regarding women’s right to Suffrage, evidence of her play in 1912, her V.A.D. work registration records, and the Manchester Playgoers minutes. I also needed to find the photograph that matched the Examiner image.

I was able to use the 1891 census to locate her brother William Bently Capper. By searching through the Manchester Weekly Times for 5th October 1912 I found an article titled “Manchester Suffragette As Playwright” which was promoting “The Betrothal of Number 13.” In addition I found her letter to the Manchester Guardian letter dated 18/12/1908 regarding women’s rights as citizens.  By looking through the British Red Cross records online I found her V.A.D. registration records and I searched the Playgoers Minute Books in Manchester Central Library Archives.

To my surprise the committee meetings were held in the grand setting of the Manchester Midland Hotel. Mabel Capper held the position on the Reading Literature Committee in 1916 and on 8th March 1916 she was appointed Press Secretary. Then on 10th January 1917 Miss Capper tendered her resignation as she was moving away from Manchester. The minutes state “It was accepted with an expression of general regret”. This move coincided with her embarking upon her role at the Examiner a few days later.

Searching for images of Mabel Capper was also productive as I found several images of her alongside other Suffragettes. Even better there is an online photograph signed by Mabel Capper which matches the photograph published in the Examiner article.

Now it can be said that Mabel Capper the militant Suffragette, Playwright and Journalist has a role in Warrington’s history.

This article was originally posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2018.