Between 1905 and 1914 more than 1,000 women had been imprisoned during the votes for women campaign, among them Swindon-born militant suffragette, Edith New.

Despite demands for suffragettes to be treated as political prisoners detained in the first division – a separate category of “non-criminal” prisoners given special treatment – they invariably served their sentences in the criminal second and third divisions and received harsh treatment.

Many went on hunger and thirst strike and were subjected to the barbaric forcible feeding regime. Restrained by prison staff, a doctor would insert a tube through the mouth or nose into the stomach, down which a “nourishing” liquid was poured.

With the introduction of the Prisoners’ Temporary Discharge For Ill Health Act in 1913, commonly called the “Cat and Mouse”Act, suffragettes weakened by hunger strike and forcible feeding were released from prison until their health improved, when they were subsequently re-arrested.

Edith was born in North Street, Swindon, the daughter of railway clerk Frederick New and his wife Isabella.

She worked first as a teacher at Queenstown Infant’s School before moving to London. By 1908 she was employed as a staff organiser for the Women’s Social and Political Union, travelling the country to attend by elections and demonstrations nationwide.

Edith quickly became associated with the militant wing of the suffrage movement and served several terms of imprisonment. She is probably best known for breaking windows at 10 Downing Street with Mary Leigh in July 1908. Both women were sentenced to two months’ hard labour in Holloway Prison.

“My dear Edith,” her anxious mother Isabella wrote from 29 Lethbridge Road in a letter dated July 25, 1908, more than three weeks after Edith was sentenced following the Downing Street protest. “I am writing this without much hope of its reaching you yet awhile .......The dead silence is hard to bear and not to know how you are, and how being treated.”

“Don’t on any account worry about me, because I am uncommonly well,” Edith replied in an attempt to reassure her mother. “We are not allowed to make any mention of prison life or discipline so that must wait till I see you or write later.”

In 1926 Edith How Martyn, a former activist, founded the Suffragette Club. It was later renamed the Suffragette Fellowship, and aimed “to perpetuate the memory of the pioneers and outstanding events connected with women’s emancipation and especially with the militant suffrage campaign, 1905-14, and thus keep alive the suffragette spirit.”

The Suffragette Fellowship established three annual commemorative days which became known as Days of Obligation: Women’s Suffrage Day on February 6, Emmeline Pankhurst’s birthday on July 14 and Prisoner’s Day October 13, the date of the first militant protest and imprisonment.

Alongside the more famous names of the Pankhurst women on the Suffragette Prisoner’s Roll of Honour stands Edith New, a Swindon schoolteacher.