Jane Allan

Suffragette

Jane (Janie) Allan (1868–1968) was a militant suffragette and socialist, and, as the daughter of a wealthy, philanthropic Glasgow shipping family, one of the most important financial supporters of the women's suffrage campaign.

When her parents, Jane Smith and Alexander Allan married in 1854, they united the Smith family of shipbuilders and the Allan Line, founded by Janie's grandfather, of which her brother, Robert S. Allan, was later a partner. Like her parents, she was a member of the Independent Labour Party. She edited the woman's suffrage column in the socialist paper Forward and in 1902 was on the executive committee of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women's Suffrage. She defected to the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1907. When some members broke away to form the Women's Freedom League, she remained with the WSPU but gave financial support to both organisations. 1

Her militant activity included participation in a window-smashing raid in London that resulted in a four-month sentence in Holloway prison in 1912. She described the effects of force-feeding on her health in a letter: 'Holloway in 1912 for one week. I did not resist at all, but sat quite still as if it were a dentist's chair, & yet the effect on my health was most disastrous. I am a very strong woman & absolutely sound in heart & lungs, but it was not till 5 months after, that I was able to take any exercise.' 2

She refused to pay her taxes in 1913, arguing that if women were not entitled to the vote then they should not be required to be taxed. She was present at the riotous public meeting at St Andrews Halls, Glasgow on 9 March 1914, when a total of 161 police officers, many in plain clothes, were sent to arrest Mrs Pankhurst on the platform. 3 Allan, 'tall and handsome in a black velvet evening gown', was the woman mentioned in the Glasgow Herald article the following day, which described how 'In the course of the melee, the excitement was intensified by a woman firing several blank rounds from a revolver'. 4 Allan afterwards campaigned unsuccessfully for an enquiry into the police actions, which had met with criticism even from quarters unsympathetic to the cause.

At the beginning of the Second World War, she gave money to establish the Women's Hospital Corps and became active in the Scottish Council for Women's Trades. She remained a committed socialist and feminist, seeking to improve women's welfare and status through various means until her death in 1968. 5

Notes:

1: 'Janie Allan', in Elizabeth L. Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds, Rose Pipes, eds, The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006, p.11.

2: 'Miss Janie Allan's Suffrage Material', National Library of Scotland, Acc. 4498/2.

3: Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866–1928, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 510.

4: From Gertrude Harding's diaries, quoted in Gretchen Wilson, With All Her Might: The Life of Gertrude Harding, Militant Suffragette, New York: Holmes & Meier, 1998, p.150; Glasgow Herald, 10 March 1914, p. 8.

5: 'Janie Allan', in Elizabeth L. Ewan, Sue Innes, Sian Reynolds, Rose Pipes, eds, The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006, p. 11.