Disability Life Stories

Eliza Adelaide Knight – Disabled Suffragette #Herstory

Born in 1871 Eliza Adelaide Knight was left disabled following a childhood injury and used crutches or a stick for the rest of her life, she also experienced repeated episodes of poor health.

Eliza Adelaide Knight and Donald Adolphus Brown
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Black and white photo of Eliza Adelaide Knight (left) and Donald Adolphus Brown (right)

In 1894 Adelaide married a sailor, Donald Adolphus Brown, he shared her political outlook and following their marriage her took her surname. Adelaide found some tasks difficult and painful due to her disability and so her and Donald shared domestic chores.

She was secretary of the WSPU branch in Canning Town in 1906. For some, such as her friend Dora Montefiore, she was the ‘leader’ of the working class women in the WSPU.

In June 1906 she was arrested alongside Annie Kenney and another woman, Mrs Sparborough, when they tried to gain an audience with Herbert Asquith who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time.

The women were sentenced to prison for six weeks unless they agreed to be ‘bound over’ for one year, i.e. to give up campaigning. The three women chose prison. Adelaide said:

“I refuse to barter my freedom to act according to my conscience, while my health permits me to fight on.”

Prison conditions were terrible and her health suffered as a result. Despite this she kept up a positive attitude, sand The Red Flag morning and night using hair pins to scratch the lyrics on the window sill of her cell.

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