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Cat and Mouse Act

Women in the early 1900's who campaigned for the right to vote were known as Suffragists. In Ireland, militant Suffragists, or 'suffragettes' as they were often jokingly referred to in the press, paralleled the activities of their counterparts in Britain - mainly the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) set up by the Pankhurst family in Britain in 1903. They engaged in acts of 'civil disobedience', where window breaking emerged as the preferred tactic. Some were imprisoned for these activities. They began to use 'hunger-strike' as a means of protest. In response, prison authorities attempted to force feed the women. This involved tying them down, inserting a tube in their nose and pouring a liquid food through a funnel. There is an illustration in the museum which depicts a woman prisoner being force fed.

This harsh response brought protests from all sections of society and the practice ended after the introduction in 1913 of the Prisoner's Temporary Disgharge for Ill-Health Act, which became known as the Cat and Mouse Act. This was brought in as an attempt at dealing with prisoners on hunger-strike. When women on hunger strike became sick and weakend, they would be released, but as soon as they were back to full health, they were re-arrested and brought back to prison to continue on their sentences. However, none of the time spent out of prison was applied to their current sentences and it became seen as a type of indefinite detention.

In Ireland, suffrage became inextricably tied into the nationalist movement. In the April 1916 edition of the Irish Citizen, those executed were now hailed as "Suffrage Casualties" with Connolly being given special notice as having "recognized the cause of Woman and Labour as twin".

Suffrage ended when the Representation of the People Act was passed in 1918, giving men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 the right to vote in Britain and Ireland.

Sketch of Force Feeding

Sketch of Force Feeding

Cat and Mouse Poster

Anti Cat and Mouse Act
Poster created by WSPU