restricted access An “Insult to Soldiers’ Wives and Mothers”: The Woman’s Dreadnought’s Campaign Against Surveillance on the Home Front, 1914–1915


In the winter of 1914–15, Sylvia Pankhurst’s East London newspaper The Woman’s Dreadnought ran a series of articles protesting the Metropolitan Police’s efforts to surveil the wives of sailors and soldiers on active duty. This surveillance aimed to allow the government to revoke the separation allowances paid to wives if they were found to be “badly behaved.” Surveilled women faced the threat of being stripped of their only access to their husbands’ wages, or being blackmailed by the officers in charge of inquiries into their behavior. Pankhurst’s campaign in the Dreadnought to bring the matter to public attention drew on her knowledge of the mechanisms of surveillance and its negative effects to amplify the voices of working women, ultimately drawing the attention of the government and the mainstream press to the ways in which surveillance made these women uniquely vulnerable.