Dora B. Montifiore Archive

From A Victorian To a Modern.

Source: original typescript marked “Archer 5/-”;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

This short, undated and unsigned typescript review of the book was found in the papers of Charlie Lahr, deposited by his daughter in London University. Lahr, the well-known anarchist bookseller, was of course her publisher (E. Archer) but there is nothing else which relates to her. Esther Archer was the name of Charlie Lahr’s wife. Whether it was published elsewhere I do not know. It seems to be by a literary commentator rather than a political one who succeeded in always misspelling her name. Note by transcriber.

Mrs Montifiore is an educated cultivated woman who in her early years enjoyed a spaciousness of life which she wished others to share. Consequently she has been drawn more and more into social and progressive movements. Woman suffrage was the first great cause to claim her adherence and her enthusiastic championship. In the very early days of the militant movement (1906) she refused to pay income tax and barred the gates of her house to the bailiff. Then began siege of Fort Montifiore.

“At the evening demonstrations rows of lamps were hung along the top of the wall and against the house, the members of the W.S.P.U. speaking from the steps of the house, while I spoke from one of the upstairs windows, On the little terrace of the front garden hung during the whole time of the siege a red banner with the words painted in white, ‘Women should vote for the laws they obey and the taxes they pay.”

Mrs Montifiore wrote and spoke for woman suffrage in France, Germany, Holland, Denmark and elsewhere on the continent besides helping to start the suffrage movement in Australia. She went further than other suffrage leaders in demanding complete adult suffrage and, like many other women, was imprisoned for the ‘cause.’ One of the most interesting illustrations is that of a deputation she headed to Downing St in 1906. Surveying the drab-looking figures so voluminously draped, in the fashion of those days and realising that these were the advanced, progressive women of that time, we see that not only woman’s position but her silhouette has been complete1y altered and improved. In fact this illustration is the most ‘Victorian’ feature of the book for Mrs Montifiore is intensely modern and to label herself Victorian is almost sufficient to cause apoplexy to thin the dwindling ranks of those who really belong to that ancient order.

Not only did the suffrage movement claim her energy but she was also drawn into the Labour movement in its most advanced sections. She has interesting and piquant recollections of the Dublin Labour struggle of 1913 when she met with unexpected obstruction in her attempt to arrange for tenement children to be cared for in England till that black period was over.

She has edited Labour journals, contributed widely to the Labour press and has found time during a busy and self-sacrificing career, to take a keen interest in literature. The first English translation of Maxim Gorky’s work – his two stories Malva and The Orloff Couple – were translated by her in collaboration with Madame Jakowleff and to this volume she contributed one of the best short biographical notes on Gorki which has yet been written. These wide literary interests, combined with sincerity, have made her contributions to Labour journals, over many years a pleasure to pick out both for grace and depth of writing. The present biographical volume is an interesting piece of social history by one who has taken a leading part in the activities recorded.