(Marian) Violet Aitken


The daughter of Canon WHMH (Hay) Aitken of Norwich Cathedral, Violet was a Suffragette prisoner and hunger striker, briefly employed as full-time worker on The Suffragette.

Violet was born 21 January 1886 in Bedford, Bedfordshire, and is believed to have died aged 101 in November 1987 in Hertfordshire.

The 1891 Census (RG12/1249/108/15 and 16) shows Marian Violet aged 5 living at 33 Lansdowne Road in St Paul’s Bedford with her family, her father is described as a Clerk in Holy Orders.

The 1901 Census (RG13/1489/166/35) shows Marian Violet now aged 15 still at 33 Lansdowne Road in St Paul’s Bedford though at this time the father William Hay McDowell Aitken is not present at the address.

An extract from her father’s diary (NRO, MC 2165/1/23, 976X4) says:

An image of NRO, MC 2165/1/23, 976X4,  1912 Diary of William Hay MacDowell Aitken, Canon of Norwich Cathedral
NRO, MC 2165/1/23, 976X4, 1912 Diary of William Hay MacDowell Aitken, Canon of Norwich Cathedral

Tuesday, March 5 1912 – ‘she [Violet] has been again arrested and this time for breaking plate glass windows, I am overwhelmed with shame and distress to think that a daughter of mine should do anything so wicked’… ‘But my poor wife! It’s heart breaking to think of her being exposed in her old age to the horror….God help us!’

By 1914, any family rift has been made up, the diary shows that the family were holidaying together in Penzance (NRO, MC 2165/1/24).

She appears on the Roll of Honour of Suffragette Prisoners 1905-1914  7LAC/2  c.1950  held at the Women’s Library at The London Metropolitan University.

15 Mar 1912 Votes for Women

Miss Clara Given and Miss Violet Aitken, breaking twelve windows at 245 Regent Street, Jays Ltd., (£100) on Friday evening.

An image of Picture Norfolk NP00002006
Picture Norfolk NP00002006
Suffragettes marching along Prince of Wales Road, Norwich,
Photographer F. Neal 1914
Publication prohibited without the permission of Norfolk County Council

The Rev W Hay Aitken is found on the Passenger lists for the ship Teutonic from Liverpool to New York which arrived on 23 October 1895. He is described as a Clergyman from Bedford in transit to Montreal (with 7 pieces of luggage). The Reverend returned on the Sardinian arriving back in Liverpool on 13 May 1896. He died on 20 October 1927.

Find out more: You can see Violet’s father’s diary at the Norfolk Record Office – MC 2165/1/23, 976X4.