Lady Constance Georgina Lytton was a proper woman, a fiery writer, and a determined supporter of the suffrage movement. Leading a double life and battling depression, a weak heart, as well as rheumatism, Lady Constance Lytton pushed on and became an advocate for not only woman suffrage, but prison reform and birth control. This is her story.
Lady Constance Lytton was born in Vienna, Austria on January 18, 1869. She was the daughter of Robert Lytton, the Viceroy of India at the time, and spent the first eleven years of her life there. Later in 1892, a year after her father's death, she fell in love with a man in a lower social class. Her mother did not allow her to be married, and because of this, she refused to get married. It was only after this injustice she took interest in the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union).
At first she disagreed with the militant tactics. These tactics were mainly large rallies and marches. As an upscale lady, she found them unnecessary and brute-like. However, she found the idea of physically causing change enthralling, and after talking to a few members about their experiences she joined a march. This horrified her family, who were supporters of the Nation Union of Suffrage Societies, which was non-militant. Constance pushed on, attending the rally, and was promptly arrested alongside her fellow demonstrators. In prison she learned many skills such as cleaning and knitting, which she had forgone in her life of luxury, and loved it. She took an interest in the lives of those in prison, along with the troubles they faced. She was given special treatment on account of her status, being kept in the hospital ward. When she went on a hunger strike along with her fellow suffragettes, the doctors deemed her unfit for the mandated force feeding, on account of her heart condition. She was released from jail, angered that her privilege prevented her from being a true suffragette.
She then attended a second demonstration, this time wearing plain clothes and a large hat. She smashed a window and was jailed, only this time she gave the name Jane Warton. In jail, she was treated like the rest of the women, which is to say horribly. After she went on a hunger strike, a new doctor deemed her fit for force feeding after hardly any examination, and the process left her with broken teeth as well as partial paralysis due to her weak heart.
She was nearly dead when her family found her. Once she recovered, still not being able to use her right hand, she wrote a book called Prisons and Prisoners, which called for reforming British prisons as well as the treatment of female inmates. She died in May, 1923, missing the legalization of women's right to vote by five years.
Lady Constance Lytton, or Jane Warton, as I’m sure she would like to be called, broke free from the constraints of her class and society, choosing who she was going to be, and what she was going to fight for. She showed women everywhere that no matter where you come from, you can always do what’s right. She should serve as an inspiration to people everywhere, that others don’t determine who you are, and that you should always fight for what you believe in.