Kitty Marion came from Germany to London when she was 15 years old with the dream of becoming an actress. Her mother had died when she was two, then her stepmother just four years later. Her father was violent and abusive toward the child and she was rescued by an uncle.
Although she had some success on the music hall stage, ultimately her dream was destroyed by priapic managers and agents inside the business who pressurised young women into bestowing “favours” in return for contracts – not much changes over time.
In a century-old version of #MeToo, Kitty Marion began to speak publicly about the assaults on women and her stage career quickly evaporated. Her radical nature found a natural resting place within the Women’s Social & Political Union, a branch of the suffragette movement led by Mrs Pankhurst.
She was put to work selling the Union’s newspaper, Votes for Women and her usual spot was at Picadilly Circus. Kitty became one of the most militant of the suffragettes, posting letter bombs and burning down buildings, for which she was repeatedly imprisoned.
In prison she was subjected to the latest government deterrent, force-feeding, which she describes to Ruby in The Music Hall Murder. Kitty Marion went through the procedure on 232 separate occasions.
When WW1 broke out, anti-German sentiment was at such a fever pitch in London that finally, she had to take passage to New York. Once there, her militancy continued when she went to work for Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Review. In the US Kitty Marion continued to be arrested for expressing her views.
A very good biography on Kitty Marion which helped me build her character within the book is Death in Ten Minutes: The forgotten life of radical suffragette Kitty Marion by Fern Riddell.