Cat and Mouse Act

The Cat and Mouse Act

The increasingly ‘shocking’ tactics of the Suffragette movement proved to be highly embarrassing for the government. The policy of force feeding suffragettes who were on Hunger Strike had the effect of generating sympathy for the Suffragettes and was politically backfiring. The Government, led by Herbert Asquith, needed to find a way of tackling the Suffragette tactics. The solution came in the form of the Prisoners, Temporary Discharge for Health Act, which is better known as the Cat and Mouse Act.

The Cat and Mouse Act allowed temporary short term release of prisoners. In doing so it took away the need to force feed suffragettes. Instead the authorities now arrested them, locked them up, let them go on hunger strike and when they were weak, released them on license. Once the Suffragette was eating and fit again, they were then rearrested and put back in prison to continue their sentence.

Suffragette Poster

Suffragette Poster criticisng the Cat and Mouse Act

Source Material

External Link – Suffragette poster calling for the repeal of the Cat and Mouse Act.

Source: Chrisabel Pankhurst, Unshackled.

The Home Secretary argued that the alternative to forcible feeding was to ‘let the prisoners die’. He assured the House that women were prepared to die for the cause. ‘It has been said,’ he said, ‘that not many women would die, but I think you would find that thirty, forty or fifty would come up, one after another.’ Finally, he foreshadowed the introduction of a new legislative Act to deal with the matter. This proved to be the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act, as it was quickly named by the critics of the Government… The Government prepared for their fight against Mrs. Pankhurst by introducing this new measure, framed with the purpose of making her serve, in spite of the hunger-strike, every single day of the long sentence that was surely awaiting her.

External Link – leaflet calling for the repeal of the Cat and Mouse Act.


History Learning Site – narrative account of the reasons for the act. – The Cat and Mouse Act

British HistoryLiberal Reforms – Homepage

Trade Disputes Act 1906 Workmens Compensation Act 1906 Merchant Shipping Act 1906
Education (Provision of Meals) Act 1906 Education (Administrative Provisions) Act 1907 Matrimonial Causes Act 1907
Coal Mines Regulation Act 1908 Children’s and Young Persons Act (Children’s Charter) 1908 Old Age Pensions Act 1908
Labour Exchange Act 1909 Trade Board Act 1909 Housing and Town Planning Act 1909
National Insurance Act 1911 Shops Act 1911 Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act 1912
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