Sarah was born about 1863 in Ilford in Essex and died in Lewisham in 1949 at the age of 86.
Sarah had married Michael Cahill, a signalman who was born in Ireland, and at the time of the 1911 census she was living at 11 Mount Pleasant, together with her son William Phillip and her daughters Isabella, Catherine and Eleanor. In 1917 she used 60 Limes Grove as her address as the Secretary of the Dulwich Branch of the No-conscription Fellowship. From 1922 to 1949 she is shown on the Lewisham electoral register as living with her family at 75 Old Road.
Work supporting Conscientious Objection during the First World War
The Kentish Mercury September 8, 1916 reports, under the disparaging sub heading A Spartan Mother : New Style, that she gave evidence to the Appeals Tribunal that her son had held his beliefs as a conscientious objector for nine or ten years and had learned them from her. She also thought it wrong that women should be involved in war work and when asked by the Chairman of the Tribunal if she would work as a nurse she said '"No - I have worked for peace ever since the war started".
Sarah was an associate member of the Dulwich Branch of the No-Conscription Fellowship and was extensively involved in its work, particularly after the younger men were imprisoned. By 1917 she was its branch secretary and Clara Cole says that she "worked unceasingly in visiting prisoners, taking up any and every task possible." (see below ref p.56). Sarah's diligence is born out by a letter she sent on August 26 1917 to Catherine Marshall, the Parliamentary Secretary of the NCF where she reports on the condition of four of the Dulwich branch members who were imprisoned as absolutists and whom she had recently visited or was in correspondence with: J. Ashton, E.T Jope, E.W. Harby and A.E. Allen. She also spoke to another prisoner on a visit to Wandsworth about the month of solitary confinement still in practice there. She felt that this would affect Edward Harby, who was due to start another sentence there, greatly. She also reported in a P.S that Mr Jope informed her that it had "just been made a punishable offence" to smile in Pentonville.
She had a letter published in the Labour Leader on May 18, 1916 calling for public demonstrations by women against the wholesale slaughter of their menfolk, and in Most dangerous women : feminist peace campaigners of the Great War, Anne Wiltsher writes that this letter led to demonstrations in Glasgow and ultimately to the formation of the Women's Peace Crusade by Helen Crawford (see ref below).
Sarah's own son William suffered greatly with ill health while in prison before being discharged on medical grounds in January 1918.
Kentish Mercury, September 8, 1916
Dulwich N-C.F What are Conscientious Objectors? July 1917 in the Cumbria Archive Centre ref:D/Mar/4/97
Letter from Mrs S. Cahill, Secretary, Dulwich Branch NCF to Miss Catherine Marshall, Parliamentary Secretary of the NCF dated 26 August, 1917 and held with Miss Mashall's papers Cumbria Archive Centre ref:D/Mar/4/97; quoted with the permission of the Cumbria Archive's Centre, Carlisle.
Anne Wiltsher, Most dangerous women : feminist peace campaigners of the Great War, London : Pandora, 1985 p. 147
Clara Cole, The Objectors to Conscription and War, published Manchester: Workers' Northern Publishing Society, 1936
Ann O'Brien, Volunteer, Lewisham Local Studies and Archives Centre January 1915
This wiki is still being developed and subject to change. Please bear with us until it is completed. If you have any suggestions for improvements or inclusions please let us know. Click here to contact us