The women’s union suspended militant campaigning, however, in 1910 in anticipation of a vote on legislation known as the Conciliation Bill, which, if passed, would have allowed about a million women, mostly wealthy property owners, to vote in parliamentary elections.
But for Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith, giving women the vote was a low priority. He was focused on passing another bill, the People’s Budget, which would impose a higher tax on the wealthy.
On what became known as Black Friday, Billinghurst, along with about 300 other suffragettes, gathered outside government buildings and demanded to speak with Asquith. When he refused, they tried to storm the buildings but were driven back by the police. Billinghurst was forcibly removed from her tricycle.
“At first, the police threw me out of the machine onto the ground in a very brutal manner,” she said in a police statement on Nov. 18, 1910. “Secondly, when on the machine again, they tried to push me along with my arms twisted behind me in a very painful position, with one of my fingers bent right back, which caused me great agony. Thirdly, they took me down a side road and left me in the middle of a hooligan crowd, first taking all the valves out of the wheels and pocketing them, so that I could not move the machine, and left me to the crowd of roughs, who, luckily, proved my friends.”
This was not the last time Billinghurst clashed with law enforcement. In November 1911, she was among 220 women arrested for smashing windows with hammers and stones in a protest in Parliament Square against a bill that would give all men, not just property owners, the right to vote but would continue to exclude women. She was arrested again in March 1912 during a coordinated protest in which 150 women smashed windows across London.
From jail, she continued to push for women’s suffrage.
“Miss Billinghurst is here with her tricycle,” wrote Alice Ker, another imprisoned suffragette, in a letter to her daughter. “She has irons on each leg, and can only walk with crutches, her tricycle works with handles. She drives it round the yard at exercise time. It is painted in the colors, with a placard, Votes for Women, on the back of it.”