Born Katherina Maria Schafer in Germany Kitty came to England in 1886 at the age of 15 shortly after which she started working for the Variety theatre, touring the country as a vocal comedienne. She became a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1908, taking part in deputations to the House of Commons and selling the Votes for Women newspaper. From then she combined her music hall career with that of a Suffragette militant. She was also a member of the Actresses’ Franchise League. She participated in a number of extreme militant acts, window smashing and arson. Like any proud performer, Kitty kept press descriptions of her work: she pasted newspaper clippings reporting militant acts such as arson in a scrapbook, a page of which we have on display in Shades of Militancy.
By 1913 Marion was suspected of committing five acts of arson, yet was arrested only for the fifth - the burning of the Grand Stand at Hurst Park Racecourse. Kitty was found guilty and sentenced, on 3 July 1913, to three years and 21 days of hard labour in Holloway Prison.
Weakened through hunger-strike, she was twice released under the Prisoner's Temporary Discharge for Ill Health Act (referred to by the suffragettes as the 'Cat and Mouse Act') into a Women's Social and Political Union nursing home. Leaving the home, she would evade the authorities and commit further acts of arson or window-breaking before being captured and re-imprisoned. During Marion's last spell in Holloway, she was forcibly fed 232 times over a period of 14 weeks and two days. On 16 April 1914 she was released again under the Act, having lost 2 stone 8lbs (16kg) in weight.
Faced with deportation to Germany at the start of World War I, Marion eventually negotiated her migration to the USA, where she lived for the remainder of her life, becoming highly involved in the birth control movement.