Frenzied by media spin, some people were so exercised by the arson and window-smashing tactics of the Women’s Social and Political Union that they suspected militant suffragettes were lurking everywhere. News-seekers were as avid as reactionaries later seeking Reds under every innocuous bed.
Were these suffragettes even on ships threatening to torch teak super-structures or fling handy bricks through portholes? Well, no, actually. But at least one voyager decorated her liner with a purple, white and green banner. And some feminists used a voyage as yet another opportunity to convert those unconvinced of the justice of votes for women. Passengers and crew alike were urged to see the (long-overdue) light.
Christabel Pankhurst, a WSPU ‘Admiral’, had been on a speaking tour to the US. In March 1912 she was rumoured to be coming back to England on one of the world’s most iconic ships, Cunard’s Lusitania.
Round about this day, 99 years ago, Lusitania Smoke Room passengers (male) on board occupied themselves by writing a spoof poem on her behalf. They then allegedly sent it to the WSPU. The New York Times recorded its words:Please inform the ladies am at sea Where no doubt they would like to be, Carrying on movement when ship doesn’t roll; Have succeeded in smashing every port hole Created much havoc: course ship diverted; Where am steering cannot yet tell, But I’ll get there, you bet.
Punch caricaturist Harry Furniss jokily cabled his editor to report ‘I had carefully examined each port [hole] in the ship and found them all intact, so she could not be on board.’ 
Suffrage campaigners, of course, were excellent at metaphorical navigation. They knew exactly where they were steering. It was hostile currents that were their problem. But they would indeed get there, you bet. The ship of suffrage came triumphantly into dock: women won the vote partially six years later and then, fully, sixteen years on.
Dr Jo Stanley writes about gender and the sea. See www.jostanley.biz. Her forthcoming Yale University Press book is Risk! Women on the Wartime Seas.
 Harry Furniss ‘Furniss on Lusitania,’ New York Times, 16.3.1912.