I WONDER what went through her mind just before she made the leap. Did she have second thoughts? How frightened was she?

Rhoda Fleming, 27, lived in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. In 1914 she went to see the King on his visit to Perth, not to wave a flag with the rest of the crowd but to jump on his car and smash the windows.

As The Herald of the day reported: “She was dragged off by the police before she succeeded, and amid a wild outburst of indignation by the spectators who, but for the protection of the police, would have roughly handled her.”

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We do not know what happened to Fleming later, but courtesy of Elspeth King’s excellent book, The Hidden History of Glasgow’s Women, the fate of another suffragette, Frances Parker, has been documented.

Parker was caught trying to blow up Burns’s cottage. She was sent to Perth Prison where, after three days of attempting to force feed her through the mouth and nose, the female guards stuck a tube into her rectum. One of the wardresses returned later to subject Parker to “a grosser and more indecent outrage, which could have no other purpose than to torture”.

Mob hatred, arrest, imprisonment, torture. Not a pretty picture, is it? What a contrast with this week’s celebrations marking 100 years since some women got the vote. A reception in Westminster Hall, a speech by the Prime Minister, photocalls at Holyrood and in London. How respectful it all was. How shiny all those purple, white and green ribbons. How far the suffragettes had come in the public’s estimation. Now there are calls for them to receive the ultimate expression of Establishment mercy: pardons.

While hesitating to put words in the mouths of those long gone, I rather fancy any suffragette worth the salt in her wounds would tell those arguing for pardons to stick them where the sun does not shine. Thanks, but no thanks.

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has backed the push for pardons. “It would be absolutely right to recognise those righteous pioneers and trailblazers for what they were, rather than them staying on the books as criminals” she told BBC Reporting Scotland. Sam Smethers, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society (named after the leader of the suffragist movement, which pursued its aims by peaceful means), agrees that pardons would be a “fitting tribute”.

Such sentiments doubtless come from the right place, even if the record of some of those uttering them raises an eyebrow. Listening to Ms Davidson and Theresa May on the subject of women’s rights, it was almost possible to forget that they were from the same party of government that introduced the so-called “rape clause”. Under this rule change, condemned by charities and others, women seeking tax credit help for a third child born as a result of rape must provide evidence to support their claim.

Nor is Labour exempt from criticism. The party of Jeremy Corbyn, who backs pardons, has the greatest number of female MPs, but when it comes to electing a woman leader the people’s party remains pro-bloke.

But let us not spoil the celebrations by dwelling on such inconsistencies, even though the suffragettes would have done precisely that. Their motto was “deeds not words”; not “deeds if you can manage it, and if that’s too difficult then warm words will do”.

There are other reasons for not rushing to embrace the idea of pardons for convicted suffragettes. They do not include the legal reservations expressed by Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, who said the process was “complicated” because the offences committed, including arson and assault, were still on the statute book. Where there is a will, a legal way can usually be found.

Calling for pardons is such an easy thing to do a century after the fight. Done at no cost to the individual and destined to show the exponent in a good light, it is just another example of virtue signalling, a hobby of right-on types the world over. It is an irritating habit, but it is not unpardonable.

What would be unforgivable is suggesting, as the call for pardons does, that those suffragettes who broke the law acted without due consideration, that they were somehow caught up in the heat of the moment. You lost your heads, ladies, and for that we would like to pat you on the head with a pardon.

The suffragettes knew exactly what they were doing. They refused to pay fines, knowing the next step was prison. They went on hunger strike, sure that force feeding would follow. They were not aiming to give the government’s conscience a gentle prod because that had not worked. They were launching an assault on the might of the British state with the aim of shaming it into action and draining it of resources.

For all the celebrations of this week, remember, it would be another ten years before all women got the vote on the same footing as men. The suffragists had officially begun their fight in 1897, the suffragettes in 1903. For many years before that women had been asking for the vote and being ridiculed and ignored. If not for the suffragettes breaking windows and laws, does anyone believe the government of the day would have acted? Certainly, women entering the workplace in their millions during the First World War was a crucial factor in securing the vote, but it was not the sole decider. Business was as quick to boot women out of jobs come 1918 as they had been to recruit them.

What the suffragettes knowingly sacrificed makes their bravery even more commendable. Their deeds should not be sanitised or swept under the carpet of a general pardon. That not only insults their memory, it diminishes their suffering and achievement. Women of today need to know how hard won this victory was, if only to bring home what it takes to make real change happen.

As for handing out pardons as a way for our generation to apologise to the suffragettes for the treatment they received, forget it. That is letting the state off too easily. Let the record stand, let the shame reside where it should. The suffragettes knew their enemies. They would not want their forgiveness.