Archive for category Suffrage Stories
Pretend you are taking a GCSE paper. One of questions states that this picture shows Christabel Pankhurst casting her first parliamentary vote. You have to decide whether this statement is true or false.
What clues might you find to point you in the right direction?
Actually there is one so glaring that I am amazed that it can be overlooked. Have a look at her attire.
Q.When were women of Christabel’s age able to vote for the first time?
A. December 1918.
Q. Does that dress and hat look like an outfit suitable for going to the ballot in December of any year?
Q. Are the hat and dress of a style worn in 1918?
A. Most definitely not.
Q. So – if not 1918 when might that flowing gown and flower-bedecked bonnet have been in the mainstream of fashion?
A. Spring 1909.
Yes, that is the correct answer.
In fact the photograph shows Christabel casting a vote in a ballot box that was one of the main features of the WSPU Fair at the Prince’s Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, that ran between 13-26 May 1909. As Votes for Women, 23 April 1909, stated ‘A unique feature of the Exhibition.. will be the polling booth which will occupy one of the corners of the great hall. At this booth women as well as men will cast their votes upon many of the most interesting questions of the day.’ And that is what we see Christabel doing.
And as for that hat? It does strike one as a little incongruous. She isn’t usually seen in anything so maidenly frivolous. And so it is interesting to know that the hat was a gift to her from Frederick Pethick-Lawrence. Moreover when, in the late 1950s, after Christabel’s death, he came to prepare her autobiographical manuscript for publication (Unshackled:the story of how we won the vote) it was a photograph of her wearing his hat that he used for the frontispiece.
I have been amazed how this photograph, described as Christabel casting her first parliamentary vote, has been tweeted and retweeted. It was even used in Amanda Vickery’s ‘Suffragettes Forever’ BBC 2 programme to accompany the voice over telling us that women first voted in December 1918. How this thoughtless use of an incorrect image (by no means the only one) jarred.
Click here to see what Christabel looked like as she campaigned in Smethwick in late 1918 – for she was, of course, both a candidate and a voter. She is centre left in the photo – and you’ll be relieved to see that she is sensibly dressed – complete with muff – to combat the winter chill.
For some time I have been meaning to investigate Charlotte Robinson, ‘Home Art Decorator’ to Queen Victoria, mention of whom I came across years ago while researching the interior design career of Rhoda and Agnes Garrett. Now that I have done so, I’ve discovered, as an added bonus, her family link with one of the WSPU’s more imaginative publicity stunts.
Charlotte Robinson was born c 1859 in Settle in Yorkshire, one of the younger children in the large family of a Yorkshire solicitor. He died in 1870, leaving an estate of c £20,000. A later biographical piece about Charlotte noted that she (as presumably were all the children) was left a share of his property and it was this that gave her the freedom to develop a career.
By 1871 Charlotte had been sent as a boarder to a small school in Bolton but was later moved to the rather more prestigious Queen’s College in London. Education complete she returned home for a time – the 1881 census finds her living with her brother, William, a solicitor, in Keighley. She then spent some time travelling abroad.
For some of that time, certainly in 1883, Charlotte was travelling in America with Emily Faithfull – described on the manifest of the ship on which they travelled to New York as ‘Secretary’. You can read a very interesting article about Emily Faithfull here. It would seem, from remarks recorded by Emily that she had met Charlotte when the latter was still a pupil at Queen’s College.
Emily Faithfull was, of course, a fierce advocate of work for middle-class women so it’s unsurprising that, when interviewed in the 1890s for Manchester Faces and Places, Charlotte described how on her return from her travels ‘she resolved to invest her money in a business which she could control herself instead of returning to the usual round of gaieties, varied by intermittent charitable enterprises.’ The journalist then elaborated – ‘Having always been interested in decorative art, friends who knew her marvellous deftness of touch and infallible sense of colour, strongly advised her to turn these special gifts to account.’
In an interview that appeared in the Women’s Penny Paper, 9 February 1889, Charlotte went into more detail. ‘The idea of house decoration as a profession came to me while travelling through America. I was much struck with the interiors of some of the magnificent houses to which I was invited in some of the principal cities between New York and San Francisco, and on my return to England began to supplement previous artistic study. My first professional business was in furnishing houses, now I decorate them through, as well as working in conjunction with my sister, Mrs McClelland, who presides over the studio from which come the beautiful friezes you have just been admiring.’ So that is how Charlotte Robinson came to become a ‘house decorator.
She was setting up in the house decoration business ten years after the trail had been blazed for women by Agnes and Rhoda Garrett and, like them, she stressed the necessity of undergoing a training. However, although we know that the Garretts were pupils of the architect John Brydon, I’ve been unable to discover where or with whom Charlotte Robinson trained. All that is revealed in the Manchester Faces interview is that she ‘went through the necessary course of study and thoroughly qualified herself for the work.’ As Emily Faithfull put it in a later article Charlotte studied ‘house decoration from hearth tiles to frieze painting’.
According to Emily Faithfull, Charlotte Robinson first went into business in London. This must, I think, have been immediately on their return from America – and was probably by way of dipping a toe in the water. But very soon – probably in late 1884/early 1885 – the two women moved to Manchester and, as Emily wrote, ‘regardless of that bugbear which terrifies most women – she [Charlotte] put up her own name over the door.’
That door gave entrance to 20 South King Street, in the central Manchester shopping district, the premises serving primarily as a shop. It would seem from other remarks that Charlotte’s design work was done at home – 10 Plymouth Grove – the house she shared with Emily Faithfull. By 1886 a part of 20 South King Street had been given over to a ‘Typewriting Office’, run by a Miss Giles. As the Manchester Courier remarked when reporting this ‘Doubtless the typewriter will soon become as popular here as in America’. One can imagine that this was a development of which Emily Faithfull was fully supportive.
It is clear from every description that Charlotte Robinson’s ideas of interior design were the antithesis of those of Rhoda and Agnes Garrett. It is impossible to imagine the latter displaying mirrors such as one to be found in Charlotte Robinson’s establishment – for on it was painted ‘a pool fringed with rushes in which a wild duck and her brood were swimming, while the old mallard was taking wing to enjoy the pleasures of the world beyond – after his kind – leaving to the mother the care of the little fluffy yellow ducks, whose very feathers seemed to move with the passing wind’. (Manchester Courier, 6 February 1885).
Items such as this were produced not in Manchester but in London, in the studio of Charlotte’s sister, Mrs McClelland (33 Warwick Avenue, Paddington). Epsey McClelland was twelve years older than Charlotte – in the 1891 census she is described as a widow, a ‘decorative artist’, living with her daughter at the Warwick Avenue address. In an article on ‘Ladies as Shopkeepers’, reprinted in Pall Mall Gazette, (23 December 1887), Emily Faithfull extolled Charlotte’s taste – ‘Her furniture designs are simple and unique; she has dainty and quaint arrangements for cosy nooks and odd corners, and has good reason to be proud of the work of the artists employed in in the studio over which her clever sister, Mrs McClelland is the presiding genius.’
In 1887 Charlotte Robinson took stands at two exhibitions. In Saltaire in June she showed ‘..beautiful painted screens, brackets, plaques, a corner cabinet richly decorated with painted flowers and an excellently painted frieze.’ (Leeds Mercury 3 June 1887).
Of the Manchester Jubilee Exhibition, June/July 1887, the Cabinet Maker and Art Furnisher wrote:- ‘Miss Charlotte Robinson showed a frieze, corner sideboard, overmantel, draught screen, fire screens, Tuckaway tables, and other knickknacks, all, more or less decorated with the light and fanciful painting for which she had made a name. It is in some aspects too “pretty” for our taste, but it is none the less skilful. This lady is happy in the sprightly woodwork forming the foundation of her paintings. The corner sideboard is particularly pleasing.’
We can get a clearer picture of the ‘light and fanciful painting’ from a description given of Charlotte’s stand at the Glasgow Exhibition the following year. ‘Visitors to this stand ought to note the billet-doux writing table, a facsimile of that purchased by the Princess of Wales, and invented and patented by Miss Robinson. Beside this is the ‘Interloper’ chair purchased by the Countess of Rosebery. Both are painted with white French enamel, and decorated with blue tom tits. There are two friezes, specially designed for drawing rooms bearing groups of roses and chrysanthemums and one for a smoking room, with a design of wild ducks in flight.’ (Glasgow Herald 25 May 1888).
Blue tom tits for the ladies and wild ducks for the gentlemen – an aesthetic very different from that of the Garretts, whom Sir Hubert Parry commended – writing in his diary while staying in their house – ‘The quiet and soothing colour of the walls and decoration and the admirable taste of all things acts upon the mind in the most comforting manner. I was quite excised of the vulgar idea that everything ought to be light & gaudy & covered with gilt in London.‘
In late 1888 Charlotte received the accolade of being appointed ‘Home Art Decorator’ to Queen Victoria. Over 20 years earlier Emily Faithfull had been appointed publisher and printer in ordinary to the Queen, her brushes with scandal having apparently done nothing to dent her reputation in the eyes of the royal family. On 9 October 1889 the Leeds Mercury reported that ‘Miss Charlotte Robinson has had the honour of submitting to her Majesty some dessert d’oyleys painted on silk, from sketches taken near Palé as mementoes of Her Majesty’s visit to Wales’ and, as we have seen the Princess of Wales had already bought one of her writing tables’.
By October 1888 business was sufficiently prosperous for Charlotte to open a London showroom – in Mayfair – at 20 Brook Street – and in the same month was appointed as editor of ‘the decorative department’ on the magazine, The Queen, in succession to Mrs Talbot Coke. She was now in a position both to dictate taste and to supply the means of achieving it. She held her position on The Queen for the rest of her life. A small measure of this power was the fact that in an advertisement a Gloucester furnishing store, Messrs Matthews, regularly mentioned that their stock was approved by the leading Art Critics of the Day – such as Charlotte Robinson, Mrs Talbot Coke and Mrs Panton.
The interview given to the journalist from the Women’s Penny Paper took place in the Brook Street showroom, among the ‘cream coloured music racks, dainty billet doux tables, LouisSeize screens etc which provide an artistic public with useful as well as beautiful wedding and birthday gifts’. Charlotte commented that ‘I spend a great deal of time in Manchester, where I have a large business to control, and much is taken up in travelling “back and forth” as we say in the north, between the various houses I have to decorate and furnish in London and the country.Through The Queen I have to advise about houses in every part of the world.’
However for all the reports of how busy she was with her commissions – ‘She can drape a room in less time than it takes most people to think of it’ – there is no information now available to tell us who her clients were or which were the houses she decorated. In the case of the Garretts I was able, from a variety of sources, to piece together a short list of their clients, but I can find no trace at all of Charlotte Robinson’s private clients. There is mention that in in June 1892 she was commissioned to decorate a hotel being erected in Manchester for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, that she did some work for Cunard, and that she was called upon to redecorate the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in Manchester Town Hall. The latter is a superbly Gothic creation and certainly no place for tom tits and wild ducks.
Emily Faithfull died in 1895, leaving all her property to Charlotte. In her will, which had been written in 1893, she wrote that’ I feel sure that any loving members of my family, who may survive me, will appreciate my desire that the few possessions I have should be retained for the exclusive use, and as the absolute property, of my beloved friend Charlotte Robinson, as some little indication of my gratitude for the countless services for which I am indebted to her, as well as for the affectionate tenderness and care which made the last five years of my life the happiest I ever spent.’
After Emily’s death Charlotte Robinson continued to cut a dash in Manchester society. The local newspapers record her attendance at numerous balls and conversaziones – for instance, in July 1899 dressed in white brocaded silk and heliotrope velvet. On these occasions she is often in the company of Julia Dux, who lived close by in Plymouth Grove.
Charlotte Robinson’s career was brought to a premature end, however, by her death at home, in October 1901. She left £3100 – and the executors of her will were her sister, Epsey, and her niece Elspeth McClelland.
The latter, then aged 22, continued along the path that her aunt had, to a degree, forged and, with the changing times, was able to become more fully a professional and practise as an architect. You can read an account of her career here. She, like her aunt Charlotte, was clearly a woman of independent thinking and, not unsurprisingly, was swept into the Edwardian suffragette movement, achieving a certain notoriety in 1909 when she was one of the ‘Human Letters’ sent as a publicity stunt to 10 Downing Street. You can see a photograph here of Elspeth posing for the camera – with Daisy Solomon, her fellow ‘Letter’, on the left and Annie Kenney in support on the right. Under her married name – Mrs Elspeth Douglas Spencer – she has an entry in the Suffrage Annual and Woman’s Who’s Who.
Thus, by way of Charlotte Robinson’s ‘home art decoration’ , we can trace a line of endeavour that stretches from Emily Faithfull’s involvement in the 1860s with the Langham Place Group (middle-class women intent on improving work opportunities for their sisters) to a woman architect who, in her short life, managed to design and build several houses – as well as giving birth to three children. It was, apparently, that third birth that in 1920 killed her – putting an end to another interesting career.
For more about the interior design work of Rhoda and Agnes Garrett see Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle, published by Francis Boutle.
In the Introduction to my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide I wrote:
‘Although women may be “hidden from history” they are not, on the whole, hidden from the Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths nor from the Principal Registry of the Family Division (in England and Wales) or the General Register Office in Scotland.’
However there is no getting away from the fact that, despite one’s best efforts, there are some women who resist all attempts at discovery. One such is the rather mysterious ‘Mrs Alice Green’ who we come across in the intertwined stories of Emily Wilding Davison and Kitty Marion.
For instance, in The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison (p 131-32) Liz Stanley and Ann Morley tell us that for some months in 1913 Emily Davison was staying with Mrs Green at 133 Clapham Road. We assume that it was from here that on 4 June she set out for the WSPU office and then the Derby. They also note The Suffragette (13 June 1913) as mentioning that a Mrs Green was at Emily’s bedside in the Epsom Cottage Hospital. However, although Stanley and Morley do so much to reveal other branches of Emily’s friendship network they pass Mrs Green by without comment.
And I’m not surprised – because ‘Mrs Alice Green’ is more resistant than most to the historian’s intrusive gaze. But, lifting the dusty Victorian curtain, the earliest sighting I have of her is at the Dover Register Office on 11 June 1898 where, as ‘Alice Kellie’, spinster, 26 years old, she married Edward Basil Green. The couple each gave their address as 4 Eastbrook Place, Dover.
But who was ‘Alice Kellie’? From searching through all the resources of Ancestry and FindmyPast I could find no suitable candidate and was sufficiently intrigued to order a copy of the marriage certificate in the hope it might offer a clue. Well, the only extra information it gave me about ‘Alice Kellie’ was that she was the daughter of ‘James Kellie (deceased), boot (or book?) dealer’. That actually didn’t get me any further because I couldn’t find a trace in any census of a suitable James Kellie. Whose to know if Registrars are given the true facts? I can find sufficient evidence in my own family history to know that they often are not.
On the other hand I had no difficulty in uncovering the background of the bridegroom. Edward Basil Green had been born in 1873 in Folkestone, the youngest son of Samuel Richard Green ( 1837-1882), a mechanical engineer, and the grandson of Edward Green, a Yorkshire ironmaster and founder of E. Green and Son. At the time of the marriage he would have been 25 years old – yet the certificate has his age as 27. The bride’s age is given as 26. If the bridgroom felt compelled to add a couple of years could this mean that the bride was perhaps rather older. Who’s to know!
What the marriage certificate did tell me was that no member from either family was there to witness the marriage. The certificate is signed by the wife of the Registrar and by either the wife or the daughter (they both had the same name) of the tobacconist whose shop was next to the Register Office. This lack of family support may be explained by the next sighting I have of the happy couple – as they became parents of a son (Edward Basil Green) on 27 August 1898. It looks as though Alice Kellie was about seven months pregnant when she married Edward Green.
And that is the last I time I catch sight of Alice Green before she appears 15 years or so later as a friend and supporter of Emily Wilding Davison. I cannot see that either she or her husband were on the electoral roll as inhabitants of 133 Clapham Road and, indeed, cannot spot them in London until they appear on the 1921 electoral roll (with their son) living at Powis Terrace in north Kensington. From 1930 until 1939 Alice and Basil (as her husband was known) continued to live in this area – now at 13 Colville Mansions.
In the meantime Mrs Green, as well as supporting Emily Davison, had also helped Kitty Marion, being one of three (Dr Violet Jones and Mary Leigh were the others) who took her to Paris on 31 May 1914 to show Christabel Pankhurst the result of the treatment that she had suffered in prison. As Kitty Marion was on the run at the time as a ‘mouse’, Alice Green was taking something of a risk in accompanying her.
In 1915 Mrs Alice Green was secretary of the Emily Davison Club that Mary Leigh had formed to perpetuate their friend’s memory. In October 1915 Mrs Green was one of those who contributed towards Kitty Marion’s fare to the US – the party to bid her farewell was held at the Emily Davison Club. Meetings of the Club were held in 144 High Holborn, which housed the offices of the Women’s Freedom League and the WFL’s Minerva Cafe. Over a period of years, from the 1920s until at least 1938, the Greens were also, with others, such as Charlotte Despard, Elizabeth Knight, Octavia Lewin, leaseholders of 144 High Holborn.
From her involvement with the suffrage movement I get the impression that Mrs Green was reasonably well off, although I cannot discover how her husband was employed. The family does not appear in the 1911 census – presumably they followed the WFL/WSPU boycott. As a mechanical engineer did he, perhaps, work for the family firm?
Any difficulties there may have been over the shotgun wedding had long since been forgotten. In 1923 Edward Basil Green was left £10,000 in the will of his uncle, Sir Edward Green, and many years later his son was the executor of the will of one of his Green aunts.
It’s not only Alice Green’s birth that is obscure, but, very surprisingly, I cannot even discover when she died. Her husband was living at Minehead when he died in 1958 – but probate was granted to a solicitor (and not, rather surprisingly, to his son) and I haven’t gone so far as to investigate his will.
The career of Alice and Basil Green’s son is rather easier to follow – he became chairman of Doulton, retiring in 1963. I wonder if his descendants have any information about ‘Mrs Alice Green’ – or are aware of the part she played in supporting two of the most militant of the suffragettes?
It is sited in Christchurch Gardens, a paved turning running from Victoria Street, Westminster, towards Caxton Hall and was commissioned by the Suffragette Fellowship to commemorate ‘ the courage and perseverance of all those men and women who in the long struggle for votes for women selflessly braved derision, opposition and ostracism, many enduring physical violence and suffering.’ The Memorial was unveiled in 1970, on 14 July, Emmeline Pankhurst’s official birthday .
I find it interesting that it took nearly 60 years from the time that the WSPU had, to all intents and purposes, disbanded for the survivors to commemorate with a piece of public art (rather than a plaque, of which there are several related to the suffrage movement) any others than the Pankhursts (that is, Emmeline and Christabel).
I am not aware of any documentation associated with the decision to commission Lorne McKean and Edwin Russell, the young (husband and wife) couple who designed the memorial, although I have noticed that in most citations it is Russell alone who is usually named as its sculptor. I have been in touch with Lorne McKean (Edwin Russell died in 2013) and she comments:
‘Edwin (my husband) and I worked on many of our sculptures together. Usually one of us took the leadership on a particular sculpture and in the case of the Suffragette memorial this was Edwin. I do recall that the actual idea that developed from just the idea of a shape more like a memorial grave stone to the S shaped scroll that you now see developed organically between us. We have always been really bad at signing things as it always seems to us the least relevant part of the work. But have grown to appreciate that it is interesting to others’.
I like the hint that the scroll design may have evolved from first equating ‘memorial’ with ‘gravestone’.
However, the only other primary evidence I can show you of the event – and the thinking behind it -comes from the pages of the 1971 edition of Calling All Women, the Suffragette Fellowship Newsletter.
And yet…and yet….While the inside pages of the 1971 edition of Calling All Women were given over to reports of the unveiling of this new memorial – one intended to commemorate the involvement of all suffragettes – what was the image chosen for the cover? Yes, of course, Mrs Pankhurst. Once again, the power of her image – set so splendidly against the Palace of Westminster – had trumped that of the newcomer.
It is as though, even at this late stage in the history of the suffragette movement, there was a force at work intent on proving that maxim put forward by Thomas Carlyle (incidentally one of Mrs Pankhurst’s favourite writers – and she wasn’t a great reader) that ‘the history of the world is but the biography of great men’ or, of course, women. This is not a sentiment that appeals to me and may explain why I have devoted so many years to uncovering the lives of those suffrage campaigners who were by no means great. It is just these women – and men – that the Suffragette Fellowship Memorial is there to commemorate.
So -pay a visit to Christchurch Gardens, think of your favourite non-famous suffragette – and contemplate.
See also this Parliament and Women in the 20th Century blog post.
This image of the ‘Bugler Girl’- or ‘Clarion Girl’ – had a resonance for the suffrage campaign on both sides of the Atlantic.
The design was originally used on a poster to advertise the NUWSS spectacular procession of 13 June 1908. [For an article about the banners created for that occasion see here.]
The artist is known to be Caroline Watts but, as ever with the artists who contributed so much to the imagery of the suffrage campaign, I asked myself -who was she? This is what I discovered.
Caroline Marsh Watts was born at Handsworth in 1868, a daughter of Robert Watts, a button manufacturer, and his wife Mary Maria. Caroline was the youngest child in the family of six children and her mother died, aged 36, a year or so after her birth. Robert Watts never remarried and their maternal grandmother moved into the household to help run the business and care for the children. In 1871 Robert Watts’ business, which he ran in partnership with John Shakespeare Manton, had 470 employees – with premises at the Regent Works, Regent Street and at Frederick Street, Birmingham.
By 1891 the family (Robert Watts, two of his daughters, Mary and Caroline, his mother-in-law and 4 year-old grandson) had moved south and were living at Ailsa Road, St Margaret’s Twickenham. Robert Watts had retired and Caroline was an art student – we know she studied at the Slade.
Robert Watts died in 1894, leaving something over £8000, and by 1901 Caroline had set up home with her sister Mary – and one servant – at 83 Charlwood Street, Pimlico. Mary was employed as a ‘compiler of indexers’ and Caroline was ‘an artist – painter’.
In fact, from at least 1899 Caroline had been commissioned as an illustrator for a series of translations of Arthurian and other romances. These were the work of the renowned folklorist Jessie L. Weston and the majority were published by the firm of David Nutt.
At the turn of the century the firm of David Nutt was run by Alfred Trubner Nutt, the son of the founder. Alfred Nutt was also president of the Folk-Lore Society – hence his interest in publishing texts such as those written by Jessie Weston. As these were so close to the publisher’s heart I imagine he took considerable care when selecting their illustrator and because Caroline Watts continued to receive commissions from Alfred Nutt I would think she must have become part of the publisher’s friendship circle. It may well have been through association with this firm that Caroline’s sister Mary developed her career as an indexer.
Nutt’s French wife, Marie. subscribed to NUWSS in 1906 and in February 1907 took part in the ‘Mud March’. After the tragic death of her husband (he drowned in the Seine while attempting to rescue his invalid son whose pony had bolted and run into the river; the son was saved by passers by) – Marie Nutt took over the running of the firm of David Nutt and in the next few years published many texts relevant to the women’s suffrage cause.
Such was the suffrage zeitgeist amongst London-based women artists at the time that Caroline Watts may have been drawn towards the NUWSS by any number of associations, but her connection with Marie Nutt is one clear thread.
It doesn’t take much imagination to recognise that Caroline Watt’s design for the ‘Bugler Girl’ is closely associated with the heroic images she was creating for commissions from Alfred Nutt.
The NUWSS was at pains to make clear that the militant imagery of the ‘Bugler Girl’ didn’t represent a violent organization. As member of the NUWSS governing-council explained, ‘Our Bugler Girl carries her bugle and her banner; her sword is sheathed by her side; it is there, but not drawn, and if it were drawn, it would not be the sword of the flesh, but of the spirit. For ours is not a warfare against men, but against evil..’
The image, created as I mentioned, to advertise the June 1908 NUWSS procession was subsequently used – often in black and white rather than colour – on posters and flyers advertising NUWSS meetings and from November 1913 was used on the front page of the NUWSS paper, ‘The Common Cause’. However such was the strength of the image that it also had a lease of life in the US.
In his most useful and interesting book – Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia – Ken Florey reveals that Harriot Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Stanton and a long-time resident in England, poached Caroline Watts’ ‘Bugler Girl’ design for use by the Women’s Political Union, the WSPU-inspired society she had founded on her return to the USA. Significantly the design was recoloured in purple, white and green (colours of course, borrowed from the WSPU) and became a well-known icon of the US women’s suffrage movement. [See here for more information from Ken Florey on the use of the design in the USA and here for a 2011 article about a contemporary reinterpretation of the image.]
Caroline Watts may well have produced other designs for the suffrage campaign but the only other that I can find reference to is held in the Artists’ Suffrage League archive in the Women’s Library@LSE. It is catalogued as ‘[Liberty] Original drawing, ink on paper, a woman freed from her chains, opening a door and looking out on to a sunrise; inscription below image “But little do or can the best of us:/That little is achieved through Liberty./Who, then, dares hold emancipated thus -/His fellow shall continue bound? Robert Browning”. Signature bottom left “CM Watts‘”‘
I have been unable to discover much more about Caroline Watts’ life. In 1911, presumably an NUWSS supporter, she didn’t boycott the census, and can be found living with Mary, who was still indexing, at Hillcroft, Oakdene Road, Godalming. Caroline described herself as ‘Artist (Painter and Black and White Illustrator). I have been unable to find any trace of her work as a painter passing through the salerooms.By 1918 the sisters had moved to Middlehill Road, Colehill, Dorset, where Caroline died, aged 51, in 1919.
Many of you familiar with the propaganda produced by the British women’s suffrage campaign will recognise this image, which was printed by Weiners of Acton and published as a poster by the Artists’ Suffrage League. In The Spectacle of Women, Lisa Tickner dates it to c 1908; the catalogue of The Women’s Library@LSE to c 1912. I would tend to support the earlier date.
The artist is known to be Emily Jane Harding Andrews. But who was she? What can we discover of the life behind that image?
She was born Emily Jane Harding in 1851 at Clifton in Bristol, the eldest of the several children of Thomas Giles Harding (1827-1899), a commercial traveller, and his wife, Rosa Jane (nee May). Emily and her sister, Rosa Elizabeth Harding, were educated at Clifton Ladies’ College and in October 1868 both gained certificates of art in the second grade in a prize giving at the Bristol School of Art.
By 1871 the family had moved to London . They moved around the Kensington, Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush area but their first address was 21 Holland Road, Kensington. Emily clearly continued with her art studies. She exhibited portrait miniatures at the Royal Academy in 1877, 1897, 1898. Now in the National Portrait Gallery is a chalk portrait of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (d 1881), dean of Westminster. Was this the work that she exhibited at the RA in 1877?
By the time the 1881 census was taken Emily was married to a fellow artist, Edward William Andrews – although I cannot find a record of the marriage. He was ten years older than her and had been born in Kidderminster. By the time he was 21 was describing himself on the census form as ‘Artist portrait painter’. The only paintings I can locate by him are copies of two portraits after Gainsborough – see here.
In 1881 Emily and her husband were living, with one servant, at 23 Iverson Road, west Hampstead. By 1891 they had moved to Chalcot Gardens, Hampstead, an area popular with artists, and now had no servant. In 1901, still fending for themselves, they were living in a flat in 95 Fitzjohn’s Avenue, Hampstead.
Through the 1880s and 1890s Emily produced illustrations for a series of books – mainly for children. They included Bright Pages for Children of All Ages, 1886, Helen Milman’s The Little Ladies, 1890, Merry Moments for Little Folks by Rose E May, published by Frederick Warne, 1893. Emily’s sister, Rosa (or Rose) had married Frederick Lamartine May, son of a well-known bookseller, and a relation on their mother’s side. She also provided the illustrations for Disagreeable Duke: a Christmas whimsicality for holiday boys and girls by Elinor Davenport-Adams, published by George Allen, 1894 and in the same year for Lullabies of Many Lands by the editor and translator Alma Strettell,
In 1896 Emily Harding (the name under which she then published her work) was both the translator (from the French) and the illustrator of Fairy Tale of the Slav Peasants and Herdsman by Alex Chodsko, published by George Allen.
I don’t know how Emily Harding Andrews made contact with the Artists’ Suffrage League, although it’s hardly surprising, moving as she did in artistic, bookselling and publishing circles. Besides the poster illustrated as the introduction to this article, Emily Harding Andrews designed another for the ASL – ‘Coming in with the Tide – Mrs Partington’ – and was on sufficiently close terms with Mary Lowndes, the ASL’s leading light, to propose a design for a Christmas card -sent with an informal note on the reverse. It can now be found in Mary Lownes’ ASL album in the Women’s Library@LSE.
Although clearly supportive of the suffrage campaign, Emily Andrews, like Mary Lowndes, did not boycott the 1911 census. This shows us that – married for 31 years, with no children – she was living, aged 61, as a boarder at 15 Bank Place, Bayswater. She still described herself as an artist. Her husband, on the other hand, was enumerated in his one-room studio at 48 Fortune Green Road, Hampstead. Had they separated?
Edward Andrews died in 1915, while living at 1 Linden Gardens, Hornsey Lane. He left £160; his wife is not named as an executor.
I next find Emily Harding Andrews in 1918, living at 6 St George’s Square, Camden, at the same address as another artist of her generation, Julia Bracewell Folkard and an Elizabeth Folkard. However, this seems to have been Emily’s base for only a short time and I can find no further trace of her for another 17 years, until in August 1935, aged 85, she set sail for Sydney, Australia. On the passenger list her address is given as ‘South Street Mission, Hammersmith’, although in what capacity she was living there I cannot say.
Gertrude, one of Emily’s much younger sisters, had emigrated to Australia with her husband, Edward Nevill Parker, in the 1890s. He had died in 1931 and I suspect that, in her old age, Emily went out to join Gertrude for I next find her living at Illawa, Judd Street, Cronulla, Sutherland, NSW. Emily died in Sutherland in August 1940 and her ashes were scattered in Woronora Cemetery, which was also the last resting place of her sister and, years later, of a nephew.
This is only the briefest outline of a long life lived. I shall have to imagine all those decades of London days, of Emily living and working in a succession of studio flats, of visiting publishers, of struggling to gain commissions, of the brief flowering of interest in the suffrage campaign, of, perhaps, sinking with old age into penury and then, the last adventure, sailing to the other side of the world – to the heat and light of Australia.