Suffragette postcards: suffragettes and policemen

The increased activity of the women’s suffrage campaign in the early years of the 20th century coincided with the golden age of the postcard. It proved to be a subject very popular with the burgeoning number of commercial postcard publishers and cards with a ‘suffragette’ theme outnumber those relating to other contemporary campaigns – such as Tariff Reform and Home Rule.

Without too much effort, anyone interested can still build up a collection of cards reflecting the varying views of Edwardian society on women’s desire for citizenship – and their methods of achieving it. The suffrage societies themselves all produced cards – portraits of their leaders or photographs of great suffrage occasions – although they are vastly outnumbered by cards produced by the commercial publishers. 

The incongruence of women battling with policemen – as on ‘Black Friday’ in November 1910 – certainly caught the publishers’ attention and there are many variations on the theme. This card was published by Philco Publishers, whose office was in Holborn Place – very close to WSPU headquarters. This card was not posted but is written to ‘Mrs James’. The message reads ‘I do not know what you will think of this. But this is suffragettes in vengeance and in their battle array.’

The  stereotypical harridan (trilby hat, glasses, high-colouring, big nose) wearing ‘Votes for Women’ sash wields her umbrella as she kicks a policeman. In the background another, similar, scene is enacted. There is a tall clock tower – which might just be intended as Big Ben – at the very back of the scene, attached to a misty building. This card, which is in good condition, was one of a series. It is available for sale from me: £45 post free. NOW SOLD

See the August 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine for Prof June Purvis’s article on ‘suffragette’ cards published by commercial publishers and click here for details of her very interesting and informative accompanying podcast (June’s piece begins 20 minutes into the recording).

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