Suffragette Autograph Album To Be Auctioned: Save It For The Nation – And Future Researchers

A very interesting autograph album is to be auctioned by Dominic Winter Auctions on Wednesday, 12 December 2012. How I wish it would be bought by a British library or museum so that all researchers would have access to it. It would be an ideal fit in the collections of either the Museum of London or the Women’s Library. Neither, alas, are likely to be bidding. Is there any other institution that could come to the rescue?

Below is the entry from the Dominic Winter catalogue.

suffragette autograph albumLot 380* Suffragettes. A rare and historically important autograph album containing approx. fifty autographs of suffragettes and sympathisers, 1909 and later, but many dated from the time of the WSPU’s second window-breaking campaign, March/May 1912, the majority signed below quotations and epithets relating to the cause, written mostly in pen and occasionally pencil and inscribed to thirty-four leaves (mostly rectos) with some leaves blank, prisoner (?) pencil number 94472186/3 to front free endpaper, contemp. cloth, rubbed and soiled, oblong small 8vo, 11 x 14.5 cm, together with an Edwardian 9ct gold circular locket, engraved with initials M.E.P. within a shield cartouche amongst foliate scrolls, enclosing two colour portrait photographs of a lady (possibly wearing this locket) and a gentlemen of similar age and social status, Birmingham, 1905, suspended on a 9ct gold belcher link chain, plus an Edwardian 9ct rose gold bar brooch, set with a facet cut blue stone within pierced wavy gold mount, stamped ‘9ct’, 8cm wide with gold safety chain, plus a vignette b&w photo postcard portrait (cut down), showing an unidentified woman and on the verso the same identification number (94472186) as the autograph album, all included in an early 20th-century Mackintosh’s rectangular toffee tin, lid embossed with heraldic knights, sides with geometric scrolls, base printed with retailer’s logo and ‘John Mackintosh & Sons Limited, Toffee Town, Halifax, Eng’, 15 x 23 x 6 cm


In order, the autographs are as follows, (names in bold are given separate biographical entries in Elizabeth Crawford, ‘The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928’: Emily Redfern, 8th December 1909; Adeline Redfern Wilde, 18th March 1911; J. L. Guthrie (Laura Grey), quotation by Robert Louis Stevenson in pencil, and possibly not in Guthrie’s hand as her name was Joan Baillie Guthrie; Charlotte Despard, 22 October 1911; Emily Diederichs Duval; Sarah Benett, in pencil, 2 March 1912; Janet A. Boyd, in blue pencil; E. Sylvia Pankhurst, ‘Bravely and willingly we bear our share of the world’s burdens. Why then deny us the right to vote which would dignify our labour and increase our power of service?’, below which Pankhurst family friend George Bernard Shaw has inscribed: ‘Ungrateful Sylvia! Did I ever deny it?, Hanley, 15/2/11; Helen A. Archdale, 2nd March 1912; Jennie (?)Itenmy; M. Violet Aitken, Holloway Prison, 6th March 1912; Dorothea Benson, Holloway Prison, 1st March 1912; Anna F. Hutchinson, Bow Street, 6th March 1912 (and details of three previous imprisonments at Holloway); Kitty Marion, Bow Street Station, 6th March 1912; Vera Wentworth, 6th March 1912; Ethel Haslam, 6th March 1912; Janie Tererro, in pencil; Isabella J. A. Casey; Olive Fargus, window breaker, 1st March 1912; L. Caron (?), Winson Green Prison, 1st May 1912; Winifrid Bray, May Day, 1912, Birmingham Prison; Hilda Burkitt, Winson Green, 1909 (one month), Holloway, March 1912 (4 months); Elizabeth Redfern; Clara Giveen, Birmingham Prison, 1st May 1912; V[iolet] H. Friedlaender, Winson Green Prison, 1st May 1912; a further autograph of V. H. Friedlaender to verso of the same leaf with a previously published poem titled ‘The Road’ written in her holograph noting it was published in ‘Votes for Women’ on 19th August 1910 and set to music in the Fabian Songbook, 1912; L. Archibald, Winson Green, May 1912; John Watts; W. Leonard Page; Josiah C. Wedgwood, 9th December 1923; G. M. Cook, Winson Green Prison, 28th April 1912; Cynthia Mosley; Florence Ward, Winson Green, 1st May 1912; Kathleen O’Kell, Birmingham, 1st May 1912; Cicely Neale; Olive Wharry, Winson Green, Birmingham, 1912; Edith M. (?) Begbie, Winson Green, 1st May 1912; Janet Green, in pencil, Winson Green Prison, April 1912; Evelyn Hudleston, Winson Green, March 1912, Charlotte Blacklock, Birmingham Prison, 1st May 1912, with V. H. Friedlaender initialled pencil riposte below; Alice Farmer, 1st May 1912, Emma Bowen; Caroline L. Downing; Aida Knott; Fred J. Kepple, 28 February 1924; Norah Kathleen Lackey, Birmingham Prison, 1st May 1912; Constance Bryer, 2nd May 1912, Birmingham Prison (4 months); Madeleine Caron Rock (in pencil), DX.1.30, March 1912; Hugh Graeme Topping.


Following a WSPU window-breaking campaign on 21 November 1911, some 220 women and three men were arrested, about 150 of whom were given short sentences of imprisonment. Subsequently, Lloyd George joined Herbert Asquith in opposition to women’s suffrage furthering outrage among the suffragettes. Mrs Pankhurst told members of the WSPU that ‘the argument of the broken pane of glass is the most valuable argument in modern politics’. A protest planned to take place in Parliament Square on 4 March 1912 was pre-empted when, without warning on 1 March 150 women armed with hammers and instructions as to their timing and use, broke shop and office windows in London’s West End causing an estimated £6,600 worth of damage. This time around 220 arrests were made and sentences of up to six months handed out. The sheer number of imprisoned suffragettes caused disruption to the prison service with an overflow from Holloway being dispersed to Aylesbury and Winson Green in Birmingham. On 5 April the members held in Aylesbury went on hunger strike and were quickly followed by members in London and Birmingham, including members noted here. This led to the contentious force feeding of hunger strikers, and a year later the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’, where weakened prisoners were released to recover and immediately arrested again upon any further wrong-doing.


Provenance: The tin with contents originally come from a house in Stoke-on-Trent, but the identity (or identities) of the owner of the locket, the woman in the photograph and the owner of the album have not been established. The most likely suggestion is that the autograph album was compiled by one or other of the Redfern sisters. Adeline, Elizabeth and Emily (whose rallying call begins the album) were the daughters of Frederick and Elizabeth Redfern of Hanley, Stoke. (George Bernard Shaw signed the album in Hanley while there lecturing on the ‘Ideals of Socialism’ in February 1911). The sisters were all active in the Birmingham area and Adeline Redfern-Wilde founded the Stoke-on-Trent WSPU in 1908. The last autograph page in the album has a pencil note: ‘Left Stoke for Birmingham October 16th 1919’. The journal ‘Votes for Women’ (15 March 1912, pp. 380-81) gives details of some of court cases at Bow Street on 7 March, noting several of the names above including Adelaide (sic) Redfern Wilde: ‘charged with breaking windows value £20 at 129, New Bond Street, said: “It was one more blow for freedom”. She was committed for trial.’





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  1. #1 by Alison Hart on November 25, 2013 - 12:04 am

    The Norah Kathleen Lackey listed as a suffragette prisoner in the write up the autograph book is my great aunt, younger sister of Gertrude Lackey married name Ruoff, my grandmother, whose daughter Margaret Rouff married name Campbell, was my mother. My research of Norah’s life has found that she travelled twice to USA in 1921 and 1924 and then went to Marseille in 1938 as a journalist. She did not marry. I have photographs of her as a child and in later life which may be of interest to you for your collection. I would also be interested in obtaining a copy of her autograph were that to be possible but could be difficult not knowing who may have purchased the suffragette memorabilia.
    Any information would be appreciated. Alison Hart.

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