Suffrage Stories: Alison Neilans Cleans The Stove

Alison NeilansAnother in the Women’s Freedom League ironic series – c 1910 – of ‘Suffragettes At Home’. Here Alison Neilans, then about 26 years old, is seen cleaning her gas cooker. 

The gas stove may have been in the kitchen/scullery attached to the 4 rooms  she shared with her mother and brother at 37 Caversham Road, Kentish Town. (Not that she was there on the night of the 1911 census – she was, rather, enumerated by the police walking with a couple of companions down Hampstead Road in a boycotting attempt.)  Or perhaps it photographed in somebody else’s kitchen – borrowed for this propaganda purpose. Who knows.

Moreover, as ‘Mrs Joseph McCabe Bathing Her Baby’ (the previous card in the series about which I posted), was rather more subverting than the ostensibly homely depiction of a suffragette  mother and her son when one realised that the child was the product of her marriage to an ex-Catholic priest, that the erstwhile ‘Brother Anthony’ was now a rampant aetheist, and that she herself was a secularist – so I would like to think that more can be read into this photograph of Alison Neilans.

The fact that she is photographed engaged in an act of cleaning might be taken as an allusion to the act of sabotage she performed at the 1909 Bermondsey by-election when she poured liquid into the ballot boxes. Is this photograph not saying ‘I may have dirtied and destroyed voting papers in the man’s sphere of the polling station but in the woman’s sphere I am relentless in my  cleansing’? For, from 1917, Alison Neilans devoted her life to ‘Moral and Social Hygiene’ – as Secretary of the Association of Moral and Social Hygiene and editor of its journal.

By the way, I do have a number of leaflets/pamphlets etc associated with Alison Neilans in stock at the moment

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  1. #1 by imogen on June 17, 2015 - 1:34 pm

    I am writing a dissertation on Alison Neilans and would be really interested in what leaflets you have on her, mentioned at the end of the article?
    Many thanks,

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