Suffrage Stories: 1911 Census: Vanishing For The Vote

TO BE PUBLISHED ON 6 MARCH 2014

Vanishing for the Vote 1 001

As readers of this blog will know, since 2009 I have been involved in research on the suffrage boycott of the 1911 census. With Dr Jill Liddington, I worked to uncover the women who followed the call to boycott the census. We studied the circumstances of those who did – and those who did not – refuse to complete the census form and produced, first, a paper for the Women’s History Network Conference, held in Oxford in September 2009, and then an article ,‘Women do not count, neither shall they be counted’: Suffrage, Citizenship and the Battle for the 1911 Census‘ published in the History Workshop Journal in 2011.

It was intended to develop this research into a book, but I decided to pursue other projects  – such as the setting up of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery and writing Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary as well, of course, as running my bookselling business,’ Woman and Her Sphere’ –  while Jill turned the census research into Vanishing for the Vote. 

I continued, however, to be very interested in uncovering 1911 census boycotters – and wondering about their lives –  and, at odd moments, wrote up my discoveries for the Woman and Her Sphere blog – and gave a paper, ‘No Vote No Census’ ,at the National Archives Conference on the 1911 census, held in the autumn of 2011. You can listen to it here.

Jill later asked me to help compile the extensive  Gazetteer of Suffragettes/Suffragists that constitutes the end section of Vanishing for the Vote.  This is  based on the original research we carried out, supplemented by details of many additional boycotters that prolonged acquaintance with the digitized census has now uncovered.

I am sure that all who are interested in the Edwardian suffrage campaign will be delighted to read Vanishing for the Vote – which takes us right into the lives of the women – and their families – who were prepared to defy the census enumerator in order to highlight their lack of citizenship.

Vanishing for the vote recounts what happened on one night, Sunday 2 April, 1911, when the Liberal government demanded every household comply with its census requirements. Suffragette organisations urged women, all still voteless, to boycott this census.

Many did. Some wrote ‘Votes for Women’ boldly across their schedules. Others hid in darkened houses or, in the case of Emily Wilding Davison, in a cupboard within the Houses of Parliament.

Yet many did not. Even some suffragettes who might be expected to boycott decided to comply – and completed a perfectly accurate schedule. Why?

Vanishing for the vote explores the ‘battle for the census’ arguments that raged across Edwardian England in spring 1911. It investigates why some committed campaigners decided against civil disobedience tactics, instead opting to provide the government with accurate data for its health and welfare reforms.

This book plunges the reader into the turbulent world of Edwardian politics, so vividly recorded on census night 1911. Based on a wealth of brand-new documentary evidence, it offers compelling reading for history scholars and general readers alike.

Sumptuously produced, with 50 illustrations and an invaluable Gazetteer of suffrage campaigners.

To be published by Manchester University Press:

Hardback £65

Paperback: £16.99

37 Lavender Gardens, Battersea -home of John Burns, minister in charge of the Census

37 Lavender Gardens, Battersea -home of John Burns, minister in charge of the Census

Burns' house is remarkably similar in style to that of Henry Nevinson and his wife, Margaret, at 4 Downside Crescent, Hampstead. However, although sharing a similar attitude to architecture, Burns and the Nevinsons were poles apart as regards the Census. While Henry Nevinson was in the thick of the Census parties in central London, Margaret spent the night in this house with a group of women, all of whom refused to give details to the enumerator.

Burns’ house is remarkably similar in style to that of Henry Nevinson and his wife, Margaret, at 4 Downside Crescent, Hampstead. However, although sharing a similar attitude to architecture, Burns and the Nevinsons were poles apart as regards the Census. While Henry Nevinson was in the thick of the Census Night fun in central London, Margaret spent the night in this house with a group of women, all of whom refused to give details to the enumerator. It was not a happy marriage.

32 Well Walk, Hampstead. 'Vanishing for the Vote' reveals something of the domestic argument that went on behind this front door on Census night between Jane Brailsford and her husband, Henry.

32 Well Walk, Hampstead. ‘Vanishing for the Vote’ reveals something of the domestic argument that went on behind this front door on Census night between Jane Brailsford and her husband, Henry. The Census had a knack of highlighting domestic disharmony.

118 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, home of WSPU activist, Maud Joachim. The enumerator was handed out through this door a census form returned with 'Informaiton Refused'.

118 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, home of WSPU activist, Maud Joachim. The census enumerator stood at this door and was refused all information

Clemence Housman resisted the Census as well as Tax. Her Census story is well told in 'Vanishing for the Vote'.

Clemence Housman resisted the Census as well as Tax. Her Census story is well told in ‘Vanishing for the Vote’.

2 Campden Hill Square, home of the Brackenbury family, later became known as 'Mouse Castle' when escaping suffragettes found shelter under its roof. On Census Night it was home to an estimate 25 women and one man.

2 Campden Hill Square, home of the Brackenbury family, later became known as ‘Mouse Castle’ when escaping suffragettes found shelter under its roof. On Census Night it was home to an estimated 25 women and one man.

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