To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’ (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item that has passed through my hands.
For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.
Yesterday I was invited to the cast and crew screening of ‘Suffragette’ and had my second opportunity to see the film. It gets better each time. Travelling home on the bus I realised that today’s post just had to be about a 1913 film coincidentally – although perhaps not surprisingly – called ‘The Suffragette’.
Above is a still from the film – one of a sequence in a photograph album that I discovered.
On the front cover of the album was the remains of a printed label for ‘Britannia Films’. This film company was set up by Pathé at the end of 1911 to produce British feature films, while Pathé continued to produce newsreels.
At the end of 1913 ‘The Suffragette’ was one of the films released by Britannia Films. The description given of the film by the British Film Institute – which I faithfully recorded in the list of ‘suffragette films’ in The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide– is of the vaguest – ‘A disowned schoolmistress’s uncle destroys her father’s amended will ‘ And yet this hokum plot can be followed through the first 17 film stills in this ‘Britannia Films’ album.
The scene shown above is set in a suffragette office, its walls lined with (real) newspaper posters – such as one recording the death of Emily Davison at the 1913 Derby. In another the heroine is setting light to a fuse leading inside a house – suffragette arson.
Another still shows two women lighting a fuse that trails back into a house. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say that there is a rather similar scene in ‘our’ ‘Suffragette’.
The International Movie Data Base (see here for details) names the actress playing the heroine as Agnes Glynne and a male lead as James Carew (who was, or had been, the very much younger husband of Ellen Terry).
As there is no extant copy of the film and the British Film Institute holds no archival stills – these images are the only known surviving record of this once topical film. As so few records survive of the spate of films that featured suffragette themes this one, clearly filmed between June 1913 (because it features the Derby poster) and December 1913 (its release), is an important survivor.