‘Hunger Striking For The Vote’: An Afterword to ‘There Are Five Ways Out Of This Room’ by Michelle Green



A few months ago I was pleased to be asked by Comma Press to provide an Afterword to a short story by Michelle Green to be published in this most interesting collection of short stories. The premise behind the book is that each story highlights an episode of protest in Britain’s history and that each story is then, in an Afterword, set in its historical context. The result is a most satisfying volume – fuelling the imagination while also throwing light on the circumstances that led the characters, both real and fictional, to act in the way that they did.

For instance, Michelle Green’s story, There Are Five Ways Out of this Room, has as its central character a hunger-striking suffragette based, to a degree, on the figure of Annie Kenney. Michelle’s lyrical prose enters so perceptively the suffragette’s mind, capturing the surreal atmosphere produced by starving incarceration. I was bowled over by it. My task was merely to provide the historical backdrop – setting out the sequence of events that led such women to undergo such terrible suffering.

The historians include Prof Sally Alexande, on ‘Women’s Liberation in the 1970s’, an Afterword to Maggie Gee’s story on ‘May Hobbs’, leader of the Night Cleaners’ Strike; Lyn Barlow on Greenham Common, an Afterword to Joanna Quinn’s Story The Stars are in the Sky; Prof David Waddington on The Battle of Orgreave, an Afterword to Withen by Martyn Bedford; Dr Gordon Pentland on The Scottish Insurrection, April 1820, as an Afterword to Laura Hiind’s story Spun; Dr Katrina Navickas on The Pentrich Rising, 1871, an Afterword to Trying Lydia by Andy Hedgecock; Dr Ariel Hessayon on Venner’s Rising, 1817, as an Afterword to A Fiery Flag Unfurled on Coleman Street by Frank Cottrell-Boyce; Russ Hickman on The Grosvenor Square Demo, 1968, an Afterword to Banner Bright, by Alexei Sayle; Dr John Drury on The Poll Tax Riot, 1990 as an Afterword to That Right to Be There by Courtia Newland, and Prof Laleh Khalili on The Anti-Iraq War Demo, 2003 as an Afterword to The Turd Tree by Kate Clanchy.

All the stories are memorably engaging and the Afterwords free of academic jargon.

Published by Comma Press – for full details see here

Comma Press were last week declared Northern Publisher of the Year at the Northern Soul awards and in the same week were awarded funding by Arts Council England.



  1. #1 by Valerie Young on July 10, 2017 - 1:29 am

    This is so cool, and I’m thrilled you were able to contribute. Wonderful! I love Annie Kenney.

    your friend and fan in the Colonies….

    • #2 by womanandhersphere on July 10, 2017 - 1:11 pm

      And it was so interesting to respond to such an excellent story.
      Very best wishes, Elizabeth

  2. #3 by jill laudet on July 19, 2017 - 8:52 pm

    Hi Elizabeth Have found your website very helpful. Am an artist whose work marks resistance.. http://laudet.weebly.com Am inspired to make my version of the lost 1908 Haslemere suffragist banner for exhibition in Haslemere in September. Am wanting to weave into it texts from then which still resonate with today’s issues, eg make women count as much as men Can you suggest/head me in right direction.. Trying to find speeches which advocate women’s rights, not just votes.. Many thanks for any thoughts/advice you are able to give me Jill Laudet

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