Archive for category Art and Suffrage

Lock-Down Research: The Case Of The Mysterious Suffrage Banner

I find it so satisfying when I am able to bring a photograph such as this to life. I acquired it two years ago but have not yet catalogued it because I could identify neither the banner nor the occasion. However, a little tenacity, a few idle lock-down hours and – EUREKA – I have found the answer.

The card came, with many others, in the collection of suffrage postcards compiled by the Hodgson Sisters . From this context I assumed the card had a suffrage connection, but I had never seen or heard of the banner. The photographer, as you will see from the imprint, was A. Dron of Brondesbury – so, as the Hodgsons were living in West Hampstead, I assumed the occasion pictured occurred in the area.

Even with a magnifying glass I couldn’t make out much more detail and it was only when I scanned the card and blew up the image that I found at the bottom right of the banner what seemed to be the artist’s monogram and a date – W E G S 1910.  I felt I was making progress, but I’d never come across those initials when compiling my Art and Suffrage: a biographical dictionary of suffrage artists  –  and so was not much further forward.

I had tried searching for variations of ‘The Old Order Changeth’ in the British Newspaper Archive, but nothing relating to a banner had emerged. It was only when I searched for ‘banner’ in what I thought might be the local paper for Brondesbury in 1910, that the answer emerged. And it all seems so easy now.

The newspaper report in the Kilburn Times, 17 June 1910, revealed that the banner, a present to the North West London Union of the Women’s Social and Political Union, had been unfurled by Mrs Saul Solomon and was to be carried in the WSPU ‘Prison to Citizenship’ procession on Saturday 18 June. The artist was William Ewart Glasdstone Solomon [WEGS] (1880-1965), Mrs Solomon’s son.

Mrs Georgiana Solomon (1844-1933) was the widow of the governor-general of Cape Colony and had for many years been active in social reform and suffrage movements. By 1910 she was living in West Hampstead and had already been arrested once. Five months after the photograph was taken she was assaulted in the course of the notorious ‘Black Friday’ debacle in Parliament Square and in March 1912 was imprisoned after taking part in the WSPU window-smashing campaign. Her daughter, Daisy, who was also an active WSPU member, featured in one of their publicity stunts, sent in 1909 as a ‘human letter to 10 Downing Street. She also served a prison term and by 1912 was organizing secretary of the Hampstead branch of the WSPU.

Given the family association, it is not surprising that Mrs Solomon’s son, who had been a student at the Royal Academy Schools, should have put his art to the service of the Cause. He later became director of the Sir J.J. School of Art in Bombay (Mumbai) before eventually returning to South Africa, the land of his birth. He is classed as a ‘South African artist’ but we can now appreciate that one of his earlier works was in support of the British women’s suffrage movement.

The newspaper article includes the information that the banner depicts ‘two life-size figures, a man and a woman, and the idea which the artist apparently means to convey is the dawn of a new era of political sex equality. The lettering ‘Political equality’ and ‘The old order changeth, giving place to new’ is conspicuous on the canvas’. I haven’t been able to spot the words ‘Political equality’, but perhaps they are on the reverse.

The Kilburn Times report tells us that the unfurling of the ‘Old Order Changeth’ banner took place at ‘Plympton House’, 154 Willesden Lane, which was the home of Mr and Mrs A.A. Jones, and that speeches were made by Helen Ogston and Flora Drummond. Mrs Eleanor Penn Gaskell was also present. Alas, I cannot identify the two young women holding the banner. Possible candidates that spring to mind are Daisy Solomon and Helen Ogston, but neither look quite like the women in the photograph. Nor are they, I think, any of the Hodgson Sisters.

I now see that the report for the WSPU N.W. London branch carried in the issue of Votes for Women for17 June 1910 declares ‘Let no local women miss the chance of walking in the great Procession under Mr W. E. Gladstone Solomon’s most beautiful banner’.

And there I rest my case…so pleased to have retrieved the story behind this most intriguing of photographs.

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Suffrage Stories: Is This Edith Craig’s Banner For The Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society?

 

 

I was very interested to see this image when it appeared on an internet site the other day because I’m not sure I’ve ever before seen a banner of the Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society.

The Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society was formed in June 1911 and in 1912 Beatrice Anna Augusta Gadsby BA (1878-1973) worked a banner for the society. The fact that she was responsible for the embroidery is mentioned in a 15 May 1939 Nottingham Evening Post report of a pilgrimage by the St Joan Alliance (as the CWSS was now called) to Walsingham. ‘The society’s banner of white, blue and gold headed the procession’, carried by Beatrice Gadsby and Gabrielle Jeffery, the society’s founder.

However, there are no further details of the design of this ‘blue,
white and gold banner’. It might be thought that the ‘Joan of Arc’ banner held in the Women’s Library@LSE fitted the bill – its colouring and subject matter certainly do – but this was created, by the Artists’ Suffrage League, in 1908, three years before the founding of the CWSS.

Joan of Arc banner

In my opinion, the banner that was carried in the Walsingham Pilgrimage  is more likely to be that in the photo below. I think it is the one, representing Joan of Arc, that is known to have been designed by Edith Craig and presented to the CWSS by Christopher St John.


And that Beatrice Gadsby was responsible for the embroidery. It’s location – and fate – is now unknown

Besides St Joan, the banner bears the names of ‘Iesus’ and ‘Marie’ down the sides of the banner, the name of the society across the bottom.

I think the occasion on which the photograph was taken was probably the women’s ‘Peace with Ireland Demonstration’, organized by the Women’s Freedom League. It was held on 2 July 1921  and the CWSS, with their banner, are noted as comprising ‘Section C’ of the procession.

The banner was present at the ‘Equal Franchise’ rally in Hyde Park on 3 July 1926, alongside a new banner designed by the artist Gladys Hynes, which bore the society’s new name, The St Joan’s Social and Political Alliance.

 

 

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Suffrage Stories: Celebrating The Centenary Of The Representation Of The People Act, 6 February 2018

Well, 6 February 2018 was well and truly celebrated. I’m not sure if I ever remember the media getting behind another political anniversary with such verve  – the coverage was akin to that of a royal wedding. All the talking heads that could talk, talked.

You can catch me talking about the suffrage campaign on Woman’s Hour

And talking about my new book, Art and Suffrage: a biographical dictionary of suffrage artists  on the Robert Elms Show on Radio London (starting at c. 2hrs 37 mins)

Kate Frye, whose diaries I edited as Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Frye’s suffrage diary and whose biography I wrote as Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette, had a starring role on BBC Radio 4’s PM Programme (from c 23mins) – preceded by an excellent exposition of the Representation of the People Act 1918 by Dr Mari Takayanagi (from c 18.40 mins)

Kate Frye also featured in yesterday’s special suffrage edition of StylistShe would have been amazed and thrilled to think of her daily round being immortalised in this way.

I also gave interviews to Radio Stoke, Radio Northampton, Radio Bristol, Radio Sheffield, Radio Lincolnshire, and Radio Derby – talking about suffrage activists in their areas.

Clare Balding’s programme Secrets of a Suffragette – about Emily Wilding Davison – in which I make an appearance – was shown again last night on Channel 4 and is available for 29 days on catch-up.

And, in my dealing capacity, I put together this list of the Top Twenty Collectable Suffrage Antiques for an antiques website.

What a day!

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