Archive for category Suffrage Stories

Suffrage Stories: ‘Home Art Decorator’ To The Queen – And The ‘Human Letter’

For some time I have been meaning to investigate Charlotte Robinson, ‘Home Art Decorator’ to Queen Victoria, mention of whom I came across years ago while researching the interior design career of Rhoda and Agnes Garrett. Now that I have done so, I’ve discovered, as an added bonus, her family link with one of the WSPU’s more imaginative publicity stunts.


Charlotte RobinsonCharlotte Robinson was born c 1859 in Settle in Yorkshire, one of the younger children in the large family of a Yorkshire solicitor. He died in 1870, leaving an estate of c £20,000. A later biographical piece about Charlotte noted that she (as presumably were all the children) was left a share of his property and it was this that gave her the freedom to develop a career.

By 1871 Charlotte had been sent as a boarder to a small school in Bolton but was later moved to the rather more prestigious Queen’s College in London. Education complete she returned home for a time  – the 1881 census finds her living with her brother, William, a solicitor, in Keighley. She then spent some time travelling abroad.

Emily Faithfull

Emily Faithfull

For some of that time, certainly in 1883, Charlotte was travelling in America with Emily Faithfull  –  described on the manifest of the ship on which they travelled to New York as ‘Secretary’. You can read a very interesting article about Emily Faithfull here. It would seem, from remarks recorded by Emily that she had met Charlotte when the latter was still a pupil at Queen’s College.

Emily Faithfull was, of course, a fierce advocate of work for middle-class women so it’s unsurprising that, when interviewed in the 1890s for Manchester Faces and Places,  Charlotte described how on her return from her travels ‘she resolved to invest her money in a business which she could control herself instead of returning to the usual round of gaieties, varied by intermittent charitable enterprises.’ The journalist then elaborated –  ‘Having always been interested in decorative art, friends who knew her marvellous deftness of touch and infallible sense of colour, strongly advised her to turn these special gifts to account.’

In an interview that appeared in the Women’s Penny Paper, 9 February 1889, Charlotte went into more detail. ‘The idea of house decoration as a profession came to me while travelling through America. I was much struck with the interiors of some of the magnificent houses to which I was invited in some of the principal cities between New York and San Francisco, and on my return to England began to supplement previous artistic study. My first professional business was in furnishing houses, now I decorate them through, as well as working in conjunction with my sister, Mrs McClelland, who presides over the studio from which come the beautiful friezes you have just been admiring.’ So that is how Charlotte Robinson came to become a ‘house decorator.

She was setting up in the house decoration business ten years after the trail had been blazed for women by Agnes and Rhoda Garrett and, like them, she stressed the necessity of undergoing a training. However, although we know that the Garretts were pupils of the architect John Brydon, I’ve been unable to discover where or with whom Charlotte Robinson trained. All that is revealed in the Manchester Faces  interview is that she ‘went through the necessary course of study and thoroughly qualified herself for the work.’ As Emily Faithfull put it in a later article Charlotte studied ‘house decoration from hearth tiles to frieze painting’.

According to Emily Faithfull, Charlotte Robinson  first went into business in London. This must, I think, have been immediately on their return from America – and was probably by way of dipping a toe in the water. But very soon – probably in late 1884/early 1885 – the two women moved to Manchester and, as Emily wrote, ‘regardless of that bugbear which terrifies most women – she [Charlotte] put up her own name over the door.’

That door gave entrance to 20 South King Street, in the central Manchester shopping district, the premises serving primarily as a shop. It would seem from other remarks that Charlotte’s design work was done at home – 10 Plymouth Grove – the house she shared with Emily Faithfull. By 1886 a part of 20 South King Street had been given over to a ‘Typewriting Office’, run by a Miss Giles. As the Manchester Courier remarked when reporting this ‘Doubtless the typewriter will soon become as popular here as in America’. One can imagine that this was a development of which Emily Faithfull was fully supportive.

It is clear from every description that Charlotte Robinson’s ideas of interior design were the antithesis of those of Rhoda and Agnes Garrett. It is impossible to imagine the latter displaying mirrors such as one to be found in Charlotte Robinson’s establishment – for on it was painted ‘a pool fringed with rushes in which a wild duck and her brood were swimming, while the old mallard was taking wing to enjoy the pleasures of the world beyond – after his kind – leaving to the mother the care of the little fluffy yellow ducks, whose very feathers seemed to move with the passing wind’. (Manchester Courier, 6 February 1885).

Items such as this were produced not in Manchester but in London, in the studio of Charlotte’s sister, Mrs McClelland (33 Warwick Avenue, Paddington). Epsey McClelland was twelve years older than Charlotte – in the 1891 census she is described as a widow, a ‘decorative artist’, living with her daughter at the Warwick Avenue address. In an article on ‘Ladies as Shopkeepers’, reprinted in Pall Mall Gazette, (23 December 1887), Emily Faithfull extolled Charlotte’s taste –  ‘Her furniture designs are simple and unique; she has dainty and quaint arrangements for cosy nooks and odd corners, and has good reason to be proud of the work of the artists employed in in the studio over which her clever sister, Mrs McClelland is the presiding genius.’

In 1887 Charlotte Robinson took stands at two exhibitions. In Saltaire in June she showed  ‘..beautiful painted screens, brackets, plaques, a corner cabinet richly decorated with painted flowers and an excellently painted frieze.’ (Leeds Mercury 3 June 1887).

Of the Manchester Jubilee Exhibition, June/July 1887, the Cabinet Maker and Art Furnisher wrote:- ‘Miss Charlotte Robinson showed a frieze, corner sideboard, overmantel, draught screen, fire screens, Tuckaway tables, and other knickknacks, all, more or less decorated with the light and fanciful painting for which she had made a name.  It is in some aspects too “pretty” for our taste, but it is none the less skilful.  This lady is happy in the sprightly woodwork forming the  foundation of her paintings.  The corner sideboard is particularly pleasing.’

We can get a clearer picture of the ‘light and fanciful painting’ from a description given of Charlotte’s stand at the Glasgow Exhibition the following year. ‘Visitors to this stand ought to note the billet-doux writing table, a facsimile of that purchased by the Princess of Wales, and invented and patented by Miss Robinson. Beside this is the ‘Interloper’ chair purchased by the Countess of Rosebery. Both are painted with white French enamel, and decorated with blue tom tits. There are two friezes, specially designed for drawing rooms bearing groups of roses and chrysanthemums and one for a smoking room, with a design of wild ducks in flight.’ (Glasgow Herald 25 May 1888).

Blue tom tits for the ladies and wild ducks for the gentlemen – an aesthetic very different from that of the Garretts, whom Sir Hubert Parry commended – writing in his diary while staying in their house – ‘The quiet and soothing colour of the walls and decoration and the admirable taste of all things acts upon the mind in the most comforting manner. I was quite excised of the vulgar idea that everything ought to be light & gaudy & covered with gilt in London.

In late 1888 Charlotte received the accolade of being appointed ‘Home Art Decorator’ to Queen Victoria. Over 20 years earlier Emily Faithfull had been appointed publisher and printer in ordinary to the Queen, her brushes with scandal having apparently done nothing to dent her reputation in the eyes of the royal family.  On 9 October 1889 the Leeds Mercury reported that  ‘Miss Charlotte Robinson has had the honour of submitting to her Majesty some dessert d’oyleys painted on silk, from sketches taken near Palé as mementoes of Her Majesty’s visit to Wales’ and, as we have seen the Princess of Wales had already bought one of her writing tables’.

By October 1888 business was sufficiently prosperous for Charlotte to open a London showroom – in Mayfair – at 20 Brook Street – and in the same month was appointed as editor of ‘the decorative department’ on the magazine, The Queen, in succession to Mrs Talbot Coke. She was now in a position both to dictate taste and to supply the means of achieving it. She held her position on The Queen for the rest of her life. A small measure of this power was the fact that in an advertisement a Gloucester furnishing store, Messrs Matthews, regularly mentioned that their stock was approved by the leading Art Critics of the Day – such as Charlotte Robinson, Mrs Talbot Coke and Mrs Panton.

The interview given to the journalist from the Women’s Penny Paper took place in the Brook Street showroom, among the ‘cream coloured music racks, dainty billet doux tables, LouisSeize screens etc which provide an artistic public with useful as well as beautiful wedding and birthday gifts’. Charlotte commented that ‘I spend a great deal of time in Manchester, where I have a large business to control, and much is taken up in travelling “back and forth” as we say in the north, between the various houses I have to decorate and furnish in London and the country.Through The Queen I have to advise about houses in every part of the world.’

However for all the reports of how busy she was with her commissions –  ‘She can drape a room in less time than it takes most people to think of it’ – there is no information now available to tell us who her clients were or which were the houses she decorated. In the case of the Garretts I was able, from a variety of sources, to piece together a short list of their clients, but I can find no trace at all of Charlotte Robinson’s private clients. There is mention that in in June 1892 she was commissioned to decorate a hotel being erected in Manchester for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, that she did some work for Cunard, and that she was called upon to redecorate the Lord Mayor’s Parlour in Manchester Town Hall.  The latter is a superbly Gothic creation and certainly no place for tom tits and wild ducks.

Emily Faithfull died in 1895, leaving all her property to Charlotte.  In her will, which had been written in 1893, she wrote that’ I feel sure that any loving members of my family, who may survive me, will appreciate my desire that the few possessions I have should be retained for the exclusive use, and as the absolute property, of my beloved friend Charlotte Robinson, as some little indication of my gratitude for the countless services for which I am indebted to her, as well as for the affectionate tenderness and care which made the last five years of my life the happiest I ever spent.’

After Emily’s death Charlotte Robinson continued to cut a dash in Manchester society. The local newspapers record her attendance at numerous balls and conversaziones – for instance, in July 1899 dressed in white brocaded silk and heliotrope velvet. On these occasions she is often in the company of Julia Dux, who lived close by in Plymouth Grove.

Charlotte Robinson’s career was brought to a premature end, however, by her death at home, in October 1901. She left £3100 – and the executors of her will were her sister, Epsey, and her niece Elspeth McClelland.

The latter, then aged 22, continued along the path that her aunt had, to a degree, forged and, with the changing times, was able to become more fully a professional and practise as an architect. You can read an account of her career here. She, like her aunt Charlotte, was clearly a woman of independent thinking and, not unsurprisingly, was swept into the Edwardian suffragette movement, achieving a certain notoriety in 1909 when she was one of the ‘Human Letters’ sent as a publicity stunt to 10 Downing Street. You can see a photograph here of Elspeth posing for the camera – with Daisy Solomon, her fellow ‘Letter’, on the left and Annie Kenney in support on the right. Under her married name – Mrs Elspeth Douglas Spencer – she has an entry in the Suffrage Annual and Woman’s Who’s Who.

Thus, by way of Charlotte Robinson’s ‘home art decoration’ , we can trace a line of endeavour that stretches from Emily Faithfull’s involvement in the 1860s with the Langham Place Group (middle-class women intent on improving work opportunities for their sisters) to a woman architect who, in  her short life, managed to design and build several houses – as well as giving birth to three children. It was, apparently, that third birth that in 1920 killed her – putting an end to another interesting career.

For more about the interior design work of Rhoda and Agnes Garrett see Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle, published by Francis Boutle.

Enterprising Women 1



All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.


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Suffrage Stories: The Mysterious Mrs Alice Green, Emily Wilding Davison And Kitty Marion

In the Introduction to my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide I wrote:

‘Although women may be “hidden from history” they are not, on the whole, hidden from the Registrar of Births, Marriages, and Deaths nor from the Principal Registry of the Family Division (in England and Wales) or the General Register Office in Scotland.’ 

However there is no getting away from the fact that, despite one’s best efforts, there are some women who resist all attempts at discovery. One such is the rather mysterious ‘Mrs Alice Green’ who we come across in the intertwined stories of Emily Wilding Davison and Kitty Marion.

For instance, in The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison (p 131-32)  Liz Stanley and Ann Morley tell us that for some months in 1913 Emily Davison was staying with Mrs Green at 133 Clapham Road. We  assume that it was from here that on 4 June she set out for the WSPU office and then the Derby. They also note The Suffragette (13 June 1913) as mentioning that a Mrs Green was at Emily’s bedside in the Epsom Cottage Hospital. However, although Stanley and Morley do so much to reveal other branches of Emily’s friendship network they pass Mrs Green by without comment.

And I’m not surprised –  because ‘Mrs Alice Green’ is more resistant than most to the historian’s intrusive gaze. But, lifting the dusty Victorian curtain, the earliest sighting I have of her is at the Dover Register Office on 11 June 1898 where, as ‘Alice Kellie’, spinster, 26 years old, she married Edward Basil Green. The couple each gave their address as 4 Eastbrook Place, Dover.

But who was ‘Alice Kellie’? From searching through all the resources of Ancestry and FindmyPast I could find no suitable candidate and was sufficiently intrigued to order a copy of the marriage certificate in the hope it might offer a clue. Well, the only extra information it gave me about ‘Alice Kellie’ was that she was the daughter of ‘James Kellie (deceased), boot (or book?) dealer’. That actually didn’t get me any further because I couldn’t find a trace in any census of a suitable James Kellie. Who is to know if Registrars are given the true facts? I can find sufficient evidence in my own family history to know that they often are not.

On the other hand I had no difficulty in uncovering the background of the bridegroom. Edward Basil Green had been born in 1873 in Folkestone, the youngest son of Samuel Richard Green ( 1837-1882),  a mechanical engineer, and the grandson of Edward Green, a Yorkshire ironmaster and founder of E. Green and Son. At the time of the marriage he would have been 25 years old – yet the certificate has his age as 27. The bride’s age is given as 26. If the bridgroom felt compelled to add a couple of years could this mean that the bride was perhaps rather older. Who’s to know!

What the marriage certificate did tell me was that no member from either family was there to witness the marriage. The certificate is signed by the wife of the Registrar and by either the wife or the daughter (they both had the same name) of the tobacconist whose shop was next to the Register Office. This lack of family support may be explained by the next sighting I have of the happy couple – as they became parents of a son (Edward Basil Green) on 27 August 1898. It looks as though Alice Kellie was about seven months pregnant when she married Edward Green.

And that is the last I time I catch sight of Alice Green before she appears 15 years or so later as a friend and supporter of Emily Wilding Davison. I cannot see that either she or her husband were on the electoral roll as inhabitants of 133 Clapham Road and, indeed, cannot spot them in London until they appear on the 1921 electoral roll (with their son) living at Powis Terrace in north Kensington. From 1930 until 1939 Alice and Basil (as her husband was known) continued to  live in this area – now at 13 Colville Mansions.

In the meantime Mrs Green, as well as supporting Emily Davison, had also helped Kitty Marion, being one of three (Dr Violet Jones and Mary Leigh were the others) who took her to Paris on 31 May 1914 to show Christabel Pankhurst the result of the treatment that she had suffered in prison. As Kitty Marion was on the run at the time as a ‘mouse’, Alice Green was taking something of a risk in accompanying her.

In 1915 Mrs Alice Green was secretary of the Emily Davison Club that Mary Leigh had formed to perpetuate their friend’s memory. In October 1915 Mrs Green was one of those who contributed towards Kitty Marion’s fare to the US – the party to bid her farewell was held at the Emily Davison Club. Meetings of the Club were held in 144 High Holborn, which housed the offices of the Women’s Freedom League and the WFL’s Minerva Cafe.  Over a period of years, from the 1920s until at least 1938, the Greens were also, with others, such as Charlotte Despard, Elizabeth Knight, Octavia Lewin, leaseholders of 144 High Holborn.

From her involvement with the suffrage movement I get the impression that Mrs Green was reasonably well off, although I cannot discover how her husband was employed. The family does not appear in the 1911 census – presumably they followed the WFL/WSPU boycott. As a mechanical engineer did he, perhaps, work for the family firm?

Any difficulties there may have been over the shotgun wedding had long since been forgotten. In 1923 Edward Basil Green was left £10,000 in the will of his uncle, Sir Edward Green, and many years later his son was the executor of the will of one of his Green aunts.

It’s not only Alice Green’s birth that is obscure, but, very surprisingly, I cannot even discover when she died. Her husband was living at Minehead when he died in 1958 – but probate was granted to a solicitor (and not, rather surprisingly, to his son) and I haven’t gone so far as to investigate his will.

The career of Alice and Basil Green’s son is rather easier to follow – he became chairman of Doulton, retiring in 1963. I wonder if his descendants have any information about ‘Mrs Alice Green’ – or are aware of the part she played in supporting two of the most militant of the suffragettes?






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Suffrage Stories/Suffrage Walks: The Suffragette Fellowship Memorial, Westminster

How many of you know – and have been to look at – this Memorial?Calling All Women 1971_0001

It is sited in Christchurch Gardens, a paved turning running from Victoria Street, Westminster, towards Caxton Hall and was commissioned by the Suffragette Fellowship to commemorate ‘ the courage and perseverance of all those men and women who in the long struggle for votes for women selflessly braved derision, opposition and ostracism, many enduring physical violence and suffering.’ The Memorial was unveiled in 1970, on 14 July, Emmeline Pankhurst’s official birthday .

I find it interesting that it took nearly 60 years from the time that the WSPU had, to all intents and purposes, disbanded for the survivors to commemorate with a piece of public art (rather than a plaque, of which there are several related to the suffrage movement) any others than the Pankhursts (that is, Emmeline and Christabel).

I am not aware of any documentation associated with the decision to commission Lorne McKean and Edwin Russell, the young (husband and wife) couple who designed the memorial, although I have noticed that in most citations it is Russell alone who is usually named as its sculptor. I have been in touch with Lorne McKean (Edwin Russell died in 2013) and she comments:

‘Edwin (my husband) and I worked on many of our sculptures together. Usually one of us took the leadership on a particular sculpture and in the case of the Suffragette memorial this was Edwin. I do recall that the actual idea that developed from just the idea of a shape more like a memorial grave stone to the S shaped scroll that you now see developed organically between us. We have always been really bad at signing things as it always seems to us the least relevant part of the work. But have grown to appreciate that it is interesting to others’.

I like the hint that the scroll design may have evolved from first  equating ‘memorial’ with ‘gravestone’.

However, the only other primary evidence I can show you of the event – and the thinking behind it -comes from the pages of the 1971 edition of Calling All Women, the Suffragette Fellowship Newsletter.

Suff Fellowship 2

Suff Fellowship 1


And yet…and yet….While the inside pages of the 1971 edition of Calling All Women were given over to reports of the unveiling of this new memorial – one intended to commemorate the involvement of all suffragettes – what was the image chosen for the cover? Yes, of course, Mrs Pankhurst. Once again, the power of her image – set so splendidly against the Palace of Westminster – had trumped that of the newcomer.

Calling All Women 1971_0002

It is as though, even at this late stage in the history of the suffragette movement, there was a force at work intent on proving that maxim put forward by Thomas Carlyle (incidentally one of Mrs Pankhurst’s favourite writers – and she wasn’t a great reader) that ‘the history of the world is but the biography of great men’ or, of course, women. This is not a sentiment that appeals to me and may explain why I have devoted so many years to uncovering the lives of those suffrage campaigners who were by no means great. It is just these women – and men – that the Suffragette Fellowship Memorial is there to commemorate.

So -pay a visit to Christchurch Gardens, think of your favourite non-famous suffragette – and contemplate.


See also this Parliament and Women in the 20th Century blog post.


All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

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Suffrage Stories/Women Artists: Caroline Watts And the ‘Bugler Girl’

watts bugler

This image of the ‘Bugler Girl’-  or ‘Clarion Girl’ – had a resonance for the suffrage campaign on both sides of the Atlantic.

The design was originally used on a poster to advertise the NUWSS spectacular procession of 13 June 1908. [For an article about the banners created for that occasion see here.]

The artist is known to be Caroline Watts but, as ever with the artists who contributed so much to the imagery of the suffrage campaign, I asked myself  -who was she? This is what I discovered.

Caroline Marsh Watts was born at Handsworth in 1868, a daughter of Robert Watts, a button manufacturer, and his wife Mary Maria. Caroline was the youngest child in the family of six children and her mother died, aged 36, a year or so after her birth. Robert Watts never remarried and their maternal grandmother moved into the household to help run the business and care for the children. In 1871 Robert Watts’ business, which he ran in partnership with John Shakespeare Manton, had 470 employees – with premises at the Regent Works, Regent Street and at Frederick Street, Birmingham.

By 1891 the family (Robert Watts, two of his daughters, Mary and Caroline, his mother-in-law and 4 year-old grandson) had moved south and were living at Ailsa Road, St Margaret’s Twickenham. Robert Watts had retired and Caroline was an art student – we know she studied at the Slade.

Robert Watts died in 1894, leaving something over £8000, and by 1901 Caroline had set up home with her sister Mary – and one servant – at 83 Charlwood Street, Pimlico. Mary was employed as a ‘compiler of indexes’ and Caroline was ‘an artist – painter’.

In fact, from at least 1899 Caroline had been commissioned as an illustrator for a series of translations of Arthurian and other romances. These were the work of the renowned folklorist Jessie L. Weston and the majority were published by the firm of David Nutt.

One of Caaroline Watts' illustrations to 'Tristan and Iseult', translated by Jessie L. West and published by David Nutt, 1902

One of Caaroline Watts’ illustrations to ‘Tristan and Iseult’, translated by Jessie L. Weston and published by David Nutt, 1902

At the turn of the century the firm of David Nutt was run by Alfred Trubner Nutt, the son of the founder. Alfred Nutt was also president of the Folk-Lore Society – hence his interest in publishing texts such as those written by Jessie Weston. As these were so close to the publisher’s heart I imagine he took considerable care when selecting their illustrator and because Caroline Watts continued to receive commissions from Alfred Nutt I would think she must have become part of the publisher’s friendship circle. It may well have been through association with this firm that Caroline’s sister Mary developed her career as an indexer.

Illustrated by Caroline Watts and published by David Nutt in 1904

Illustrated by Caroline Watts and published by David Nutt in 1904

Nutt’s French wife, Marie. subscribed to NUWSS in 1906 and in February 1907 took part in the ‘Mud March’. After the tragic death of her husband (he drowned in the Seine while attempting to rescue his invalid son whose pony had bolted and run into the river; the son was saved by passers by) – Marie Nutt took over the running of the firm of David Nutt and in the next few years published many texts relevant to the women’s suffrage cause.

Such was the suffrage zeitgeist amongst London-based women artists at the time that Caroline Watts may have been drawn towards the NUWSS by any number of associations, but her connection with Marie Nutt is one clear thread.

It doesn’t take much imagination to recognise that Caroline Watt’s design for the ‘Bugler Girl’ is closely associated with the heroic images she was creating for commissions from Alfred Nutt.

The NUWSS was at pains to make clear that the militant imagery of the ‘Bugler Girl’ didn’t represent a violent organization. As a member of the NUWSS governing-council explained, ‘Our Bugler Girl carries her bugle and her banner; her sword is sheathed by her side; it is there, but not drawn, and if it were drawn, it would not be the sword of the flesh, but of the spirit. For ours is not a warfare against men, but against evil..’

The image, created as I mentioned, to advertise the June 1908 NUWSS procession was subsequently used – often in black and white rather than colour – on posters and flyers advertising NUWSS meetings and from November 1913 was used on the front page of the NUWSS paper, ‘The Common Cause’.  However such was the strength of the image that it also had a lease of life in the US.

'Bugler Girl' Women's Political Union badge (image courtesy of Ken Florey's Woman Suffrage Memorabilia website)

‘Bugler Girl’ Women’s Political Union badge (image courtesy of Ken Florey’s Woman Suffrage Memorabilia website)

In his most useful and interesting book – Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia – Ken Florey reveals that Harriot Stanton Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Stanton and a long-time resident in England, poached Caroline Watts’ ‘Bugler Girl’ design for use by the Women’s Political Union, the WSPU-inspired society she had founded on her return to the USA. Significantly the design was recoloured in purple, white and green (colours of course, borrowed from the WSPU) and became a well-known icon of the US women’s suffrage movement. [See here for more information from Ken Florey on the use of the design in the USA and here for a 2011 article about a contemporary reinterpretation of the image.]

Caroline Watts may well have produced other designs for the suffrage campaign but the only other that I can find reference to is held in the Artists’ Suffrage League archive in the Women’s Library@LSE. It is catalogued as ‘[Liberty] Original drawing, ink on paper, a woman freed from her chains, opening a door and looking out on to a sunrise; inscription below image “But little do or can the best of us:/That little is achieved through Liberty./Who, then, dares hold – emancipated thus -/His fellow shall continue bound? Robert Browning”. Signature bottom left “CM Watts‘”‘

I have been unable to discover much more about Caroline Watts’ life. In 1911, presumably an NUWSS supporter, she didn’t boycott the census, and can be found living with Mary, who was still indexing, at Hillcroft, Oakdene Road, Godalming. Caroline described herself as ‘Artist (Painter and Black and White Illustrator). I have been unable to find any trace of her work as a painter passing through the salerooms.By 1918 the sisters had moved to Middlehill Road, Colehill, Dorset, where Caroline died, aged 51, in 1919.



All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.



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Suffrage Stories: An Army Of Banners – Designed For The NUWSS Suffrage Procession 13 June 1908

An Army of Banners


Army Banner Picture1In June 2008 I was invited by The Women’s Library to give a talk on suffrage banners to mark the 100th anniversary of the first of a new style of spectacular processions staged by the British women’s suffrage movement. For it was on the afternoon of Saturday 13 June 1908 that over 10,000 women belonging, in the main, to the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies processed through central London to the Albert Hall, where they held a rally.The image above was that used to publicise the procession.

The talk I gave was accompanied by a Powerpoint illustrating all the designs for the banners mentioned or, indeed, the banners themselves. Although, or copyright reasons, I am unable to insert these illustrations directly into this article I have provided links on which you can click to see them for yourselves.

1908 ProcessionAnd what was the reason for the procession?

It was to draw the country’s – and the government’s -attention to the women’s demand that they should be given the vote – on the same terms as it was given to men.

Yet by 1908 the campaign was already 42 years old. Since 1866 thousands of meetings had been held in cities, towns, villages, and hamlets throughout the entire British Isles – from Orkney to Cornwall and from Dublin to Yarmouth. Some of these had been no more than small gatherings in cottages, others had been held in middle-class drawing rooms, in Mechanics’ Institutes, in market places and in church halls –  while many others had been held in the largest public halls of the largest cities of the land. Yet despite all this activity women had not achieved their goal.

At times they had thought they were coming close – when, for instance, a franchise bill managed to jump a few of the parliamentary hurdles. And 1908 was one of those times. In 1906 a Liberal government had been elected – and the suffragists, despite many past disappointments, always had higher hopes of the Liberals. And now, just a few months previously, in February 1908, a Liberal MP had introduced yet another women’s suffrage bill in Parliament – and it had actually passed its second reading – before being blocked. Another failure, of course, but this was the greatest progress that a suffrage bill had made since 1897. The leaders of the NUWSS thought that the time was ripe to capitalise on this quasi- success and show the country how well-organised and united women could be in publicising their claim to citizenship. Incidentally there was also a new prime minister to impress. Asquith had just taken office in April, succeeding the dying Campbell-Bannerman.

The image used on the advertising flyer for the procession was also used a little later on the badge given to those organising local NUWSS societies throughout the country. We can see that the bugler girl is calling her comrades to rally to the banner  – and it was banners that were recognised at the time – and are remembered today – as the most significant visual element of that procession a hundred years ago.

The journalist James Douglas, reporting for the Morning Leader put it rather well ‘They have recreated the beauty of blown silk and tossing embroidery. The procession was like a medieval festival, vivid with simple grandeur, alive with an ancient dignity.’

‘Blown silk and tossing embroidery’- a wonderful phrase – conjuring up an alluring image.. In fact a high wind that afternoon meant that the silk was certainly blown and the embroidery tossed.

And his observation that the procession was like a medieval festival – invoking concepts of ‘grandeur’ and of ‘ancient dignity’ – was just what the organisers were aiming for. The designer of the majority of the banners was Mary Lowndes, a successful professional artist, very much a product of the Arts and Crafts movement, who specialised in the designing of stained glass. A year later she put down on paper her thoughts on ‘Banners and Banner Making’, tracing women’s involvement in this craft right back to the ‘warrior maidens’ of a romanticized – if not an entirely  mythical – medieval past. She lamented the use in recent years of manufactured banners – the implication being that these were carried by male groups – both civil or military – but that ‘now into public life comes trooping the feminine; and with the feminine creature come the banners of past time’ She applauds what she calls ‘the new thing’ – writing that by this she means the ‘political societies started by women, managed by women and sustained by women. In their dire necessity they have started them; with their household wit they manage them; in their poverty, with ingenuity and many labours, they sustain them.’

The NUWSS had actually staged its first procession through the streets of London the previous year – in February 1907.  This had had a startling novelty value – it really was the first time that large numbers of middle-class women had taken to the streets. On that occasion, too, banners had played their part. However February was not a good month for a procession – it was not for nothing that the occasion acquired the soubriquet the ‘Mud March’(for more about the Mud March see here). To be fair – the timing of the procession had been chosen with a purpose – to coincide with the opening of parliament (which was then held in February). However the NUWSS organisers learned from their mistake and June was chosen as a more suitable season for their second public procession.

Instructions NUWSS procession June 1908

Instructions NUWSS procession June 1908 BackThis particular June Saturday was selected because the International Conference for Women’s Suffrage was about to be held in Amsterdam – it was starting on Monday 15 June. This meant that many important delegates from around the world were passing through London and were able to take part in the British demonstration. The other main suffrage organisation, the WSPU – the Women’s Social and Political Union – had chosen the following Sunday, 21 June, on which to stage their most ambitious rally yet – it was to be known as ‘Woman’s Sunday’– processions culminating in a rally in Hyde Park. The two events have sort of rolled into one in the popular memory – but the NUWSS procession was the first of the two. The WSPU, too, carried a brilliant display of banners – but most of theirs were made by commercial manufacturers and, sadly, none seems to have survived.

An announcement that the NUWSS procession was to take place on 13 June was made in a letter that appeared in the Times on 8 May. This was signed by leaders of the NUWSS, including Millicent Fawcett, the president. The letter stated that ‘Professional women, University women, women teachers, women artists, women musicians, women writers, women in business, nurses, members of political societies of all parties, women trades unionists, and co-operative women all have their own organizations and will be grouped in the procession under their own distinctive banners, which have been specially designed for the occasion by the Artists’ League for Women’s Suffrage.’ The letter then appealed both for funds to help pay for the banners and ‘for the personal support and presence in the procession of women who conscientiously hold that every kind of constitutional action should be taken in support of the rights they claim.’

So what was this Artists’ Suffrage League?

It had been founded in January 1907 by Mary Lowndes to involve professional women artists in preparations for the Mud March. Among the founding members were an Australian artist, Dora Meeson Coates, and Emily Ford, whose sister, Isabella, was a member of the procession’s organising committee. The Fords came from a Leeds Quaker family with a long history of involvement in the suffrage movement. Emily was by now living and working in a studio in Chelsea, a close neighbour of Dora Meeson Coates and of other women artists who supported the suffrage cause. The ASL’s secretary was Barbara Forbes, Mary Lowndes’ companion – and sister-in-law – who worked alongside her in her stained glass business.

The Artists’ Suffrage League representatives on the NUWSS committee organising the 13 June procession were Mary Lowndes and Mrs Christiana Herringham. In 1903 Mrs Herringham had been the originator of the National Arts Collection Fund, which made its first purchase of a painting in 1906. Ironically this was Velazquez Rokeby Venus, which in 1914 was to be badly damaged by the action of a militant suffragette, Mary Richardson (for more about this incident see here and here). Mrs Herringham had been a supporter of suffrage societies since at least 1889, and by 1907 was subscribing to both the NUWSS and the WSPU.

In a letter to the Times that appeared on the day of the procession, Millicent Fawcett noted that, besides Mary Lowndes and Emily Ford, other artists involved in the production of the banners included May Morris, daughter of William Morris, and Mrs Adrian Stokes – she was an Austrian artist, Marianne Stokes, who had been a friend of Millicent Fawcett for some years – for instance they were both staying with mutual friends at Zennor in Cornwall when the 1891 census was taken. From newspaper reports it would appear that ’80 ladies’ had been involved in the production of 70-80 embroidered banners that were made specifically for this procession – and that they had been working on them since the beginning of the year.

Amazingly – of the banners made by the Artists’ Suffrage League for this procession many are still in existence – most of them held in the Women’s Library@LSE, with another selection housed in the Museum of London. We are extremely fortunate in that not only have the banners themselves been preserved, but so have the original designs. For in the Women’s Library collection is the actual album in which Mary Lowndes sketched out her designs for the banners, the colours to be used indicated in watercolour, and, in many instances, with swatches of likely fabric also attached. However, the designs that were included in the album are not dated and one cannot assume that all necessarily relate to banners designed for the June 1908 procession. For instance the album contains a design for a banner for the Manchester Federation of the NUWSS– but the Federation didn’t come into existence until 1910.  So I have tried to be careful and to relate the designs to the reality of the banners as described in newspaper reports of the day. There are a few newspaper photographs of sections of the procession but, on the whole, they are not as helpful in identifying specific banners as are the words that accompanied them. The NUWSS missed a trick in that, unlike the WSPU the following week, they did not think of publishing photographs of the procession as postcards.

However the procession – and its banners – certainly did attract columns of newsprint – a good selection of which were carefully cut out and pasted up in another album kept by the Artists’ Suffrage League. In fact a leaflet was printed by the NUWSS containing extracts from the press reports specifically about the banners.

The ASL banners had been on display in Caxton Hall, Westminster, for a couple of days before the procession – and the press had been invited along to view them. The Daily Chronicle reporter had clearly got the message – writing that ‘the beauty of the needlework.. should convince the most sceptical that it is possible for a woman to use a needle even when she is also wanting a vote’.

It was not only the skill of the needlewomen that was remarked on. The Times was always rather loathe to give any credit to the suffrage cause, but was prompted – after its usual weasel words casting doubt as to whether the procession caused ‘great masses of the people to be deeply moved on the suffrage question’-, to admit that ‘in every other respect its success is beyond challenge. To begin with, the organization and stage-management were admirable, and would have reflected credit on the most experienced political agent. Nothing was left to chance or improvisation: and no circumstance that ingenuity or imagination could contrive was lacking to make the show imposing to the eye. Those taking part in the demonstration were all allotted their appointed stations, and every care had been taken to enable those stations to be found with the greatest ease.

It was 3 o’clock when the start was made. At the head was borne the banner of the NUWSS, on which was inscribed the legend ‘The franchise is the keystone of liberties’. Beneath the folds of this banner – which has not survived – marched Lady Frances Balfour and Mrs Henry Fawcett, wearing her cap and gown – the robes of her honorary doctorate from St Andrews University.

Then, as the Times, reported, came all the provincial detachments. The NUWSS could trace its descent from the first suffrage society that had been formed in 1866 – but by 1908 it had been transformed out of all recognition from this first, very tentative, incarnation. Through the 19th century local groups had been formed in towns and cities around the county, aligning themselves with the main societies – in London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Edinburgh.  In 1896 they all grouped together under the umbrella of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. The NUWSS had continued to develop and in 1907 had adopted a new constitution and strengthened its organisational structure. The provincial societies, although they had a measure of autonomy, were given strong leadership from the London headquarters. But it was the London Society, under the command of Philippa Strachey, that was responsible for the organisation of the procession – just as she had the Mud March the previous year.

It was important to the organisers that it should be made clear that the procession was representative of women of the entire country – which was why so much emphasis was given to indicate on the banners the names of the towns from which they came. As a convenient shorthand the designs for these banners used existing emblems associated with the town or region. The Westminster Gazette took the point, commenting that ‘Nothing like them for artistic skill, elegance and emblematic accuracy – to say nothing of their great number – has ever been seen in a public demonstration of this kind before.’

And the Scotsman reported, ‘The most remarkable feature of the procession was the great display of banners and bannerettes. It was said there were as many as 800 of them, and the designs and mottoes which they bore appeared to be almost as numerous. Many of them were effective works of art, and bore striking inscriptions’. Unfortunately few of these local, provincial, banners are amongst those that have survived. They would have been taken back to the home town and were certainly then used in many other local demonstrations – before, I suppose, eventually becoming damaged or forgotten. That is why it is so fortunate that we have Mary Lowndes’ original designs as a record of what has disappeared.

The provincial detachments processed in alphabetical order. First came Bath, then Birkenhead, Birmingham, Blackburn, and Bradford. Of these we have no record of either the design or the banners themselves – which were probably designed and made locally.

But then came Brighton. And I know that this Mary Lowndes design really was made up into the banner carried on the day – because it appears in a photograph published in the Daily Mirror. The dolphins were a long-established symbol of the town – appearing in the Brighton coat of arms and ‘In deo fidemus’ was certainly the town’s motto at the beginning of 20th century. The swatches attached to the album design, however, indicate that the colours used were dark and light green and gold – rather than blue that appears here

By 1908 the Brighton Society had over 350 members and as Brighton is close to London the society should have been able to produce a sizeable contingent of supporters to walk with their banner.

 I found this next design particularly interesting, referring as it does to the Bristol Women’s Reform Union  –not a name that will be very familiar even to close students of the suffrage movement – which is why it is rather exciting to see its existence given credence by this design. The society had been founded in the early 1900s by Anna Maria and Mary Priestman from Bristol – radical liberal, Quaker campaigners – whose involvement went back to the very first years of the suffrage movement. The Reform Union existed in parallel to the main suffrage society in Bristol, but aimed to set the question of the suffrage in the context of wider social reform. It finally amalgamated with the Bristol NUWSS society in 1909.

The Cardiff banner (courtesy of Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives).

The Cardiff banner (courtesy of Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives).

Next came Cardiff – one newspaper reporting that the ‘Dragon of Cardiff excited general attention’. There is no design for Cardiff in the Lowndes album it is more than likely that it was made by members of the newly-formed Cardiff and District Women’s Suffrage Society and is the one that has now (in 2016) been donated to the Special Archives and Collection of Cardiff University (for the full story see here).

Next came the women of Cheltenham. The town had over the years proved to be a very effective centre of the suffrage campaign in Gloucestershire. A fashionable spa, the town was attractive to single women of means. In 1907 the town had collected 900 signatures to the Women’s Franchise Declaration – another in the long series of mammoth petitions that had been presented to parliament. The Cheltenham banner has not survived – but a newspaper report does tells us that it bore the motto ‘Be Just and Fear Not’

 The design of this next banner – beneath which marched the women of East Anglia – had been, in part at least, suggested to Mary Lowndes by Millicent Fawcett – an East Anglian herself – whose hometown was Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast  In her report of the procession that appeared in the Times on the big day, she particularly mentioned this banner – writing that it ‘shows the three crowns of the East Anglian St Edmund and a representation of the wolf traditionally associated with the miraculous preservation of the martyr’s head – and the motto – Non angeli, sed Angli’. Many of the elements – the three crowns and the wolf – are still in the coat of arms of Bury St Edmunds. The wording is the reverse of what Pope Gregory is reputed to have uttered when, in 573AD , he was shown some captive British children in Rome – that is ‘Not Angles, but Angels’ – the rewording is supposed to mean ‘Not angels, but Angles – that is, citizens.’ A nice hit at the ‘Angel in the House’

Army banner Picture5 And here is a photograph taken on the day – showing the banner with in front from left to right, Lady Frances Balfour, Millicent Fawcett, Emily Davies and Sophie Bryant, headmistress of North London Collegiate.

For the Mud March the previous year Millicent Fawcett had not worn academic dress –but it had been decided that today it would be worn –  to imbue the occasion with as much dignity as possible .  Next to her, with bonnet, bag and umbrella, is Emily Davies who, in 1866, with Elizabeth Garrett, had handed to John Stuart Mill the very first women’s suffrage petition. She was now 76 and yet was still to be around, in 1918, to cast her vote for the first time. One newspaper reported Emily Davies saying on 13 June ‘It is a great day for the movement, I would not have missed it for the world.’

Scotland was, of course, represented in the procession. Here is Mary Lowndes’ design for the banner – and here is the reality. The black and red, triple-towered castle is as it appeared at the time on the city of Edinburgh coat of arms – with the thistles added  to highlight Scotland’s commitment to the cause.

The next banner of which we have a record is that for Fleet, in Hampshire..I must admit that when I saw the design for this banner in the Lowndes album I was a little doubtful as to whether the town of Fleet would have mustered a contingent for this particular procession – there is no record of a suffrage society in the town at this time. But to my delight I came across a newspaper report that specifically mentioned this banner – which was made up, as shown, in yellow and orange – and with the motto as depicted – ’Delay of Justice is Injustice’ – an ancient proverbial concept – the wording put into this form by Walter Savage Landor. Because this Fleet banner was proved to be ‘right’ I have extrapolated from this that so are other Surrey and Hampshire ones the designs for which are in the Lowndes album

Thus Guildford is just such a one – depicting Guildford castle and two woolpacks – anciently the town’s staple trade– both of which feature on the Borough of Guildford coat of arms today.  A Guildford NUWSS society was definitely formed in 1909 but I don’t think that there was one in 1908. However this area of Surrey was the home of women who were not only committed suffragists – but who also had long association with the Arts and Crafts movement – and clearly the combination of suffrage and needlework was appealing. Christiana Herringham’s sister, Theodora Powell, was the secretary of the Godalming society formed in 1909 – and she was also instrumental in the founding of the Guildford society. The president of that was Mrs Mary Watts, widow of the artist, G.F. Watts

Godalming Women's Suffrage banner (image courtesy of Godalming Museum)

Godalming Women’s Suffrage banner (image courtesy of Godalming Museum)

By the way, a later Godalming banner was worked by Gertrude Jekyll and is now held in a local museum.

Next came the banner of Haslemere and Hindhead – a banner of which we know – although it is now lost – because it was described in the press reports

It bore what might appear the surprising motto:

‘Weaving fair and weaving free

England’s web of destiny’

At least one scholar has assumed that Haslemere – then a small sleepy Surrey town – could not have been associated with the weaving industry – and, as one can so easily do, made the assumption that a Lancashire name with a similar name must have been intended – but in 1908 Haslemere did support a weaving industry – of a sort. It was far removed from the dark satanic mills of Lancashire – but had been founded in 1894 as a branch of the Peasants Art Society – weaving cotton and linen. Haslemere was in fact a haven of an artistic community. By 1909 it, too, like Godalming and Guildford, had its own NUWSS society. The secretary was a Miss D. Hecht, whose father was something to do with Food Reform Society and whose mother gave suffrage At Homes.

The next banner in the alphabetical procession was that of North Herts, which, according to the press report, ‘declared in black and white that it was undaunted’. To put it more prosaically the banner included the wording ‘North Herts’ and ‘Undaunted’. It had been known as the Hitchin Suffrage society – but became North Herts Women’s Suffrage Association, with Lord Lytton as its president – his sisters, Lady Betty Balfour and Lady Constance Lytton were also associated with the society, though Lady Constance was, of course, much more famous for her association with the WSPU. One of the secretaries of the Association, Mrs Edward Smithson, who lived in Hitchen, had been a founder member in the 1880s of the York Suffrage Society – an example of the dedication that many women, whose names are not now remembered, had given over decades to the suffrage cause.

(Image courtesy of Kirlees Museums and Galleries)

(Image courtesy of Kirlees Museums and Galleries)

Next came Huddersfield. There is a Huddersfield banner still extant, held in the Tolson Museum in Huddersfield. It, too, is a work of art, designed and made by a local suffragist, Florence Lockwood – depicting local mills and with the motto ‘Votes for Women’. This wording might more usually be associated with the WSPU than with the NUWSS, but Florence Lockwood definitely gave the banner to the local NUWSS society. However I rather think that it post-dated 1908 – and was probably not the one carried in the 1908 procession

Hull’s banner, however, probably was – although it wasn’t singled out for mention in any newspaper report. In fact the Hull NUWSS society, which had been founded in 1904 by Dr Mary Murdoch, sent the largest contingent of any provincial society to walk in this suffrage procession. Local members subscribed over £100 to meet the expense of the trip and hired a special train for the occasion .The device of the three crowns is still used today on the city coat of arms

Keswick, too, had a banner in the procession – described as an ‘exquisitely painted view of Derwentwater’. In fact the Keswick society had two banners at its disposal – the one that Catherine Marshall, the young and energetic secretary of the society,  refers to at one point – with no further description – as ‘our banner’ and a private one lent by her cousin’s wife, Mrs John Marshall of Derwent Island. It is possible that it was to this one that the press report referred. The ‘our banner’ one is, I think, the one that still exists, with Catherine Marshall’s papers in the Cumbria Record Office.

A Kingston NUWSS society was formed in 1908 – here is the design for its banner. The swan seems to have been a fanciful device conjured up by Mary Lowndes– the Kingston coat of arms at the time sported three salmon – with no mention of a swan.

 The Sheffield Daily Telegraph commented particularly on the Leeds banner, noting ‘One device with the golden fleece bore the phrase ‘Leeds for Liberty’’ – so we can be certain that this banner was indeed carried in the procession. Leeds had a long history of involvement in the suffrage movement. The fleece, three stars and owls all derive from the Leeds coat of arms . ‘Leeds for Liberty’ certainly has a heartier ring to it than the city’s motto, which was (and is)  ‘Pro Rege et Lege’ (for King and the Law). Annotation on the design shows that the banner was 4ft 4” wide by 6ft 6in high. ‘With bamboo poles and cords complete £2. The lovely blue and gold strips are given by Mrs – Herringham. The owls are silver.’

Leicester, too, had a long history of involvement in the suffrage movement. By 1908 there had been a local suffrage society in the town for 36 years and here is Mary Lowndes’ design for their banner.

After Leicester came Liverpool. The Liverpool NUWSS society had taken its banner very seriously – commissioning a local artist to design it. It is a most impressive work of art – featuring a Liver bird and a galleon and carrying the message –  ‘Liverpool Women Demand the Vote’. The society had opened a shop in Bold St, one of Liverpool’s most fashionable thoroughfares, and in the days before the procession, displayed the banner there. On 13 June members of all Merseyside branches accompanied their banner to London, travelling on specially hired trains. The banner still exists – now in the care of Merseyside Museums.

The next design – that for a banner for Newcastle – highlights the difficulty of assigning a date to a design. Newcastle certainly had a banner in the June 1908 procession – but I am not convinced that it was this one, designed by Mary Lowndes. Newspaper reports of the June procession describe Newcastle’s banner as carrying the message, ‘Newcastle demands the Vote’ – perhaps along the lines of the Liverpool one. Needless to say the three castles do feature on the city’s coat of arms – of which red, white and black are the dominant colours. The design may have been changed, or used on another occasion.

Next came North Berwick. An attractive design – and the town’s coat of arms does includes the ferry boat. I haven’t come across a suffrage society specific to North Berwick, but there were clearly women from the town who were sympathizers.

Next came the banners of Nottingham and Oxford. We know that the members of the Oxford society cooperated with the Birmingham society to reserve seats on a special train and that 85 members travelled to London on the day, accompanied by their banner. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t appear to have survived.

Portsmouth women, too, carried a banner – remarked on by the press for its motto, echoing Nelson, ‘Engage the enemy more closely’. It, too, has disappeared

We do, however, have a record of the design of Purley’s banner – although I don’t think Purley ever supported a suffrage society – but it presumably formed part of the Surrey coterie – its banner designed by Mary Lowndes. I must say that, although I have been able to decode most symbols on the banner designs, I couldn’t fathom out why this one should have what appeared to be shamrocks across the top. But they may, just possibly, be oak leaves – the Purley oaks – an ancient local landmark – feature in one version of an old coat of arms

Next in the alphabetical order came Reading. And there was a Reading banner – for newspaper reports mention that ‘A dozen women tugged at the ropes of the big banner of Reading to prevent it being blown over’. Alas it has vanished.

Likewise there was a banner for Redhill, and one for Sevenoaks, the latter carrying the motto, ‘What concerns all should have the consent of all’, and for Stratford-on-Avon. All have disappeared.

We do, however, have the design for the Walton banner – again part of the Surrey group.

The Warwick banner was designed by Mary Lowndes. I haven’t been able to establish that the motto has any significant relevance to the town. But it is a good strong message

 By way of contrast the West Dorset design in the album is very faint – the faintest of all. Whether or not it was made up I am not sure – nor whether it was carried in this procession – but it is evidence that even in that quiet rural area women suffragists were sufficiently stirred to request a banner to represent them.

The Woking banner carries the motto ‘In arduis fortitudo’- fortitude in adversity’. I think the design displays a degree of artistic licence – the town didn’t receive a coat of arms until 1930. An NUWSS society was formed in the town in 1910 – and of course the fact that one of its residents, Ethel Smyth, gave sanctuary to Emmeline Pankhurst when she was released from hunger striking, did ensure it some suffragette notoriety.

We know that contingents of supporters from Worcester and York – together with their banners – also took part in the procession – but neither banner has survived.

A large Irish contingent was also present – marching under at least one banner, which I have seen faintly in a newspaper photograph. And with the marchers were Thomas and Anna Maria Haslam, both of whom had been leaders of the campaign in Ireland since 1866 – and both of whom were now over 80. It is an indication of how seriously the procession was taken that, despite age and infirmity, they had made the effort to travel over from Dublin to take part in the procession.

The local societies were followed by a group of colonial and foreign representatives, many of whom, as I have already noted, were passing through London that weekend on their way to Amsterdam. It was, of course, thought appropriate that some women pioneers of countries other than England should be commemorated by this group.

Advance knowledge that this was to happen had irritated one correspondent to the Times, for, writing from Kensington on 10 June, ‘E.M. Thompson’ had declared, ‘A few days ago I found a youthful adherent of the suffragist cause industriously embroidering a woman’s name on a small bannerette intended for the great occasion. Neither she nor I had ever heard of this lady before, but my devoted young friend was quite satisfied with her task, and informed me that it was the name of an “American pioneer, now dead”. Personally I have no particular wish for a vote, but under any circumstances I should most emphatically refuse to march under an American banner in company with Russian, Hungarian and French women, to demand from the English government a vote to which I considered that I was entitled as an Englishwoman. It seems to me little short of impertinence for those who, up to the present, have failed to get votes in their own countries, to interfere with our home politics, and by swelling the size of the procession to help to give a wrong impression of the number of women in England in favour of the movement.’

Army Banner Picture6 I wonder which of the ‘American pioneers, now dead’ was being commemorated in embroidery by that industrious young suffragist?  Banners had certainly been made to flaunt the names of Susan B Anthony, Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The two former banners are still held in the Women’s Library.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton one, however, is not with them. It was assumed to be just missing – that is ‘missing’ in a general sense – like many other of the banners. However when undertaking this research, I discovered that in August 1908 this particular banner had been sent over to New York – sent by Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, to whom it had been presented. She and her daughter, Mrs de Forest, had been present at the Albert Hall meeting on 13 June. As the New York Times reported ’The most gorgeous souvenir is the “Elizabeth Cady Stanton” banner of white velvet and purple satin that was used to decorate the Albert Hall. The name is embroidered in enormous letters in purple and green, the suffrage colours, and the whole mounted on a background of white velvet).’ As you can see from this report there was already some confusion as to what constituted suffrage colours. The purple, white and green combination was first used by the WSPU the following Sunday – for their Hyde Park rally. But there is no doubt that the Elizabeth Cady Stanton banner was carried in the NUWSS procession on 13 June.

Among those marching with the American contingent were women representing the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women of New York, the organisation founded by Harriot Stanton Blatch in 1906 – and which later changed its name to the Women’s Political Union. Also present were the niece of Susan B. Anthony and the Rev Anna Shaw, who was one of the speakers at the Albert Hall meeting. She specifically mentioned that she and her fellow Americans had not come to tell British lawgivers what to do for the women of this country – they could do that for themselves – but to extend to them the right hand of comradeship in the warfare which they were waging. A statement that was greeted, according to the newspaper report, by cheers.

Australian bannerThe Commonwealth of Australia was represented by a banner – painted rather than sewn – that had been designed by Dora Meeson Coates.  It bore the message ‘Trust the Women Mother As I Have Done ‘, a reference to the fact that Australia had granted women the vote 6 years preciously, in 1902. That banner was given by the Fawcett Library to the Australian government in 1998 and now hangs in Parliament House in Canberra.

As already noted there were delegates from other countries – such as Russia, Hungary and South Africa – in the procession, marching under the banner of the International Delegates – now held in The Women’s Library.

Reports suggest that the banner celebrating Marie Curie, then considered, at least by the women’s movement, as one of the foremost living scientists of the day, was carried by Frenchwomen. This is Mary Lowndes’ design for it.

After all the provincial societies came the Second Detachment –  comprising doctors and other women graduates. I always thought it rather touching that the printed leaflets setting out the arrangements for the day specifically mentioned that there would be robing rooms available at 18 & 19 Buckingham St, just off the Strand, and at the Albert Hall to allow some privacy for the arranging of academic dress.

This group clearly impressed the Times. Their reporter wrote ‘Next marched the women doctors, in caps and gowns, followed by the lady graduates of the Universities of the UK, most of whom were also in academic dress. A brave show they made’.

Harding lunaticsThe fact that women were now being granted academic degrees by many of Britain’s universities was often used in other propaganda material – such as this poster designed by Emily Harding Andrews. (For more information about this artist see here.)

The intention was, of course, to emphasise women’s suitability for citizenship – particularly when contrasted with those whom they considered less worthy examples of the male of the species.

The Liverpool Post and Mercury reported that ‘One of the most beautiful banners was the doctors’; it was of rich white silk, with the word ‘Medicine’ in gold letters across the top, a silver serpent embroidered in the centre, and a border of palest green on which were worked the rose, shamrock, and thistle.’ The banner is now missing – but, quite by accident, I did come across a photograph of it in one of the Women Library’s archival holdings [Vera Holme album 7VJH/5/2/14].

The leading women doctors of the day – Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and her sister-in-law, Mary Marshall, together with Flora Murray, Elizabeth Knight and Elizabeth Wilkes were among those walking in this section.

The doctors carried banners commemorating Elizabeth Blackwell, the first British woman to qualify as a doctor –  although she had had to do so in the US. This banner is now held in the Women’s Library collection. The letters and the symbol are appliquéd.  The symbolism is interesting. Instead of the rod of Asclepius (a snake entwined around rod – the symbol of the authority of medicine) here it is entwined around a lamp. The lamp was associated with the light of knowledge and might also be a version of the cup of Hygiea – the daughter of Asclepius – who was celebrated in her own right as a giver of health.

Another banner commemorates Edith Pechey Phipson, who had been a member of the first small group of women to qualify as doctors after Elizabeth Garrett. In 1906 she had represented Leeds at the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance conference at Copenhagen and had been one of the leaders of the Mud March in February 1907.  She had died just a couple of months before, on 14 April 1908, and this banner was obviously intended as a special tribute. Perhaps we could date its manufacture to the preceding two months.  It survives in the Women’s Library collection.

The profession of Education was represented by a specific banner.  The Sheffield Daily Telegraph helpfully described it, reporting that ‘Miss Philippa Fawcett has presented the education banner, with its device of an owl and a small boy climbing the ladder of learning’.  It has, however, disappeared

 But that carried by the Graduates of the University of London  – designed by Mary Lowndes – is now in the Museum of London collection.

Cambridge was represented by a particularly beautiful banner, now on permanent display in Newnham College. As a newspaper reported, ‘’The alumnae of Cambridge University, a detachment nearly 400 strong, were headed by the gorgeous banner of light blue silk which has been designed for the occasion,’ It was noted that these women didn’t wear academic dress – because the university still refused to grant them degrees – and would, of course, continue to do so for many more years. They did, however, as was reported, wear ‘on their shoulders favours of light blue ribbon’.  Mary Lowndes had designed the banner and, as executed, the words ‘Better is Wisdom Than Weapons of War’ (a quotation from Ecclesiastes) were added below the Cambridge device. The pale blue silk had been given by Mrs Herringham from a quantity of materials that she had brought back from her travels in India.

After the Cambridge brigade marched business women. There were:

Shorthand Writers.  The motto on their banner – designed by Mary Lowndes and held in the Women’s Library, is rather cleverly lifted from Robert Browning’s Asolando.  And then came the Office Workers – their banner now, I think,held  in the Museum of London. The Manchester Guardian described its device as, ‘Three black ravens bearing quills on a gold ground ‘

Next came a group of very active suffragists – the Women Writers’ Suffrage League -mustered under a striking banner that had already given rise to controversy,

This is the design in Mary Lowndes’ album. But the clerk to the Scriveners Company had written a letter, published in the Times on 12 June, saying that he had read that a banner bearing the arms of the Scriveners was to be carried and that any such banner certainly did not have the approval of his company. As it was, on the banner, as executed, WRITERS was substituted for SCRIVENERS. A letter from Mary Lowndes, published in the Times on 13 June, insisted that a black eagle upon a silver ground was certainly not the blazon of the Scriveners’ Company – but it would seem that the women had changed the associated wording at some point after the design was made.

women writers bannerThe resulting banner, worked by Mrs Herringham, appliquéd in black and cream velvet, was given by Cicely Hamilton and Evelyn Sharp and was carried in the 1908 procession by them and by Sarah Grand, Beatrice Harraden and Elizabeth Robins. Cicely Hamilton wrote of the banner that it was ‘distinctive in black and white, impressive in velvet, and swelling, somewhat too proudly for comfort, in a gusty breeze’. This photograph was probably taken on a later occasion.  In 1908 among the other women marching behind this banner were Mrs Thomas Hardy and Flora Annie Steele. This banner is now in the Museum of London collection.

Beside the banner advertising their own society, members of the Women Writers’ Suffrage League carried with them another series of banners now held here in the Women’s Library – banners bearing such names as Jane Austen and Charlotte and Emily Bronte. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph particularly noted this one – writing ‘Names of famous women are emblazoned on some of the banners and ‘Emily Bronte and Charlotte Bronte’ are two which Yorkshire women will be pleased to see on a simple green banner’. The addition of a white rose stresses the women’s Yorkshire connection.

Others commemorated Fanny Burney and Maria Edgeworth. The Museum of London also now holds another two from this series – commemorating Elizabeth Barrett Browning and George Eliot.

After the writers came banners glorifying Great Women of the Past. This was an obvious theme – and one that was to be used in later processions and stagings – such as Cicely Hamilton’s ‘Pageant of Great Women’.

These banners have survived well. Most were designed by Mary Lowndes and all were made by members of the ASL. Of them the Sunday Times wrote ‘The new banners of the movement are wonderful. Many of the banners were designed to celebrate the memory of the great women of all ages, from Vashti, Boadicea and Joan of Arc down to Mrs Browning, George Eliot and Queen Victoria. It was an attempt to represent pictorially the Valhalla of womanhood…As the procession moved away it presented a vista made up of wonderful colours, and it reminded one somehow of a picturesquely clad mediaeval army, marching out with waving gonfalons to certain victory.’

Reports indicate that a banner to Vashti led this element of the procession – but no trace of it remains.

Next came Boadicea. This is Mary Lowndes design – the actual banner is now in the Museum of London collection. Boadicea was a popular heroine of the moment – the bronze statue of her riding her chariot beside Westminster Bridge, right opposite Parliament, had been erected just six years previously, in 1902. In December 1906 each guest at the banquet at the Savoy put on by the NUWSS for released WSPU prisoners had been given what was described as ‘an emblematic picture of Queen Boadicea driving in a chariot, carrying a banner with the message “Votes for Women”‘. And by the autumn of 1908 the WSPU was selling in its shops ‘Boadicea’ brooches.

Joan of Arc was another great heroine of the suffrage movement and the idea of the warrior maiden with God on her side was invoked by both the constitutional and militant societies. Joan’s own banner was loved by her ’40 times better than her sword’, wrote Mrs Fawcett in a short biographical essay on Joan published by the NUWSS. The title page of this biographical pamphlet carries the same emblem of the crown and the crossed swords as appears here on the banner. The motto is, of course, Joan’s own.

In 1909 Elsie Howey, a WSPU activist, dressed as Joan and rode on horseback to greet Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence on her release from prison. You can see a photograph of Elsie in that week’s issue of Votes for Women. In 1909 a Jeanne d’Arc Suffrage League was formed in New York and on 3 June 1913 Emily Wilding Davison is reputed to have stood before the statue of Joan that took pride of place at that year’s WSPU summer fair  -before setting off for Epsom and martyrdom. The statue had Joan’s words inscribed around the base – ‘Fight On, and God Will Give Victory’ and these were the words emblazoned on a banner carried at Emily’s funeral 11 days later. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in 1912 the Catholic Women’s Suffrage League’s banner, designed by Edith Craig, had St Joan as its motif and a few years later the society actually renamed itself the St Joan’s Social and Political Alliance. And, it was a version of Joan, uttering the words ‘At Last’, that the NUWSS used to greet the eventual attainment of partial suffrage in 1918. Images of Joan are to be found in the work of many women artists associated with the suffrage movement – Annie Swynnerton and Ernestine Mills spring to mind.

St Catherine of Siena, another woman visionary who combined piety with political involvement, also merited a banner Josephine Butler had written a biography of St Catherine in 1878. The banner was probably designed by Mary Lowndes and is held in the Women’s Library. Siena’s colours are black and white and the lily is symbolically associated with St Catherine

St Teresa’s banner, again designed by Mary Lowndes, is now in Museum of London. She featured also in Cicely Hamilton’s Pageant of Great Women  – as the only woman on whom the title ‘Doctor of the Church’ has ever been conferred.

The banner to a Scottish heroine, Black Agnes of Dunbar – is now in the collection of the Museum of Scotland in Chambers St, Edinburgh. Of it the Daily Telegraph wrote ‘ There was one flag which attracted much attention. It was carried in front of the Dunfermline deputation. On a yellow ground was the representation of a portcullis, and beneath the large letters “Black Agnes of Dunbar” were the lines reminiscent of the defence of Dunbar castle by the Countess of March nearly 6 centuries ago: “Came they early, came they late, They found Black Agnes at the gate”. The banner perhaps should be placed earlier – with the provincial societies – but it fits well here – alongside the banner to

Katherine Bar-Lass – Katherine Douglas – who tried to save King James I by putting her arm in place of a missing locking bar in a door. This event took place in Perth and it may be that this banner heralded the deputation from that town. The banner is now held in the Women’s Library collection.

There is no difficulty in explaining why Queen Elizabeth I should be commemorated among the Great Women with a magnificent banner. Indeed the queen was something of a favourite of Millicent Fawcett who, in August 1928, unveiled an ancient statue of the queen at St Dunstans in the West, Fleet Street, having worked with a campaign for its restoration. She even left money to ensure its upkeep. (For more about Millicent Fawcett and the statue of Queen Elizabeth see here.)

Millicent Fawcett had also championed Mary Wollstonecraft, whose reputation during the 19th century had never recovered from William Godwin’s memoir of her. Mrs Fawcett wrote a preface to an edition of Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1891, the first for 40 years. Mary Wollstonecraft’s banner is held in the Women’s Library.

As is the rich and beautiful banner is to the astronomer Caroline Herschel, the discoverer of five new comets. Lady Caroline Gordon, the very elderly grand-daughter of Caroline’s brother, Sir William Herschel, had a letter published in the Times of 12 June 1908. She wrote ‘I observe that in the woman’s suffrage procession tomorrow it is intended to carry banners bearing, among others, the names of Caroline Herschel and Mary Somerville, thereby associating these honoured names with the cause. A more unfounded inference could hardly be drawn. My great aunt, Miss Herschel, never ceased during her very long life to insist on the fact that she was only her brother’s amanuensis, and it was the glory of her life to feel that she had a real work to do and a province all her own, which was to help him in his arduous labours, and keep worries and troubles from him. She sank herself and her own great and valuable discoveries entirely. All who knew Mrs Somerville (and I was one of them) can testify to the great humility and simplicity of mind which were her characteristics. Her work was done for work’s sake, not for any wish to show what a woman could do. Such a thought would be utterly distasteful to her. To think that the names of these two noble women should be paraded through the streets of London in such a cause as woman’s suffrage is very bitter to all of us who love and revere their memories’.

Here is Mary Somerville’s banner. On 15 June Millicent Fawcett replied in the Times (her letter was dated 13 June – she had taken the time and trouble on such a busy day to write it).‘May I be permitted to point out that suffragists believe that the names of “distinguished women who did noble work in their sphere” are in themselves an argument against relegating a whole sex to a lower political status than felons and idiots? This is quite independent of whether the particular distinguished women named on the banners were suffragists or not. The names of Joan of Arc and Queen Elizabeth are found on the banners. The inference is surely clear. Lady Gordon affirms that her distinguished great-aunt Caroline Herschel was no suffragist. No one in their senses would expect a German lady born in 1750 to be one. Her services to astronomy were well recognized in the scientific world of her time. Her extreme modesty gave an additional luster to her name. Her chief work in astronomy was undertaken and carried through after her brother’s death and it was for this that she was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828. Mrs Somerville’s case is quite different. She belongs to our own nation and to the modern world, and was an ardent suffragist. She wrote expressing her deep gratitude to JS Mill for raising the question of women’s suffrage in parliament. She signed parliamentary petitions again and again in favour of removing the political disabilities of women, and was a member from its foundation to the date of her death in 1872 of the London Society for promoting the movement.’

 Mary Kingsley, the  traveller and explorer, was another heroine who merited a banner, although no supporter of women’s suffrage.

The Elizabeth Fry banner was designed by Mary Lowndes and was, I know, donated by a Miss Prothero. Although I don’t know exactly who Miss Prothero was, I am sure there must be a Quaker connection. It is now in Museum of London collection. Josephine Butler had died only 18 months before the procession. Her banner is now held in the Women’s Library.

 Lydia Becker was very suitably represented by the pick and shovel of the pioneer.  She had worked for over 20 years at the suffrage coal face – organizing, devising, interviewing, writing, lobbying and speaking. Her banner, unfortunately, is one of the few of this series that is now missing, another being that commemorating a very Victorian heroine, Grace Darling, a figure who features in many of the suffrage pageants..

The final banner in the sequence, a rich riot of colour commemorating other pioneers  is held safely in the Women’s Library collection. The first four it lists are particularly related to Bristol.

After the Pioneers came the artists, the musicians and the actors. The beautiful banner made for the Artists’ Suffrage League itself is now in the Museum of London. Christiana Herringham helped to embroider it – with its motto ‘Alliance Not Defiance’, supplying silks for it that were among those she had brought back from India.

A banner bearing the heading ‘Music’, designed by Mary Lowndes, was given by ‘Mrs Dawes and worked by her and her daughters’ – but has now disappeared.

Jenny Lind’s banner, was carried in the procession by her daughter, Mrs Raymond Maude, who was described as ‘a striking figure in green and white, with a Tuscan hat’ [ I think a ‘Tuscan hat’ was a wide-brimmed straw hat]. The banner was designed by Mary Lowndes and is now held in the Women’s Library collecction.

Artists were represented by Mary Moser, who, with Anglica Kaufmann, was the first woman  to be elected to the Royal Academy. She was renowned as a flower painter –and was paid the enormous sum of £900 for the decorations, which notably featured roses, of a room she painted at Frogmore for Queen Charlotte. These decorations can still be seen – as can this banner, now in the Women’s Library collection.

Angelica Kauffman also had a banner– but it is now lost.

Sarah Siddons’ banner which was carried in this section of the procession is now held in the Museum of London.

As is the banner to ‘Victoria, Queen and Mother’ – which was carried in the procession of Maud Arncliffe –Sennet – who, I must say, I always think of as something of a self-publicist – an opinion not actually belied by finding that she had had, or caused to have had, a photograph taken of herself on the day, holding the banner – there is a copy of that postcard, too, in the Museum of London collection.

After the banners commemorating the heroines of the past came one celebrating Florence Nightingale – then still alive – a heroine in her own lifetime. The banner was carried by a contingent of hospital nurses, marching in their uniforms. The Daily Express  reported that ‘The Florence Nightingale banner received the greatest notice. It bore the word “Crimea”, and at the sight old soldiers saluted and bared their heads.’

As an added gloss I might mention that in June 1908 a bill to allow for the registration of qualified nurses was before parliament –it passed its second reading on 6 July and many leading suffragists, such as Millicent Fawcett, Isabella Ford, and Hertha Ayrton had signed a letter to the Times in support of the bill.

There followed also groups of women farmers and gymnasts, each with their own banner. Women gardeners carried a banner worked in earthy colours – green and brown,  with the device of a rake and a spade. All these now, unfortunately, are lost.

After the nurses came the Homemakers – we can see the banner here – although the photograph was probably taken on another occasion. As the Sheffield Daily Telegraph put it, ‘The sacred fire of the domestic hearth is pictured by the home workers, who ‘remember their homeless sisters, and demand the vote’. Another newspaper report describes this contingent as comprising ‘Housekeepers, cooks, kitchenmaids and general servants’ – and laments that they were not wearing their uniforms. Note also in the photograph the banners for Marylebone, Camberwell and North Kensington.

After the home makers – came working women – working women of all sorts, carrying a variety of banners. These would appear to be plainer than the Artists’ Suffrage League ones and were locally made.

After the working women came the Liberal women, who, as one newspaper reported, bore a banner announcing that they demanded the vote…as well as Conservatives, who were led by Lady Knightley of Fawsley, and by Fabians, whose banner, had been designed by May Morris, with the motto ‘Equal Opportunities for Men and Women.’.

Then came members of the Women’s Freedom League – the press particularly mentioned its leader, Mrs Despard, together with Teresa Billington-Greig and young Irene Miller,  The WFL banner was black and yellow, figured with a device of Holloway, where many of its members had recently been imprisoned, and with the inscription ‘Stone walls do not a prison make’. The WSPU, although not invited to take part, did supply a banner under their insignia – declaring ‘Salutation and Greeting. Success to the Cause’.

Finally, closing the long procession, came the hosts –  London Society of the NUWSS. This is the design for the society’s banner. The banner itself is now in the Museum of London collection

This section included detachments from the various London boroughs – such as Camberwell, Croydon, Chelsea and Holborn. The Daily Telegraph tells us that ‘The Holborn deputation was headed by a picture of some of the ancient shops opposite Holborn Bars, and the words “The old order changeth”.  Enfield’s banner survives and is now in the Museum of London – but we have no design for it so it probably was not one of Mary Lowndes’ creations.

This design for Wandsworth in the Mary Lowndes album has the initials ‘A.G.’ at the side – and I did wonder if these could possibly refer to Agnes Garrett – sister of Millicent Fawcett. It is by no means impossible that she was involved in the banner-making – given that her professional career had been devoted to the designing and making of furnishings. But I don’t know.

Wimbledon was a very committed suffrage stronghold – both of the NUWSS and of the WSPU – and both groups featured the windmill on their banners. Of the NUWSS one only this design survives – but the Women’s Library does hold the actual WSPU banner.

All in all the procession, which was accompanied by 15 brass and silver bands, – one reporter particularly mentioned that hearing the Marseilles being played in these circumstances quite brought a tear to his eye – and the Albert Hall rally that followed, were both deemed a great success. Afterwards a decision was made by the NUWSS to keep the banners together and tour them. It was realised that ‘undoubtedly we have here an opportunity of presenting an artistic feast of the first order under circumstances that make it in itself, and in all attendant conditions that may be grouped around it, a unique act of propaganda.’

They lent out the banners to the local societies, charging £3 10s for all 76 banners or £2 for half the number –with the express proviso that they were not to be used for what was termed ‘outdoor work’..

In 1908 exhibitions of the banners were held at Manchester, Cambridge, Birmingham, Liverpool, Camberwell, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Lady Frances Balfour opened those last two – and performed the honours again at Brighton in January and Fulham in March 1909. We can be sure that the local societies made the most of these occasions. I know that when the banner exhibition was held in December 1908 at the Glasgow Fine Art Institute it was accompanied by tea, a small string band and a pianola. The Society clearly expected a reasonable attendance, finding it worthwhile to buy in – to sell to visitors – 200 copies of the pamphlet describing the banners.

Thus not only did the banners allow suffragists to rally round as they were paraded through the streets but they also provided a focus for further conscious and fund-raising efforts that neatly combined a forceful political message with what been described, very eloquently, as the power of ‘the subversive stitch’.


Kate Frye was a banner bearer – for North Kensington – in this procession – and you can read all about her experience on the day here.


All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.


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Suffrage Stories/Women Artists: Emily Jane Harding Andrews

Harding lunatics

Many of you familiar with the propaganda produced by the British women’s suffrage campaign will recognise this image, which was  printed by Weiners of Acton and published as a poster by the Artists’ Suffrage League. In The Spectacle of Women, Lisa Tickner dates it to c 1908; the catalogue of The Women’s Library@LSE to c 1912. I would tend to support the earlier date.

The artist is known to be Emily Jane Harding Andrews. But who was she? What can we discover of the life behind that image?

She was born Emily Jane Harding in 1851 at Clifton in Bristol, the eldest of the several children of Thomas Giles Harding (1827-1899), a commercial traveller, and his wife, Rosa Jane (nee May). Emily and her sister, Rosa Elizabeth Harding, were educated at Clifton Ladies’ College and in October 1868 both gained certificates of art in the second grade in a prize giving at the Bristol School of Art.

By 1871 the family had moved to London . They moved around the Kensington, Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush area but their first address was 21 Holland Road, Kensington. Emily clearly continued with her art studies. She exhibited portrait miniatures at the Royal Academy in 1877, 1897, 1898. Now in the National Portrait Gallery is a chalk portrait of Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (d 1881), dean of Westminster. Was this the work that she exhibited at the RA in 1877?

By the time the 1881 census was taken Emily was married to a fellow artist, Edward William Andrews – although I cannot find a record of the marriage. He was ten years older than her and had been born in Kidderminster. By the time he was 21 was describing himself on the census form as ‘Artist portrait painter’. The only paintings I can locate by him are copies of two portraits after Gainsborough – see here.

In 1881 Emily and her husband were living, with one servant, at 23 Iverson Road, west Hampstead. By 1891 they had moved to Chalcot Gardens, Hampstead, an area popular with artists, and now had no servant. In 1901, still fending for themselves, they were living in a flat in 95 Fitzjohn’s Avenue, Hampstead.

Through the 1880s and 1890s Emily produced illustrations for a series of books – mainly for children. They included Bright Pages for Children of All Ages, 1886, Helen Milman’s The Little Ladies, 1890, Merry Moments for Little Folks by Rose E May, published by Frederick Warne, 1893. Emily’s sister, Rosa (or Rose) had married Frederick Lamartine May, son of a well-known bookseller, and a relation on their mother’s side. She also provided the illustrations for Disagreeable Duke: a Christmas whimsicality for holiday boys and girls by Elinor Davenport-Adams, published by George Allen, 1894 and in the same year for Lullabies of Many Lands by the editor and translator Alma Strettell, 

Frontispiece from 'Slav Tales'

Frontispiece from ‘Slav Tales’


In 1896 Emily Harding (the name under which she then published her work) was both the translator (from the French) and the illustrator of  Fairy Tale of the Slav Peasants and Herdsman by  Alex Chodsko, published by George Allen.

Another of Emily Harding's illustrations from 'Slav Tales'

Another of Emily Harding’s illustrations from ‘Slav Tales’

I don’t know how Emily Harding Andrews made contact with the Artists’ Suffrage League, although it’s hardly surprising, moving as she did in artistic, bookselling and publishing circles. Besides the poster illustrated as the introduction to this article, Emily Harding Andrews designed another for the ASL – ‘Coming in with the Tide – Mrs Partington’ – and was on sufficiently close terms with Mary Lowndes, the ASL’s leading light, to propose a design for a Christmas card -sent with an informal note on the reverse. It can now be found in Mary Lownes’ ASL album in the Women’s Library@LSE.

A rough design by Emily Harding Andrews for a suffragette Christmas card. It was never issued Image courtesy of VADS)

A rough design by Emily Harding Andrews for a suffragette Christmas card. It was never issued Image courtesy of VADS)

Emily Harding Andrews' comments on the reverse of her draft design (Image courtesy of VADS)

Emily Harding Andrews’ comments on the reverse of her draft design (Image courtesy of VADS)


Although clearly supportive of the suffrage campaign, Emily Andrews, like Mary Lowndes, did not boycott the 1911 census. This shows us that – married for 31 years, with no children – she was living, aged 61, as a boarder at 15 Bank Place, Bayswater. She still described herself as an artist. Her husband, on the other hand, was enumerated in his one-room studio at 48 Fortune Green Road, Hampstead. Had they separated?

Edward Andrews died in 1915, while living at 1 Linden Gardens, Hornsey Lane. He left £160; his wife is not named as an executor.

I next find Emily Harding Andrews in 1918, living at 6 St George’s Square, Camden, at the same address as another artist of her generation, Julia Bracewell Folkard and an Elizabeth Folkard. However, this seems to have been Emily’s base for only a short time and I can find no further trace of her for another 17 years, until in August 1935, aged 85, she set sail for Sydney, Australia. On the passenger list her address is given as ‘South Street Mission, Hammersmith’, although in what capacity she was living there I cannot say.

Gertrude, one of Emily’s much younger sisters, had emigrated to Australia with her husband, Edward Nevill Parker, in the 1890s. He had died in 1931 and I suspect that, in her old age, Emily went out to join Gertrude for I next find her living at Illawa, Judd Street, Cronulla, Sutherland, NSW. Emily died in Sutherland in August 1940 and her ashes were scattered in Woronora Cemetery, which was also the last resting place of her sister and, years later, of a nephew.

This is only the briefest outline of a long life lived. I shall have to imagine all those decades of London days, of Emily living and working in a succession of studio flats, of visiting publishers, of struggling to gain commissions, of the brief flowering of interest in the suffrage campaign, of, perhaps, sinking with old age into penury and then, the last adventure, sailing to the other side of the world – to the heat and light of Australia.


All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.





Suffrage Stories: Kitty Marion, Arson, A Route Taken – And A Touch Of Solipsism

On Sunday 2 November the Radio 3 Sunday Feature told – very briefly – the story of Kitty Marion, music-hall artiste, suffragette, and arsonist.

At the planning stage the producer was kind enough to invite me to contribute to the programme – with the brief to discuss something of Kitty’s suffragette activities. The  most notorious of these – or, at least, the most publicly known – was the burning down of the stadium at the Hurst Park racecourse at Molesey. This she did with the aid of an accomplice, Clara (Betty) Giveen. You can read how and why they acted as they did in –  Suffrage Stories: Kitty Marion, Emily Wilding Davison And Hurst Park

Hurst Park racecourse ran alongside the Thames just across the river from Hampton Court and although much of it was sold for redevelopment in the 1960s, the remaining open space and the layout of roads and fields have changed  little in the past 100 years, making it worthy of a visit for a spot of location radio. It was decided, therefore, that we should retrace the arsonists’ footsteps.

I offered to drive our little party  from central London to Molesey, a journey that I know like the back of my proverbial hand. For the road that leads down to Hampton Court passes the house on Twickenham Green where I grew up and which remained in my family for over 50 years.Moreover, during my schooldays I had made the journey between Twickenham Green and Hampton every day – for the first few years on that now all but forgotten vehicle, the trolley bus.

By way of a detour and for my younger readers - the 667 trolleybus en route from Twickenham to Hampton Court

By way of a detour and for my younger readers – the 667 trolleybus en route from Twickenham to Hampton Court

Now, in September 2014, our destination was Molesey Cricket Club, which lies, as it did in 1913, next to the erstwhile racecourse. In her unpublished autobiography Kitty mentions that, having left the road, she and Betty crossed a cricket field and so, leaving the cricket club car park, we made our way down a ditch (I with much less agility than my younger companions), through brambles and  into the open sunshine of Hurst Park.

Hurst Park pk cat 182


We looked over towards where the racecourse stadium had once stood and imagined the scene – as shown in this photograph –  revealed by the light of day on Monday 9 June 1913. The fire set by the two women had taken hold very quickly, rather taking them by surprise, and they, with the gas mains exploding, throwing up fountains of fire, they had fled the scene.

I was particularly interested in the next stage of Kitty and Betty’s night excursion. For a long time I had suspected that their journey on foot might have taken them past 15 The Green, Twickenham, but I had never before had occasion to research the matter. That their destination had been a house close to Kew Gardens Station was well known – but what roads had they taken to get there?

In fact the newspaper reports of their trial provide the answer. For they had been spotted at various points on their journey – the sight of two young(ish) women walking unaccompanied through the night had not gone unremarked. The first sighting – by a tramdriver – was at 12.45 am on the road between Hampton Court and Hampton and the second, most importantly, was at Fulwell, which lies between Hampton and Twickenham.

Twickenham Green c 1920s. The scene is still remarkably unchanged. No 15 is just out of the picture on the right - the house identical to the one on the right here. (Photo courtesy of Twickenham Museum)

Twickenham Green c 1920s. The scene is still remarkably unchanged. No 15 is just out of the picture on the right. The house is identical to the one shown on the right here. (Photo courtesy of Twickenham Museum)

So, there it was – a proof that satisfied me. For from Fulwell the direct route took them right past Twickenham Green – probably along the very pavement you see on the right of the above photograph.

Kitty and Betty continued through Twickenham Junction and East Twickenham, crossed over the river and  were next seen in Richmond at 2.50 am. Alerted to the fire, the police at Hampton Court had sent constables on bicycles to scour the roads. This clearly produced no immediate result but  telegraphic messages had also been sent out to all police stations which may be why, in the early hours of the morning, police in Richmond and Kew were on the look out for likely suffragette suspects.

Making no attempt to keep out of sight, Kitty and Betty were walking along Kew Road when, at the corner of Pagoda Avenue, they attracted the attention of a policeman . He followed them down to Lower Mortlake Road where, as they seemed to be lost, he questioned them. They then wandered through the streets, with the police constable following, until in the end he it was who pointed the way to their destination – West Park Road.

Police in this area may well have been on particular alert because suffragettes had recently damaged plants in the Kew Gardens orchid house  and had set the tea room alight.  A middle-aged, middle-class suffragette, Ella Stevenson, who lived in Cumberland Road, a few streets away from West Park Road, had in March been found guilty of putting phosphorous into the post box at post office in Richmond’s main street, George Street . Edwy Clayton, a scientific chemist whose home, ‘Glengariff’, in Kew Road Kitty and Betty had walked past – was at this very moment on trial at the Old Bailey on a charge of conspiracy connected with the Kew Gardens tea room and other WSPU arson attacks.

Thanks to the producer’s iPhone map, we were better equipped than Kitty and Betty and, weaving our way through the Kew streets, arrived with little difficulty at what had been their ‘safe house’. This in 1913 was the home of Dr Casey and his wife, Isabella, and daughter, Eileen. The two women were dedicated suffragettes and Mrs Casey’s action in allowing a key to her house to be in the possession of Kitty Marion, a woman she did not know, seems to have shocked the court at the subsequent trial even more than the arson itself.

Thanks  to the spontaneous kindness of the present owner we were able to record briefly inside the atmospheric Edwardian villa – noting original interior fittings – such as the fireplace with the overmantle mirror in which Kitty must surely have glanced as she and Betty waited for what they must have expected – the knock of a policeman on the door.

The knock of course did come, Kitty and Betty were tried, found guilty of arson and sentenced. Kitty went on hunger strike and was released under the Cat and Mouse Act on a couple of occasions. On the second she was taken to Nurse Pine’s Nursing Home at 9 Pembridge Gardens in Kensington (she mentions ‘Piney’ in her autobiography) from where, after a decoy was employed, she escaped.

Nurse Catherine Pine ran her nursing home in this large Kensington villa

Nurse Catherine Pine ran her nursing home in this large Kensington villa

From then until her re-arrest in January 1914 Kitty Marion was on the run, working, as she put it, to ‘communicate with the government’. It was a dangerous time.


All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.





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