Posts Tagged Christabel Pankhurst

Suffrage Stories: The First Women General Election Candidates, 1918: Christabel Pankhurst

21 November 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Parliament(Qualification of Women) Act, by which women were for the first time able to stand for election as members of Parliament.

It was only earlier in the year, on 6 February, that some women (over 30 and fulfilling a small property qualification) had at long last been granted the parliamentary vote and now, as the Great War had come to an end, women actually had the prospect of sitting in the House of Commons.

The short bill, passing rapidly through all stages of the parliamentary process with little opposition, granted the right to stand for election to all women over the age of 21, although any woman of that age would have been unable to vote. A curious situation.

With a general election called for 14 December, there was little time for women to organize election campaigns, but in the event 17 women took to the hustings. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll tell you something about each one of these pioneers, taking them alphabetically.

This is the fourteenth:

Christabel Pankhurst, 1918

Miss Christabel Pankhurst, who stood as the Women’s Party candidate at Smethwick, the only woman to be given the Coalition government’s ‘coupon’.

Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958) had been one of the leaders of the Women’s Social and Political Union as it campaigned for votes for women before the First World War. During the war she had worked alongside her mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, and with Flora Drummond and Annie Kenney, to aid Lloyd George’s war efforts. She was vehemently anti-Asquith, attacking him in the pages of Britannia (the successor to The Suffragette) as pro-German.

In 1917 the Pankhursts relaunched the WSPU as The Women’s Party, the programme of which was based on ‘equality of rights and responsibilities in the social and political life of the nation’. During 1917 and 1918 the Women’s Party campaigned in the industrial heartlands, particularly in South Wales, advocating industrial peace and warning against the dangers of Bolshevism.

When Christabel Pankhurst stood for parliament at Smethwick in 1918 her platform was to:

secure a lasting peace based on obtaining material guarantees against future German aggression

to improve the social conditions of the working classes by a levelling up in society

by industrial salvation and wealth production

to crusade against Bolshevism and ‘shirkers’

Christabel began her two-week campaign in Smethwick at the end of November 1918. At a meeting her mother, Emmeline Pankhurst, explained that Smethwick had been chosen because it was a new constituency – with no sitting member to be aggrieved when the Women’s Party won the seat. As a reward for fighting what Lloyd George termed ‘the Bolshevist and Pacifist element’ Christabel was given a coveted ‘coupon’ of coalition endorsement – and praised the chivalry of the Unionist candidate, who also had a ‘coupon’ but who withdrew to give her a clear run.

Voting took place on 14 December but it was a further two weeks before the results were announced and, in the meantime, Christabel gave her final speech of the campaign on 17 December – not in Smethwick but in London. Her last words, reported in what turned out to be the final edition of Britannia – were –

‘I would not change places with any other MP, because it is like a little bit of the heart of England, is this Smethwick. You have there an intensely patriotic people, a highly progressive people, including a body of working people who have not forgotten that they are citizens as well as workers…It is now for us to rouse ourselves and prepare ourselves for a year more full of duty and of high endeavour than we have ever known since we were born.’  

But it was not to be. Christabel was defeated, polling 8614 votes to the Labour candidate’s 9389. She never repeated the experience, nor again became involved in politics, eventually moving to the USA and devoting herself to Second Adventism.

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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/Collecting Suffrage: Countdown To 12 October And Release Of The Film ‘Suffragette’: Christabel Pankhurst In Her Office In Clement’s Inn

To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’  (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item that has passed through my hands.

For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.

Today’s image:

Christabel Pankhurst photographed in her office in Clement's Inn

Christabel Pankhurst photographed in her office in Clement’s Inn

The postcard was published by H. Sergeant of Ladbroke Grove and the photograph would have been taken on the occasion of his visit to Clement’s Inn in 1910/1911 when he also photographed Mrs Pankhurst in her office.

Christabel’s room – or at least that section of it in shot – betrays little of the homeliness that her mother had added to hers – although there is a vase of flowers on the desk. Behind her is a bookcase filled with serious-looking books – as befits a lawyer – with a page from Votes for Women pinned to it.

While Christabel looks directly at the camera, her young secretary keeps working, bent over her notebook, pen in hand.

Suffragette Film Poster 2

 

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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/Collecting Suffrage: Countdown To 12 October And Release Of The Film ‘Suffragette’: ‘Elusive Christabel’

To celebrate the release on 12 October of the film ‘Suffragette’  (for which I was an historical consultant) I will post each day an image of a suffrage item that has passed through my hands.

For my current catalogue – No 189 – which contains a good deal of suffrage material – as well as general books and ephemera by and about women – see here.

Today’s image:

Elusive Christabel

Elusive Christabel

‘Elusive Christabel’ is an optical toy produced by the Flashograph Co in 1912. It alludes to Christabel Pankhurst’s escape to France in March 1912 as the police closed in on Clement’s Inn and arrested the other leaders of the Women’s Social and Political Union and charged them with conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

When – as commanded – you move the paper control ‘up and down gently’ the scene changes to this:

Elusive Christabel 1

The WSPU had a lot of fun at the expense of the police, publishing photographs of Christabel in Votes for Women and asking readers to guess where she might be. The Flashograph Co clearly had an eye for topicality.

Needless to say ‘Elusive Christabel’ lives up to its name and is exceptionally elusive nowadays. I’ve only ever had one pass through my hands in over thirty years of dealing in suffragette material.

Suffragette Film Poster 2

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Suffrage Stories: Christabel, The Ballot Box And That Hat

Christabel ballot 1909

Pretend you are taking a GCSE paper. One of questions states that this picture shows Christabel Pankhurst casting her first parliamentary vote. You have to decide whether this statement is true or false.

What clues might you find to point you in the right direction?

Actually there is one so glaring that I am amazed that it can be overlooked. Have a look at her attire.

Q.When were women of Christabel’s age able to vote for the first time?

A. December 1918.

Q. Does that dress and hat look like an outfit suitable for going to the ballot in December of any year?

A. Hardly.

Q. Are the hat and dress of a style worn in 1918?

A. Most definitely not.

Q. So – if not 1918 when might that flowing gown and flower-bedecked bonnet have been in the mainstream of fashion?

A. Spring 1909.

Yes, that is the correct answer.

In fact the photograph shows Christabel casting a vote in a ballot box that was one of the main features of the WSPU Fair at the Prince’s Skating Rink, Knightsbridge, that ran between 13-26 May 1909. As Votes for Women, 23 April 1909, stated ‘A unique feature of the Exhibition.. will be the polling booth which will occupy one of the corners of the great hall. At this booth women as well as men will cast their votes upon many of the most interesting questions of the day.’ And that is what we see Christabel doing.

And as for that hat? It does strike one as a little incongruous. She isn’t usually seen in anything so maidenly frivolous. And so it is interesting to know that the hat was a gift to her from Frederick Pethick-Lawrence. Moreover when, in the late 1950s, after Christabel’s death, he came to prepare her autobiographical manuscript for publication (Unshackled:the story of how we won the vote)  it was a photograph of her wearing his hat that he used for the frontispiece.

I have been amazed how this photograph, described as Christabel casting her first parliamentary vote, has been tweeted and retweeted. It was even used in Amanda Vickery’s ‘Suffragettes Forever’ BBC 2 programme to accompany the voice over telling us that women first voted in December 1918. How this thoughtless use of an incorrect image (by no means the only one) jarred.

Click here to see what Christabel looked like as she campaigned in Smethwick in late 1918 – for she was, of course, both a candidate and a voter. She is centre left in the photo – and you’ll be relieved to see that she is sensibly dressed – complete with muff – to combat the winter chill.

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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: 100 Years Ago Today – 17 July 1914: The National Portrait Gallery and Thomas Carlyle

One hundred years ago today – on 17 July 1914 – a suffragette, Margaret Gibb, who also went by the name of Ann Hunt, took a cleaver to a portrait of Thomas Carlyle that was hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. See the damaged portrait here.

Margaret Gibb was held by an attendant, charged and, on 21 July, sentenced to six months imprisonment. She was released on 27 July – presumably under the Cat and Mouse Act, having gone on hunger strike. See here for a surveillance picture of Margaret Gibb taken in the exercise yard at Holloway. On 31 August she was spotted again at the Gallery and, although the WSPU had called a halt to its campaign, was refused admission then – and in the future.

One hundred years later the NPG has  mounted al display case exhibition – in Room 31 –  showing something of the effect of WSPU militancy on the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. Margaret Gibb’s story is related and includes a comment to the effect that it was doubted that the picture’s attacker knew that Carlyle was a particular hero of Emmeline Pankhurst – an aperçu I remember making when referring to the damaged portrait in the entry on Emmeline Pankhurst’ in my The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide. I’d be rather thrilled if I was the originator of the comment – but I daresay others have thought of it independently. I was particularly struck by two small photographs of Mary Richardson in the display that date from 1918 and show her sitting, delicate and pretty, in a room neatly furnished with flowers and 18th-century furniture. This is an image far removed from the chopper-wielding attacker of the ‘Rokeby Venus’ – (see here for a post on Mary Richardson).

Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright, 1909 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright, 1909 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

In the entrance – Room 30 – to the gallery that contains this display case the National Portrait Gallery has now hung the full-length  portrait of Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright – opposite the Brackenbury portrait of her mother – Emmeline Pankhurst.  Christabel’s portrait, in which she is wearing a green dress – apparently a favourite colour – was painted in 1909 and first shown at the WSPU Skating Rink Exhibition. It was bought by Una Duval and remained in her family before being  bequeathed recently to the NPG.

Good as it is to raise the profile of the women’s suffrage campaign – all this attention on the WSPU only highlights for me the lack of attention given to the constitutional campaigners – those who worked for sixty years without wielding cleavers. So let me take the opportunity here of repeating my mantra  – and drawing attention to my post on the subject –  Make Millicent Fawcett Visible.

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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.

 

Kate Frye’s Diary: The Lead-Up To War: 17 July 1914

 

On 7 August 2014 ITV will publish an e-book, Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette.  Based on her prodigious diary, this is my account of Kate Frye’s life and is a tie-in with the forthcoming ITV series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. For details of the TV series and its accompanying books see here.

KateAs a lead-up to publication I thought I’d share with you some entries from Kate’s diary from the month before the outbreak of war. Through her day-to-day experience we can see how the war stole up on one Everywoman.

Kate was at this time 36 years old, living in a room at 49 Claverton Street in Pimlico and working in the Knightsbridge headquarters of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. It was now nine years since she had become engaged to (minor) actor John Collins. Her father died in March 1914 and her mother and sister, Agnes, now all but penniless, are living in rented rooms in Worthing. John has a room along Claverton Street, at number 11.

Friday July 17th 1914

John arrived unexpectedly early, before I was up, but I just let him in to hear the news – he has had a letter from Benson saying he would see him, so was off. I had received a letter from Mr Dingle saying he could not speak – so as soon as I was up I went off to the Men’s League at Westminster and saw someone there who called Mr McKillop in from an office next door, and he like a lamb said he would come to Isleworth in Mr Dingle’s place. I expected to have to rush round London.

So I walked up to the A.A. and found John just having lunch with a very pretty woman and joined them as I wanted to hear what Benson said, but it was a very short interview. John saw me to Charing Cross then went off to a meeting and I came back to Victoria and bought some food then came in and had a rest and fell asleep.

John came in at 5 and we had a meat tea and then off together, Bus to Victoria – train to Hammersmith – train to Isleworth arriving at 7.15 – at the Upper Square. There were hundreds of children ready to greet us, I got a friendly feeling and they were very good but a great nuisance. John went off to find the Lorry as it was not punctual, but he missed it and it arrived alright and I got it fixed up.

By the time the speakers, Miss Dransfield in the Chair, Mrs Merivale Mayer and Mr McKillop and Miss Fraser to help had arrived we were absolutely mobbed – and we got a huge gathering. The first Suffrage meeting of any kind which had been held in Isleworth.

Mrs Mayer as usual was very disagreeable when she arrived, but it was really such a magnificent meeting she was quite pleased at the end, and as usual she spoke splendidly and we quite got the people round.

Having settled up early well came away together – Mr McKillop left us from the train, we parted from Mrs M.M. at Hammersmith and Miss Fraser at Victoria.

John and I were starving and we went into a restaurant at Victoria. John had salmon and cucumber – at 11.15! It was a lovely day.

John Collins was ‘resting’ at the moment – as is clear from the amount of time he was able to devote this month to helping Kate with her suffrage work. He would have been very excited about the prospect of employment in Frank Benson’s Company. The A.A., where Kate surprised him lunching with ‘a very pretty women’, was the Actors’ Association, the club in Covent Garden to which they both belonged.

The Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage to whose office Kate went for help when her speaker had failed was at 136 St Stephen’s House on the Embankment. The massive building was demolished, apparently in the early 1990s. We have already met the obliging Mr McKillop, who had for some years earlier been librarian to the fledgling London School of Economics. Kate had warmed to him after he praised her public speaking.

Upper Square, Isleworth (image courtesy of Hounslow Local studies website)

Well, this must have been the site of Isleworth’s first ‘Votes for Women’ meeting – or, at least, the first of which Kate had heard tell. Presumably during her canvassing she had met with plenty of local people who would have given her this kind of information. By ‘fixing up’ the Lorry Kate meant that she decorated it with posters – inquisitive children were suffragettes’ constant companions.

Calra Merivale Mayer

You can read about Mrs Merivale Mayer in Campaigning for the Vote – suffice it to say that Kate found her a great trial and, I am sure, knew nothing of her somewhat scandalous history. If she had known she would doubtless have felt vindicated in her dislike for this most difficult of the New Constitutional Society’s speakers. But Kate gave credit where it was due and often commented, as she does here, that despite the ructions she caused Mrs Mayer was an excellent speaker.

 

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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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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: The London Opera House, Kingsway

Ever since the decision was made for the Women’s Library to move to LSE (now open as the Women’s Library @ LSE) I have been writing posts that draw attention to the many locations associated with the women’s movement in the area around Aldwych and the Strand. My hope is that researchers in the Women’s Library, when taking a break from their labours, will welcome some information that will allow them to see the surrounding area with fresh eyes.

Today I would like to direct your attention to the site between Portugal Street and Sardinia Street that now houses the Peacock Theatre. Many readers will have been to that theatre, rather oddly sited in the basement of a modern office-type block – if only to take younger members of the family to the annual Christmas treat of ‘The Snowman’. Have you ever wondered why there is a theatre there – in what is now a rather untheatrical area? The answer is related to the wonderful building in the photograph below. 

London Opera House, Kingsway. (Image courtesy of arthurlloyd.co.uk)

London Opera House, Kingsway. (Image courtesy of arthurlloyd.co.uk)

The London Opera House, its rooftop adorned with figures representing Melody and Harmony, opened 102 years ago today – on 13 November 1911. It occupied an entire block of Kingsway, between Portugal Street and Sardinia Street, and was built for Oscar Hammerstein (Sr) , whose idea was that it should rival the Covent Garden Opera House. The building was opulent and enormous, capable of seating over 2600 people.

Its first season ran from its opening until March 1912, when there was then a hiatus. It was this lack of a follow-up season that, I think, accounts for the fact that on Friday 15 March it was available to be hired for a ‘Suffragists’ non-militant and non-party demonstration’ by the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage. Kate Frye was its organizer and in Campaigning for the Vote  you can read of her efforts, which included mustering the banners of the various suffrage societies – she collected that of the WSPU from Mrs Garrud’s gym – in order to decorate the auditorium. Eva Moore and May Whitty of the Actresses’ Franchise League were amongst the suffragists on the platform, very fitting in such a theatrical venue.

It was not the first time in its short life that the Opera House had held a suffragette meeting. The previous week, the police, on the hunt for Christabel Pankhurst who had given them the slip from nearby Clement’s Inn, searched the Opera House, where she was reported to be hiding. However the New York Times reported that all they found was ‘Oscar Hammerstein sitting alone in state at a big table in the vestibule, with a printed notice behind him reading “Subscriptions department for the Grand Opera Summer Season”.’ The reporter described how ‘Outside the Opera House were posters announcing tomorrow’s meeting’  ‘So you are a sympathiser’, said the correspondent to Mr Hammerstein. ‘I don’t know anything about it,’ he replied, ‘except that I let the opera house to them before they started on their stunts, and can’t break the contract, or else they might break up the opera house’.

The London Opera House was so well-placed in the middle of suffrage society territory – and right beside the Tea Cup Inn, a favourite haunt – that it was to be the venue for various other suffrage meetings.

Hammerstein’s Summer Season was his last at the London Opera House and in July he gave up and returned to America. The theatre re-opened in December, staging variety shows and showing films, but not before it had once again, on 4 November, been hired by the suffrage societies who held a joint meeting protesting at the proposed reform bill.

Pankhurst The War 001It was at the London Opera House on 8 September 1914 that Christabel re-appeared when her exile came to an end, beginning her speech by saying ‘It is very good to be back in one’s own country again, amongst one’s own friends’ – and ending by promising ‘[The war] will sweep away, it must and shall sweep away, the superstition, the narrowness, the jealousy, the suicidal folly which have made of our country two opposing camps – the enfranchised men in one, and the voteless women in the other’.

From 1917 -1940 the building became a cinema – the Stoll Picture House – but from 1942 to 1957 reverted to live theatre – before being demolished in 1958. Planning permission for the replacement building required the incorporation of a theatre – hence The Peacock.

Virginia Woolf BuildingThe  office block has now, I see, been taken over by King’s College, which is marching up Kingsway into LSE territory. It is now known as the ‘Virginia Woolf Building’. Which allows my imagination another suffrage spin – to visualise Mary Datchet returning down Kingsway from her suffrage society office in Russell Square to her flat near the Strand. She glances at the poster outside the London Opera House advertising a suffrage meeting (perhaps her society, the PDS, would have been taking part but perhaps, as it probably supported adult, rather than women’s suffrage, not). Little did she suspect that her creator’s name would 100 years later adorn its – rather less – opulent – successor.

The copy of Christabel Pankurst’s 8 September 1914 speech, The War, referred to above will be for sale in my next catalogue.

For much more about the London Opera House and its successors click here.

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Suffrage Stories: Where Did Christabel Pankhurst Live In Paris?

In early March 1912, after members of the WSPU had launched a window-smashing campaign in the West End of London, the Home Office determined to hold their leaders accountable and immediately arrested Emmeline Pankhurst and Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence.  Christabel Pankhurst, however, nimbly escaped over the English Channel to the safety of Paris.

9 rue Roy

9 rue Roy

9 Rue Roy, now the Hotel Saint Augustin, is where she took refuge and where she lived for well over a year. It would appear that she rented an apartment in the building – perhaps not then functioning as an hotel.

Here we see Christabel photographed in her room, looking out of the window – perhaps one of those in my photograph. Not that there was much to see – Rue Roy is a narrow,  somewhat nondescript little street, a turning off the Boulevard Haussmann. But this district, still relatively recently developed, was a usefully central and anonymous location in which a fugitive might take up residence. Did Christabel avail herself of the nearby Metro station in Place Saint Augustin?

Christabel looking out of the window at 9 Rue Roy

Christabel looking out of the window at 9 Rue Roy

Place Saint Augustin

Place Saint Augustin

Christabel could not have taken  with her much in the way of personal possessions (though one imagines she perhaps did not regret being forced to acquire a suitably Parisian wardrobe) – but she did arrive well-armed with useful introductions. A mere four or five days after her arrival she was visiting the salon of Winaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac – an entrée arranged through the good offices of Ethel Smyth, the Princesse’s sometime lover.

Princesse de Polignac's music room (courtesy of The Blue Lantern blogspot)

Princesse de Polignac’s music room (courtesy of The Blue Lantern blogspot)

It was in these glamorous surroundings that Annie Kenney, on her first visit to Paris, was asked to meet Christabel.  One would love to know more – but in her posthumous memoir, Unshackled, Christabel is distinctly discreet as to how her time in Paris was spent. Or, indeed, how her prolonged sojourn there was financed; she did no work – in the conventional sense – during the two and a half years that she lived in Paris until the outbreak of war in August 1914 made it safe for her to return to England.

11 Avenue de la Grande Armee - on right

11 Avenue de la Grande Armee – on right

Indeed, after the French had refused to extradite her, by the autumn of 1913 Christabel had moved to a rather more central – and presumably more expensive – Parisian address -11 Avenue de la Grande Armeé, later -crossing the Avenue to live at a flat at no. 8. It was from here, in the very heart of Paris, that she conducted the last frenetic months of the WSPU campaign.

Number 8 Avenue de la Grande Armee

Number 8 Avenue de la Grande Armee – across the road from number 11

and a stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe

and a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe

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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