Posts Tagged lse

Suffrage Stories: ‘Endless Endeavours’ – Podcast Of Talks At LSE, 21 June 2016

Here  is the podcast of the ‘Endless Endeavours’ talks that Ann Dingsdale, Jane Grant and I gave at LSE on 21 June 2016

EndlessExhibitionWebsite15-0998-Poster-LR-page-001

Last year I was delighted when The Women’s Library@LSE asked if I would help to shape an exhibition planned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the presentation of the first women’s suffrage petition on 7 June 1866. Ever since discovering a printed copy of that petition on a stall in the Portobello Road over 25 years ago I have been very fond of all it represented and of the treasury of names it contains, so it was a particular pleasure to be asked to suggest ways of highlighting its importance.

The LSE team (Indy Bhullar, Heather Dawson, Gillian Murphy and Eleanor Payne) and I had several very enjoyable and productive meetings  during which we selected items to include in the exhibition and brainstormed ideas for the moving background to the main showcase and for wallboards. It is a real pleasure to be able to show items of what we now know to call ‘material culture’ – such as Lydia Becker’s dress and Millicent Fawcett’s gladstone bag – alongside the very letters in which the idea for the petition developed. The personal adds particularity to the political.

This is the petition exhibited in 'Endless Endeavours'.

This is the petition exhibited in ‘Endless Endeavours’.

In addition, the descendants of the couple to whom I sold that printed copy of the petition have been kind enough to lend it to the exhibition. It is the only known copy other than that held in Girton Archives. The latter was Emily Davies’ own copy and it was she who had organised its printing. What became of the hundreds of others that Miss Davies arranged to be sent to all newspaper editiors, MPs and members of the House of Lords? Straight into the wastepaper basket I shouldn’t wonder.

Two sample pages from the Petition

Two sample pages from the Petition

The LSE designer has done an excellent job of translating our ideas for demonstrating the range both geographically and socially of the women who signed the petition and of giving a clear rendering of the complicated ‘family tree’ of suffrage societies that carried the campaign from 1866 to 1928 and then, in the shape of the Fawcett Society, on into 2016.

fawcett

For the ‘1866 petition’ part of the exhibition morphs into a celebration of the Fawcett Society, which traces its foundation back to 1866 and is, therefore, this year celebrating its 150th anniversary.  To mark the occasion Jane Grant has written a history of the Fawcett Society, In the Steps of Exceptional Women – for full details see here.

To accompany ‘Endless Endeavours’ The Women’s Library@LSE has launched a Flickr Album, which includes scans of many of the letters that flew backwards and forwards as the idea for the petition gathered momentum, as well as of the personalities attracted to the campaign and artefacts produced over the years.

Brooch presented by the NUWSS to Millicent Fawcett in 1913 (image courtesy of the Fawcett Society)

Brooch presented by the NUWSS to Millicent Fawcett in 1913 (image courtesy of the Fawcett Society)

One of the most beautiful of the latter is a brooch that recently surfaced in the Fawcett Society office. It was presented to Millicent Fawcett in 1913 and is rendered in the NUWSS colours of red, white and green. For a lively account of why, where and how the brooch was presented see here. This is a real piece of ‘suffrage jewellery’ – to put all the spurious examples so catalogued by auction houses, Ebay etc in the shade. [For my gripe about the mis-cataloguing of suffragette jewellery see here.]

For full details of the ‘Endless Endeavours’ exhibition see here.

STOP PRESS  7 June 2016 I have just discovered a studio photograph by the celebrated photograper Lena Connell that shows Millicent Fawcett wearing the Fawcett Society ‘brooch’ as a pendant. She was making her ass ociation with the NUWSS visible.

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: Where And What Was ‘The Votes For Women Fellowship’?

Red Lion Court. The site (on the left) of the offices of the Votes for Women Fellowship

To mark the very welcome co-operation planned for the future between the Women’s Library and the London School of Economics the next few ‘Suffrage Stories’ will demonstrate the past importance to the women’s movement of streets and buildings in the vicinity of  Houghton Street.

In previous posts I described how the Women’s Social and Political Union came to have its offices in Clement’s Inn and to have its campaign publicised in the weekly paper owned and edited by Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence – Votes for Women – which was printed close by at the St Clement’s Press  In October 1912 the Pethick-Lawrences, who had been recuperating abroad after enduring a term of hunger-striking imprisonment, returned to England to be told by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst that they, as Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence herself put it, had ‘no further use for them’. In her autobiography Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence records that she never saw or heard from Emmeline Pankhurst again.

During the Pethick-Lawrences’ absence Mrs Pankhurst had moved the WSPU from Clement’s Inn to Lincoln’s Inn House on Kingsway (about which I will write in a later post). In fact I rather think, from studying the relevant rate book, that the WSPU may actually have been evicted from Clement’s Inn. After their expulsion from the WSPU the Pethick-Lawrences took back their paper, Votes for Women, and continued to publish it, on their own account, from a new office. Again, it may have been that after their imprisonment they were no longer welcome to the Clement’s Inn  management company.

For whatever reason, the Pethick-Lawrences moved a little to the east of Clement’s Inn and set up office in 4-7 Red Lion Court, one of the quaint passages off the north side of Fleet Street. Despite the redevelopment that has swept away their office, the narrow court is still atmospheric. The office was close to Votes for Women‘s new printer in Whitefriars Street, off the south side of Fleet Street. The first issue of Votes for Women published from this address was that of 25 October 1912.

In addition, in Red Lion Court, on 1 November 1912, the Pethick-Lawrences made their paper the centre of another suffrage society, the Votes for Women Fellowship. This group, made up of former members of the WSPU who were no longer in sympathy with the Pankhursts’ tactics, aimed to promote the paper and its policies rather than stand as a new militant organisation. In Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence’s words the Fellowship was ‘giving full expression to the awakened militant spirit of womanhood, that they should associated themselves in various plans for carrying the message far and wide, until in every town and village of this land women realise that they are a living part of a spiritually militant sisterhood that is at war under the triple banner of liberty, compassion, and purity against every form of evil dominance. (Votes for Women, 8 November 1912). The Fellowship’s emblem was of a lady with a lamp and its motto was ‘To spread the Light’.

Without the backing of the WSPU, Votes for Women had a greatly diminished circulation and in 1914 the Pethick-Lawrences gave the paper to the newly-founded United Suffragists. Although there was an overlap of membership, it would be a mistake to construe the United Suffragists as a direct descendant of the Votes for Women Fellowship. Despite being for most of the time in dire financial straits, Votes for Women continued to be published throughout the First World War only ceasing publication in February 1918 when the vote was (partially) won.

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WALKS/Suffrage Stories: St Clement’s Press

St Clement’s Press, c. 1959, courtesy of LSE Library

To mark the very welcome co-operation planned for the future between the Women’s Library and the London School of Economics the next few ‘Suffrage Stories’ will demonstrate the past importance to the women’s movement of streets and buildings in the vicinity of  Houghton Street.

In the last ‘Suffrage Story’ I described why and how, from the autumn of 1906, the Women’s Social and Political Union came to have its offices at Clement’s Inn, a few hundred yards from the London School of Economics which, since 1902, had taken up residence in premises in Clare Market and Houghton Street.

In the previous post I also mentioned that Frederick Pethick Lawrence had had some experience as a newspaper proprietor and editor. It was, therefore,  natural that he and his wife, Emmeline, should consider it useful for the suffrage society with which they were now so closely associated to have its own proselytizing organ. This would both broadcast the aims and actions of the WSPU  and serve as a point of focus for its swiftly expanding membership.

The first issue of ‘Votes for Women’

The first issue of Votes for Women, as the new paper was unequivocally named, appeared on 16 October  1907. It was financed and edited by Emmeline and Frederick Pethick Lawrence and published from the WSPU office at 4 Clement’s Inn.

The Pethick Lawrences had not had to look far for a printer for their new paper. Housed in ‘Newspaper Buildings’, at the junction of Clare Market and Portugal Street, opposite the end of Clement’s Inn Passage (now St Clement’s Lane), the late-19th-century bulk of  St Clement’s Press towered over the maze of narrow streets bounded by the Strand and the swathe of  Kingsway, still a raw building site.  The Press had begun business in 1889 and was to be printer to a variety of other organisations sympathetic to the suffrage cause – from 1909, for instance, responsible for the Anti-Vivisectionist Review.

Votes for Women was published monthly until April 1908, after which it took on a larger format and became a weekly. This increase in frequency and size was a direct reflection of the WSPU’s great success in attracting members and creating interest in its campaign. By early 1910 Votes for Women had a weekly print run of c. 30,000 copies.

Grace Chappelow, a WSPU member from Essex, selling ‘Votes for Women’. Courtesy of Chelmsford Museum

The paper was sold in newsagents but also by members of the WSPU who were prepared to stand in the gutter (to stand on the pavement counted as obstruction) and sell it to passers by.  St Clement’s not only printed Votes for Women but also a variety of posters to advertise the paper – such as this one, held in the Women’s Library collection.

This arrangement continued for three and a half years until March 1912. At the beginning of that month WSPU members embarked on a dramatic window-smashing campaign, attacking shops and offices in London’s West End. As a result Emmeline Pankhurst and Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence were all arrested on the charge of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.  Christabel Pankhurst escaped from Clement’s Inn and fled to Paris. The first issue of Votes for Women to be issued after the arrests – the number for 8 March –  appeared with blanks in the text. There was a note on the front page:”The Editors who are responsible for “Votes for Women” in the absence of Mr and Mrs Pethick Lawrence beg to inform their readers that the blank spaces in this week’s issue do not represent lack of interesting matter for publication, but mark the suppression by the printers of articles, comments, and historical facts considered by them to be of an inflammatory nature.’

Whether it was because the temporary editors considered it impossible to continue working with a printer who felt unable to print all the material supplied, or whether  it was that St Clement’s Press declined to be associated with a publication that might bring them into direct conflict with the law – for whatever reason the 15 March 1912 and subsequent issues of Votes for Women were no longer printed by the St Clement’s Press but by Walbrook & Co of 14 & 15 Whitefriars Street, off Fleet Street.

After the Pethick Lawrences were ousted from the WSPU in the autumn of 1912 they retained ownership of Votes for Women, still printed by Walbrook,  making the paper the focus of their new organisation, the Votes for Women Fellowship.  I will discuss this organisation in a subsequent post.

The Economists’ Bookshop, viewed from Kingsway

The site of the St Clement’s Press is now occupied by Waterstone’s Economists’ Bookshop, very much an LSE institution.

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