Posts Tagged NUWSS

Suffrage Stories: ‘Endless Endeavours’: From The 1866 Women’s Suffrage Petition To The Fawcett Society

With Ann Dingsdale and Jane Grant I shall be talking suffrage at LSE today – entry free, unticketed – just come along – see here for details.

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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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.

 

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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: 1911 Census: Vanishing For The Vote

TO BE PUBLISHED ON 6 MARCH 2014

Vanishing for the Vote 1 001

As readers of this blog will know, since 2009 I have been involved in research on the suffrage boycott of the 1911 census. With Dr Jill Liddington, I worked to uncover the women who followed the call to boycott the census. We studied the circumstances of those who did – and those who did not – refuse to complete the census form and produced, first, a paper for the Women’s History Network Conference, held in Oxford in September 2009, and then an article ,‘Women do not count, neither shall they be counted’: Suffrage, Citizenship and the Battle for the 1911 Census‘ published in the History Workshop Journal in 2011.

It was intended to develop this research into a book, but I decided to pursue other projects  – such as the setting up of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery and writing Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary as well, of course, as running my bookselling business,’ Woman and Her Sphere’ –  while Jill turned the census research into Vanishing for the Vote. 

I continued, however, to be very interested in uncovering 1911 census boycotters – and wondering about their lives –  and, at odd moments, wrote up my discoveries for the Woman and Her Sphere blog – and gave a paper, ‘No Vote No Census’ ,at the National Archives Conference on the 1911 census, held in the autumn of 2011. You can listen to it here.

Jill later asked me to help compile the extensive  Gazetteer of Suffragettes/Suffragists that constitutes the end section of Vanishing for the Vote.  This is  based on the original research we carried out, supplemented by details of many additional boycotters that prolonged acquaintance with the digitized census has now uncovered.

I am sure that all who are interested in the Edwardian suffrage campaign will be delighted to read Vanishing for the Vote – which takes us right into the lives of the women – and their families – who were prepared to defy the census enumerator in order to highlight their lack of citizenship.

Vanishing for the vote recounts what happened on one night, Sunday 2 April, 1911, when the Liberal government demanded every household comply with its census requirements. Suffragette organisations urged women, all still voteless, to boycott this census.

Many did. Some wrote ‘Votes for Women’ boldly across their schedules. Others hid in darkened houses or, in the case of Emily Wilding Davison, in a cupboard within the Houses of Parliament.

Yet many did not. Even some suffragettes who might be expected to boycott decided to comply – and completed a perfectly accurate schedule. Why?

Vanishing for the vote explores the ‘battle for the census’ arguments that raged across Edwardian England in spring 1911. It investigates why some committed campaigners decided against civil disobedience tactics, instead opting to provide the government with accurate data for its health and welfare reforms.

This book plunges the reader into the turbulent world of Edwardian politics, so vividly recorded on census night 1911. Based on a wealth of brand-new documentary evidence, it offers compelling reading for history scholars and general readers alike.

Sumptuously produced, with 50 illustrations and an invaluable Gazetteer of suffrage campaigners.

To be published by Manchester University Press:

Hardback £65

Paperback: £16.99

37 Lavender Gardens, Battersea -home of John Burns, minister in charge of the Census

37 Lavender Gardens, Battersea -home of John Burns, minister in charge of the Census

Burns' house is remarkably similar in style to that of Henry Nevinson and his wife, Margaret, at 4 Downside Crescent, Hampstead. However, although sharing a similar attitude to architecture, Burns and the Nevinsons were poles apart as regards the Census. While Henry Nevinson was in the thick of the Census parties in central London, Margaret spent the night in this house with a group of women, all of whom refused to give details to the enumerator.

Burns’ house is remarkably similar in style to that of Henry Nevinson and his wife, Margaret, at 4 Downside Crescent, Hampstead. However, although sharing a similar attitude to architecture, Burns and the Nevinsons were poles apart as regards the Census. While Henry Nevinson was in the thick of the Census Night fun in central London, Margaret spent the night in this house with a group of women, all of whom refused to give details to the enumerator. It was not a happy marriage.

32 Well Walk, Hampstead. 'Vanishing for the Vote' reveals something of the domestic argument that went on behind this front door on Census night between Jane Brailsford and her husband, Henry.

32 Well Walk, Hampstead. ‘Vanishing for the Vote’ reveals something of the domestic argument that went on behind this front door on Census night between Jane Brailsford and her husband, Henry. The Census had a knack of highlighting domestic disharmony.

118 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, home of WSPU activist, Maud Joachim. The enumerator was handed out through this door a census form returned with 'Informaiton Refused'.

118 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, home of WSPU activist, Maud Joachim. The census enumerator stood at this door and was refused all information

Clemence Housman resisted the Census as well as Tax. Her Census story is well told in 'Vanishing for the Vote'.

Clemence Housman resisted the Census as well as Tax. Her Census story is well told in ‘Vanishing for the Vote’.

2 Campden Hill Square, home of the Brackenbury family, later became known as 'Mouse Castle' when escaping suffragettes found shelter under its roof. On Census Night it was home to an estimate 25 women and one man.

2 Campden Hill Square, home of the Brackenbury family, later became known as ‘Mouse Castle’ when escaping suffragettes found shelter under its roof. On Census Night it was home to an estimated 25 women and one man.

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Campaigning For The Vote: Kate Wrestles With North Norfolk, 1912

Kate Frye cover In early summer 1912 Kate Frye was in Norfolk, based in East Dereham, organizing the ‘votes for women’ campaign for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage in Norfolk. In May the sitting MP for the Northwestern Division of Norfolk died and a by-election was called. Kate hurried to Hunstanton to organise the NCS campaign – rather at a disadvantage vis a vis the other suffrage societies, the WSPU and the NUWSS, both of which had many more organisers, money, and, above all, cars at their disposal to cover the constituency. But Kate did her best. For example:

On 28 May she hired a motor for 22/- from Johnson’s Garage in Hunstanton to take the Society’s speakers, Miss McGowan, Mrs Chapman (the Society’s president)  and Mr Lloyd (supposedly an Australian although she began to have her doubts) to Burnham Market. Tuesday May 28th 1912 [lodging in Hunstanton at Palace House, Westgate] Had a lot of writing to do in the morning and had to go out to make arrangements and then a great rush to get something to eat and off to Burnham Market at mid-day. I took the Literature to the Hotel, left it here and ordered tea – then I canvassed hard and walked all the way to Burnham Overy.

Hoste Arms, 2013

Hoste Arms, 2013

Came [back to Burnham Market] to Hoste Arms Hotel – found one of my Irish friends [these were Irish political organisers also in the area campaigning for the by-election]  still there- the younger married one- at least the other was married too – but I gathered he was separated from his wife. My friend greeted me quite tenderly – we met as old friends – there were two other Irishmen – Anti Home Rulers and two Liberals – a young coming-on Politician – quite nice looking – and an older man who, I was told afterwards, was Mr Ouithwaite – a candidate somewhere. We all had tea and eggs and Suffrage discussions – Mr Ouithwaite was quite violent – but I really had him every time – quite a roar went up at some some my answers – I enjoyed that tea party immensely. I think we all did – Mr Ouithwaite least of all, perhaps, but I felt I was scoring – and as only the two odd Irishmen were inclined for Votes for Women I had no help. No 1 Irish was not so rabid though.

Burnham Market, 1912

Burnham Market, 1912

I only got to the Schools just in time to have the doors open and let the crowd in – no policeman there so the boys had to go – it looked like a rowdy meeting from the first. The place was pretty full when the car arrived – Miss McGowan with Mrs Chapman and Mr Lloyd. Miss McGowan took the Chair – and they were fairly quiet while she spoke – but directly Mrs Chapman got up the trouble began. No one could hear her – she was feeling so dreadfully ill with a feverish cold – she must have had a miserable evening and I felt so sorry for her – and the people were so insolent. I went and stood right at the back amongst the rowdies and it was a lively evening – and so stuffy. Mr Lloyd (from Australia) stood on a Chair and bellowed – ‘Oh men of England’ over and over again – he tried his best and was cheery but not much of what he shouted could be heard. I took a collection – which was brave I think – but I felt I had to do something. I was so disappointed and we drove off amidst groans. A very Liberal place – but the boys were the mischief – once in they wouldn’t quiet. We motored back to Hunstanton – left Mrs Chapman at the ‘Golden Lion’ – then Mr Lloyd at the Temperance Hotel in our road – then home. The WSPU had been holding a meeting in the Town Hall and Miss Mansell had been down to help Steward – but only about 100 people turned up – some said 50 – so they had an open air afterwards as Mrs Massy and Mrs Haverfield were there. That was just over so we three tramped off to Roberts Room where Mr Hemmerde [the Liberal candidate] was speaking – a small room but well filled. He was just answering questions put to him by our lively friend Mr Lloyd – so when the people came out we gave away our handbills. ‘ Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary edited by Elizabeth Crawford For a full description of the book click here Wrap-around paper covers, 226 pp, over 70 illustrations, all drawn from Kate Frye’s personal archive. ISBN 978 1903427 75 0 £14.99 Copies available from Francis Boutle Publishers, or from Elizabeth Crawford – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  or from all good bookshops.  

'Campaigning for the Vote' - Front and back cover of wrappers
‘Campaigning for the Vote’ – Front and back cover of wrappers

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Suffrage Stories: Devon Suffragists


NUWSS South-West branch of the Pilgrimage photographed in 1913 as they set off from Land's End

NUWSS South-West branch of the Pilgrimage photographed in 1913 

In the summer of 1913, in the aftermath of Emily Wilding Davison’s spectacular funeral procession,  while  WSPU members were reading in the pages of The Suffragette details of Mrs Pankhurst’s successive hunger strikes, numerous reports of increasingly dangerous suffragette militancy, and  Christabel Pankhurst’s denunciation of prostitution and venereal disease (eventually published as The Great Scourge), the constitutional suffragists, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, were planning a ‘Woman’s Suffrage Pilgrimage’.

The Pilgrimage was intended to act as  a counter to suffragette militancy, to create a spectacle demonstrating that women, while disciplined, were also law-abiding. The air of spirituality that had surrounded Emily Davison’s coffin was paralleled  by the consciousness-raising intent of the Pilgrimage. It is interesting to note that the model, which had been enacted the previous autumn when a small group of women had journeyed from Edinburgh to London, was known as the ‘Women’s March’. By mid-1913 the mood had changed – the women were no longer marchers, they were pilgrims.

In my Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide  I give an account of the various strands of the Pilgrimage, which, beginning at various distant points in England, approached London along eight main routes.

Now, to mark the centenary of the Pilgrimage, the Dreadnought South West Association is planning to tour a new play, ‘Oxygen’, playing at many of the stopping places of the south-west route of the Pilgrimage, which began at Land’s End on 19 June. One of those involved in planning the Pilgrimage commemoration is Dr Julia Neville, details of whose latest book are given below.

vivajuanitaViva Juanita: 
Juanita Phillips: Champion for Change in East Devon between the wars
by Julia Neville

‘”Juanita Maxwell Phillips, OBE (1880 – 1966) was eleven times Mayor of Honiton, Alderman and Freeman of the Borough, Devon County Councillor and County Alderman, JP and OBE. Her extraordinary story – from Chile to Honiton, from suffragette to pillar of the establishment, from amateur dramatics to theatre impresario – was uncovered in 2009 by the Senior Council for Honiton. It was brought to life in Honiton in newspaper articles, presentations, commemorative events, and a Honiton Players production, Viva Juanita! Now this fascinating illustrated book tells her story in words and pictures.”

For details of how to buy Viva Juanita see here


While being generally interested in NUWSS activities, I have an interest slightly more personal  in the Devon  branch because for some years before 1913, its secretary was Miss Jessie Montgomery, who was also a mover in establishing the college that eventually became Exeter University. When I arrived as a student I was among the first intake at a hall of residence that went by what seemed the rather cumbersome name of ‘Jessie Montgomery House’. We were never told who this Jessie Montgomery was – or had been – and I must say I never inquired – although I do remember being rather pleased when I could give her some reality, after coming across a commemorative plaque to her in Exeter Cathedral. Anyway, Miss Montgomery is now once more history –  I see that ‘her’ hall of residence, along with others on that campus, have now been demolished.  Sic transit…

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Suffrage Stories: Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary, The Royal Albert Hall, And The Importance of Gas

photo 4The Royal Albert Hall was the scene of many grand suffrage occasions – organised by both the constitutional and the militant suffrage societies. The management of the Hall has recognised this by supporting its archivists in mounting a small display relating to its suffrage past. The display may be viewed by anyone with a ticket to an event in the hall.

Researchers use the primary sources available and Suzanne Keyte, Project Archivist at the Royal Albert Hall, has mined what is known as the Hall’s  ‘Gas Book’ to recreate a list of occasions on which the Hall was rented for suffrage-related meetings. The ‘Gas Book’ records the amount of cubic feet used each time the Hall was let for a concert or a political or a religious meeting and, with certain provisos, can be used as an  indication of the size of the audience.

Kate Frye witnessed several grand suffrage occasions in the Hall. Here she describes an evening stewarding for the London Society for Women’s Suffrage at a Mass Meeting of suffrage societies in support of the Conciliation Bill

Albert HallSaturday November 12th 1910

I sat and sewed a red, green and white scarf for the evening. We had tea at 4.15 and I had a rush to dress and take Mickie [her dog] out and get off by soon after 5 o’clock. I was due at the Albert Hall at 5.30. Was given a job to do till 6.30 – or rather before – when we all went to our posts. Mine was Balcony – selling of programmes and ‘Common Causes’ [the NUWSS newspaper]  & helping with the collections. The hall looked lovely – the banners were so beautifully arranged – but it wasn’t so full as I should have liked. The W.S.P.U. had a crowded meeting on Thursday and collected £8,000. Wonderful people one simply cannot hear from the Balcony. Mrs Swanwick was the only one I could really hear – her elocution is marvellous. It was so interesting seeing all the Societies – but [ie except for] the W.S.P.U. there – such lots of colours & badges – and I got very chatsome to some of my companions upstairs from the different societies.Albert Hall 1

When the meeting was nearly over I went down to the hall & tried to sell ‘Common Cause’. Old Major General Sir Alfred Turner, who was sporting around with Adeline Bourne, bought one of me with a beam and a handful of coin – he is a joke. It had come on to pour with rain and the Wrights insisted on bringing me as far as their place in their Taxi which was kind. ‘

The Hall’s  ‘Gas Book’ shows that for this meeting the NUWSS consumed – and were charged for – 47,800 cubic feet of gas.  On this November night one imagines that it would have been necessary to have lit all the Hall’s lamps. In fact,  on 19 March 1908, when Kate Frye attended the first WSPU meeting to be held in the Albert Hall, that night’s gas consumption had been very similar- 46,800 cubic feet (click here to see Kate’s description of that meeting). From this idiosyncratic source we can deduce that the NUWSS did not lag behind the WSPU in ensuring that their evening meetings were brilliantly lit, even though, from Kate’s account, they were not necessarily able to muster as large an audience.

There was something to be said for staging meetings in the Albert Hall on summer evenings. For at the meeting held there that marked the finale to the NUWSS’s procession through London on 13 June 1908, gas consumption was only 16,000 cubic feet.  We know when the meeting started because Kate Frye carefully noted in her diary that, after marching from the Embankment in the rearguard position which the Kensington branch had been allotted, she reached the Albert Hall at 5.10, just as the meeting was about to begin.  Clearly less artificial illumination was required for a meeting held on an early evening in summer than for one in the winter, thereby reducing at least one element of the cost. (See here for the entry from Kate’s diary describing the procession).

Suzanne Keyte has identified c 30 suffrage meetings that were held at the Royal Albert Hall. By June 1913, however, after pressure had been exerted on hall owners throughout the country, the management of the Hall decided that they would refuse the WSPU any further lettings. What was in effect their last  meeting had taken place a couple of months earlier, on 10 April.

Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary edited by Elizabeth Crawford

For a full description of the book click here

Wrap-around paper covers, 226 pp, over 70 illustrations, all drawn from Kate Frye’s personal archive.

ISBN 978 1903427 75 0

Copies available from Francis Boutle Publishers, or from Elizabeth Crawford – e.crawford@sphere20.freeserve.co.uk  (£14.99 +UK postage £3. Please ask for international postage cost), or from all good bookshops. In stock at London Review of Books Bookshop, Foyles, National Archives Bookshop.

'Campaigning for the Vote' - Front and back cover of wrappers
‘Campaigning for the Vote’ – Front and back cover of wrappers

 

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Kate Frye’s Suffrage Diary: The Mud March, 9 February 1907

Kate Frye had first joined a suffrage society in the spring of 1906.  Her choice was the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage (later renamed the London Society for Women’s Suffrage) – a constituent society of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies  Interest in the long-running women’s suffrage campaign leapt ahead in the following few months and in February 1907 the NUWSS staged the first open-air suffrage spectacular – a march through the wintry, muddy London streets. For obvious reasons this became known as the ‘Mud March’. Kate’s estimate of 3000 participants accords with later reports.

Saturday 9 February 1907 [25 Arundel Gardens, North Kensington]


Mud MarchIn bed for breakfast – and what was my utter disgust – and disappointment – to hear the torrents of rain – and there was not a shadow of its coming last night – it was bitterly cold. As it was so heavy I hoped it would stop – but it went on and on into a fine heavy drizzle. They said I should be mad to go in the procession and though I knew I must – I went out at 12.30 taking Mickie a walk and sent a telegram to Alexandra Wright telling her the rain prevented my joining them. I had arranged to be at their house at 1 o’clock and go with them to Hyde Park. We all had lunch. I knew I was going all the time – but couldn’t go. Off to wash my hands. 2 o’clock. ‘They will be just starting’, said I. Then as I washed I made up my mind I would go rain or no rain and – lo – the rain had ceased. I prepared a plan to Agnes.  She too knew she was to be of it – both flew upstairs and were out of the house before 2.15.

We tore to Notting Hill Gate – meaning to go the quickest way. No motor bus – so we tore for the train – it came in as I started to race down. In we scrambled – had to change at South Kensington much to our disgust – but we were not kept long. We flew out at Charing Cross and up Villiers Street. No sign of the Procession of Women Suffragists in the Strand. They were timed to leave Hyde Park at 2 o’clock so I had to pluck up my courage and ask a policeman. No, they had not passed. So, knowing the route, we flew up as far as Piccadilly Circus and there in about 2 minutes we heard strains of a band and waited, anxious and expectant. The crowd began to gather and we were nearly swept away by the first part – a swarm of roughs with the band – but the procession itself came – passed along dignified and really impressive. It was a sight I wouldn’t have missed for anything – and I was glad to have the opportunity of seeing it as well as taking part in it.

Mud March 1We stood right in front so as not to miss our contingent – and I asked if they knew where it was. Miss Gore Booth said it was coming and we were fearfully excited and I was so anxious not to miss our lot. I shrieked out when I saw Miss Doake’s red head in the distance and we dashed up to them and asked if we could join in. Alexandra carried our banner. Mrs Wright said come along here – it felt like boarding an express train but I suppose it was a quite simple rally though I cannot look back on it as that – but we were so excited and so anxious not to miss them. We walked three abreast – Miss Doake, Agnes and I – I was on the kerb side – behind us Gladys [Wright], Miss Ellis and Mrs Doake. North Kensington was not very well represented but I really do not know who else of us was there.

Then the real excitement started. The crowds to see us – the man in the street – the men in the Clubs, the people standing outside the Carlton – interested – surprised for the most part – not much joking at our expense and no roughness. The policemen were splendid and all the traffic was stopped our way. We were an imposing spectacle all with badges – each section under its own banners. Ours got broken, poor thing, unfortunately, and caused remarks. I felt like a martyr of old and walked proudly along. I would not jest with the crowd – though we had some jokes with ourselves. It did seem an extraordinary walk and it took some time as we went very slowly occasionally when we got congested – but we went in one long unbroken procession. There were 3000 about I believe. At the end came ever so many carriages and motor cars – but of course we did not see them. Lots of people we knew drove.

Flyer advertising the NUWSS 'Mud March'

Flyer advertising the NUWSS ‘Mud March’

Up the Strand it was a great crowd watching – some of the remarks were most amusing. ‘Here comes the class’ and two quite smart men standing by the kerb ‘I say look at those nice girls – positively disgraceful I call it.’ Then ‘Ginger hair – dark hair – and fair hair’ ‘Oh! What nice girls’ to Miss Doake, Agnes and I. Several asked if we had brought our sweethearts and made remarks to express their surprise at our special little band. ‘All the prizes in this lot’ etc. The mud was awful. Agnes and I wore galoshes so our feet were alright but we got dreadfully splashed. It was quite a business turning into the Exeter Hall. A band was playing merrily all the time – the one which had led the procession – and there was one not far off us. Three altogether, I was told.

Exeter Hall in 1905

Exeter Hall in 1905

We got good seats and of course had to wait some time before the meeting started – it was just after 4 pm when it did – but there was a ladies’ orchestra performing and playing very well and a lady at the organ in between whiles. The meeting was splendid. Mr Walter McLaren in the Chair and Israel Zangwill as chief speaker – he was so splendid and most witty. Miss Gore Booth – Mrs Fawcett – Mrs Eva McLaren – Lady Strachey and several other ladies spoke and Keir Hardie made an excellent speech. It was altogether a wonderful and memorable afternoon – and felt we were making history – but after all I don’t know, I am sure, what will come of it. The MPs seem to have cheated and thoroughly ‘had’ us all over it. They wanted the Liberal Women’s help to get into the House and now they don’t care two straws or they are frightened of us. We walked up to Tottenham Court Road and came home by bus. It was nearly 7 o’clock when we got in. .. I felt bitterly tired all the evening after the excitement.

Dramatis Personae for this entry

Agnes, Kate’s elder sister

Mickie, Kate’s beloved dog

Alexandra and her sister, Gladys, lived at 10 Linden Gardens. It was under their influence that Kate had joined the London Society for Women’s Suffrage.

Violette Mary Doake (b 1888) her parents were Irish, which may account for the red hair. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth Doake, was also a suffragist. Her father, Richard Baxter Doake, described in the 1911 census as a ‘tea planter’, was elected as a Progressive party member in 1892 to the LCC seat relinquished by Frederick Frye. In 1901 the Doakes lived at 24 Stanley Gardens, close to the Fryes. By 1911 they had moved to 25 Ladbroke Gardens.

Walter McLaren and his wife, Eva were members of a family of long-standing supporters of women’s suffrage. He had been Liberal MP for Crewe in the 1890s and regained the seat in 1910.

Israel Zangwill, Jewish novelist and very effective writer and speaker in support of women’s suffrage

Lady Strachey had worked for women’s suffrage since the 1860s. She remarked that after this march she had to boil her skirt.

Keir Hardie,  first Independent Labour Party MP. He had strongly supported a motion in favour of women’s suffrage at the Labour party conference on 26 January

Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary edited by Elizabeth Crawford

For a full description of the book click here

Wrap-around paper covers, 226 pp, over 70 illustrations, all from Kate Frye’s personal archive.

ISBN 978 1903427 75 0

Copies available from Francis Boutle Publishers, or from Elizabeth Crawford – elizabeth.crawford2017@outlook.com (£14.99), or from all good bookshops.

'Campaigning for the Vote' - Front and back cover of wrappers

‘Campaigning for the Vote’ – Front and back cover of wrappers

Campaigning for the Vote– Front and back cover of wrappers

 You can also listen here to a Radio 4 programme as Anne McElvoy and I follow the route of the ‘Mud March’.

Copyright

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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