Posts Tagged suffragist
Here is a link to the Zoom talk on the women’s suffrage campaign in South Devon that I gave on 25 September as part of Torbay’s Heritage Lecture Day. The fully-illustrated talk traces suffrage activity in the area from its beginnings in 1866 – through the 19th and 20th centuries.
In over 30 years spent hunting for and selling objects related to the women’s suffrage campaign, this little box is the only example I have ever found of ‘Votes for Women’ Hooks and Eyes. Although I had it photographed in black and white back in the 1990s, the box in reality is tricked out in the WSPU colours of purple, white and green.
The manufacturer registering ‘Votes for Women’ as its trademark was not the only maker of hooks and eyes to discern a market for its goods among the supporters of the suffrage cause. Votes for Women (eg issue for 23 April 1909, p 26) carried advertisements for ‘Smart’s invisible hooks and eyes ‘ which were the’ patented invention and property of two members and supporters of the Women’s Social and Political Union.’
These items might well have been found amongst the stock of the suffrage shops opened by the various suffrage societies.
As well as being campaigners, the majority of suffragettes and suffragists were, of necessity, also needlewomen. So here was an opportunity to back the Cause while sewing fastenings onto their skirt plackets or bodices.
Some time ago, when researching a talk, ‘No Vote No Census’, that I gave in October 2011 conference on the 1911 census organised by the National Archives, I came across the boycotting census form of Mrs Frood of Topsham. Since then I have passed on this discovery to a researcher associated with Topsham Museum who has been able to link Mrs Frood directly to the 1913 Suffrage Pilgrimage, the 100th anniversary of which is being celebrated in Topsham today, 4 July 2013.
The 3 March 1911 edition of Votes for Women contains a letter from Mrs M.C. I. Frood of Station Road, Topsham, in which she described how, early in the morning of the polling day for the last election (which must have been Dec 1910/Jan 1911), she went out with a pot of ‘good, white oil paint’ [I like the fact that it was ‘good] and ‘printed on the inner edge of the pavement along which voters would pass on the way to the polling station ‘Taxation Without Representation is Tyranny’ and ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves. I also printed it along the brick wall of my field, which they also had to pass coming and going to and from the train. ..On the large doors of my field, near the same spot, I printed ‘No Votes No Taxes’. I find my field gate a useful place to stick cartoons and cuttings from Votes for Women.’
A month later Mrs Frood was one of those suffragettes who boycotted the 1911 census. Together with one of her daughters, her servant, Beatrice Hutchings and six unknown females, to whom she had clearly given boycotting shelter, she refused to fill in any details on her census form, writing across it ‘If I am intelligent enough to fill up this paper, I am intelligent enough to put a cross on a voting paper. No Vote No Census.’
The census enumerator, Mr.H. J. Baker, reported this act of civil disobedience to the Census Office and received a reply from its Secretary, Archer Bellingham, instructing him to fill out the form with the best information he could muster. Mr Baker then annotated the letter, quoting Mrs Frood as saying to him that she had had a ‘house full’ of boycotters on census night – and ‘that I am therefore adding to Numbers 6’. With this number revealed as an arbitrary choice of the enumerator, we can only speculate as to how many Topsham women spent the night at Little Broadway House in Station Road.
Although in 1911 it would appear that Mrs Frood, as a correspondent to Votes for Women, was a supporter of the WSPU, by 1913 she is listed in The Suffrage Annual and Women’s Who’s Who as secretary of the Topsham branch of the NUWSS. Perhaps she was one of those who were dismayed by the WSPU’s increasingly militant tactics. It was one thing to paint slogans (with ‘good’ paint’) on pavements and walls, but quite another to break windows and commit arson. So it was as a leading local NUWSS member that Mrs Frood took part in the Suffrage Pilgrimage in early July 1913.
Who was Mrs Frood?
Mrs Mary Catherine Isabella Frood (nee Campbell, c. 1856-1931) had been born of Scottish parentage in Canada and was living in New Zealand when, in 1878, she married James Nicholson Frood (d. 1913), an Irish-born doctor. She had five children, the first four, all daughters, born in New Zealand and the last, a son, born at sea c 1888 – presumably as the family was returning to England. One of her daughters, Hester, was successful as an artist. Although Mrs Frood actually died in London, her address was still in Topsham – 26 The Strand (Old Court House).
Where was Dr Frood in 1911?
Dr Frood was living with his family (whose name was misrendered as ‘Froud’) when the 1901 census was taken. But where was he in 1911? The name on the cover of the census form had been written as ‘Dr Frood’, but this had been amended to ‘Mrs Frood’ and it is she who is shown as ‘Head of Household’. I can find no trace of James Frood elsewhere in the 1911 census, although he did not die until 1913, his death registered in the local area. Interestingly under the terms of his will probate was granted to the Public Trustee rather than to his wife or any other member of the family.
Where was Little Broadway House?
Thanks to Street View I can see Station Road and the pavement along which Mrs Frood painted her slogans. Thanks to Paul Tucker (see Comment below) who tells me that Little Broadway House is still there – the house with the overhanging upper window that I can see in Street View – although now divided into two. Presumably the ground to its side was Mrs Frood’s field. So let’s take a moment to visualise its gates – decorated with Votes for Women cartoon – a reminder to those walking past on their way to the station that one Topsham woman was prepared to do her bit to win ‘votes for women’.
On Monday, 18 March 2013 Radio 4 broadcast, in the series ‘Document, an interesting programme to which I made a small contribution. Below is the description of the programme that appears on the BBC website. The programme is available on iPlayer for a year – that is until March 2014 – click here to listen.
‘Votes for Victorian Women
- 28 minutes
- First broadcast:
Monday 18 March 2013
Popular history tells us that women did not get the vote until 1918.
Though they could technically vote in local elections before that, many historians have argued that in practice they had no vote until the 1860s at the earliest. And evidence that they ever did vote has proved almost impossible to find.
But now a poll book, discovered in a box of papers in a local record office, clearly shows 25 women voting in elections for important local posts in Lichfield in 1843.
In this week’s Document, the historian Sarah Richardson follows the trail of these women, to reveal a picture of Victorian women’s involvement in politics which challenges many of our assumptions.
She discovers that they represented a surprising cross-section of society – old and young, poor and prosperous – and attempts to trace their descendants today.
She finds out how, when even universal manhood suffrage was seen as a radical, dangerous idea, these women may have been just a few of many more who could vote at a local level.
And she explores how, decades later, campaigners for Votes for Women at the Westminster level had to contend with this complex legacy.’
[Left – the photograph that Sarah and I are looking at when discussing the way in which 20th-century suffrage campaigners were keen to legitimise their claim to the franchise by looking to the power, occasionally electoral, exercised by women in the past.]
Another extract from Kate Parry Frye’s manuscript diary. These entries dates from the period two years before Campaigning for the Vote – the edited version of her diary published by Francis Boutle Publishers – begins. This episode marks the first time Kate is involved in active doorstep – or, at least, letterbox – campaigning. She was to do a great deal more of it over the next few years.
Gladys Wright was a university-educated young woman, a fellow Kensington resident, and already an active suffragist, working for the London NUWSS – non-militant – society.
‘The Grove’ was Westbourne Grove, the local shopping mecca, home of Whiteleys, the Universal Provider.
The Fryes were – or had been – very friendly with William Whiteley, who had been gunned down in his own store just two months earlier.
Monday 19 March 1907 [25 ArundelGardens, Notting Hill]
Up to breakfast and found a letter from Gladys Wright asking me to do some work with them for the Suffrage. A Motor Bus to Strakers in the Edgware Road where I bought 500 envelopes. Changed my things and wrote letters till dinner time – then after dinner started addressing my envelopes and did about half until 11.30 when I went to bed very tired.
Thursday March 19th 1907
Changed my dress after lunch then wrote some letters till tea time. Our At Home day but no visitors arrived. After tea I sat and finished directing my envelopes.
Thursday March 20th 1907
Up at 11.30. The notices had come for the envelopes so I filled Lansdowne Road and Lansdowne Crescent. Sent Agnes [her sister] out with them. I took out ArundelGardens and Powis Square – a most awful place – high flats – and Powis something else. After lunch Agnes and I went out again delivering – more Powis and Colvilles. Colville Mansions nearly killed us the stairs were awful. We got in about 4 o’clock feeling very tired.
Thursday March 21st 1907
Mother went to Committee [Liberal] meeting in the afternoon. Agnes and I went out at 3 o’clock and delivered the last two streets of the meeting notices – then went to the Grove and did a little shopping.
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 – firstname.lastname@example.org (£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.