Help Bring Suffragettes’ Voices to Life: Call for Readers on 26/05/2018 and 27/05/2018

Dear all,

As part of our upcoming Suffrage Centenary Event, we are recruiting volunteers to read selected letters written by Suffrage campaigners and some of their relatives. We need 6 readers per day. Ideally we are hoping to find two male voices and four female voices per day, but we’ll attribute roles on a first come first served basis. You are welcome to come on Saturday or Sunday only, although we’d love it if you could spend the whole weekend with us. We’ll send you the texts in advance of the event. It goes without saying that no previous experience is needed. All you’ll need is:

  • Be free from 1pm to 4pm on Saturday 26/05 and/or Sunday 27/05
  • That’s it!

Come join us!

7JCC-O-2-108b
Christabel Pankhurst, 1909, from the Women’s Library ‘s Suffrage Collection (7JCC/O/2/108b, Licence)

Just email us at transatlantic.women@gmail.com specifying which day(s) you can attend and come along to the Glasgow’s People Palace Museum. Transcripts of the letters will be provided.

We look forward to hearing from you!

The TLW Team.

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Suffragette Spotlight: Annie Kenney

Ahead of our upcoming Suffrage Centenary Celebration at the People’s Palace Museum (26th and 27th May 1-4pm), the TLW team have been posting weekly blogs about inspiring women who fought for suffrage. Today’s blog focuses on Annie Kenney.

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“As I was one of the leading actors in the first play, so I was one of the leading actors in the last.”
— Annie Kenney, Memories of a Militant

Kenney was born in 1879 to a working-class family near Oldham, and Marie Roberts describes her as “the most readily identifiable representative of working-class women” in the Women’s Social and Political Union (xi). One of eleven children, Kenney went to work in a local cotton-mill when she was ten years-old. Starting out as a ‘half-timer,’ she would work in the morning before going to school in the afternoon. At thirteen years-old she switched to full-time employment in the mill, undertaking shifts as long as twelve hours. It was in this role as a weaver’s assistant that Kenney had one of her fingers torn off.

Kenney continued to work in the mill for 15 years, during which time she helped fellow workers to read, and take an interest in literature. She became involved in the trade union movement, and throughout her life was heavily influenced by Robert Blatchford, the English campaigner and journalist who launched an affordable weekly socialist newspaper called The Clarion.

In 1905, as a member of the Oldham Clarion Vocal Club, Kenney heard Christabel Pankhurst speak. This inspired her to join the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded by the Pankhurst family in 1903. In the same year that Kenney joined the WSPU she attended a Liberal rally in Manchester with Christabel, where they repeatedly interrupted Sir Edward Grey to question whether women would be given the right to vote. The two women were removed and later imprisoned for the alleged assault of the police officers who ejected them from the rally. Kenney was imprisoned for three days, the first of thirteen prison sentences throughout her life. In 1913 she was sentenced to a lengthy 18-months which was temporarily interrupted by her release under the Cat and Mouse Act.

Christabel Pankhurst fled to Paris in 1912 to avoid imprisonment, and Kenney was placed in charge of the WSPU in her absence, demonstrating the high degree of influence which she held in the organisation. When the Representation of the People Act was passed in 1918 it granted women over the age of 30 the right to vote if they passed certain property and education requirements. After partial suffrage had been won, Kenney dropped out of political life. She married and gave birth to her son in 1923, and published her autobiography the following year.

Many feel that Kenney’s efforts in the fight for the vote have been “undeservedly neglected,” (Roberts, xv) and this often relates to a further belief held by some that working-class efforts for women’s suffrage have also been overlooked. Krista Cowman voices this in her 2018 article for the New Statesman, stating that “When women finally got the vote, the stories of many working class suffragettes were quickly forgotten. Few of them had the time or contacts needed to publish autobiographies and most could not afford to travel to London for the meetings of the Suffragette Fellowship, a militant old girls’ association that tried to preserve their campaign’s history. As we celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act that gave votes to at least some British women in February 1918, we should remind ourselves of the sacrifices made by many ordinary and anonymous women, who risked their livelihoods and reputations alongside their more affluent companions in the fight for equality and citizenship.”

In exploring the various women to cover for the Suffragette Spotlight series, Kenney seemed a particularly fitting figure as she is an inspirational woman both within and without the context of female suffrage. For a generation of young women today, many of whom have experienced a setback in the age that they can hope to reach traditional life-milestones such as starting a career, a family, or buying property, Kenney is an example of someone who refused to let her age, class, gender, or finances, restrict her aspirations and achievements in life. She became a member of the WSPU when she was in her mid–twenties; arguably her greatest life achievement of helping win women’s suffrage was reached when she was in her late thirties, and she was in her early forties before she married and started a family. Despite having to start work at only ten years-old, she succeeded in educating herself through self-study and correspondence courses – encouraging fellow working-class women to do the same – and reached leadership status in the predominantly middle-class led organisation of the WSPU. She experienced the physical consequences of the dangerous working-conditions in Britain in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century, but also helped ensure that future generations would have the opportunity to change these conditions by voting for their chosen representatives in government. Kenney exists as both a historical hero who was willing to sacrifice a great deal for a cause she believed in, but also as a rousing reminder that if a woman from her humble background could achieve so much, over a century ago, women today need not let their own goals be limited by the societal expectations which are often imposed on them.

Keep an eye on our website for more blogs like this one, or follow us on Twitter @transatlanticladies using the hashtag #TLWsuffrage. And if you want to learn more about ground-breaking suffragettes, make your own rosettes, and learn about women and the vote, join us at the People’s Palace for an afternoon of crafts, talks, and a look at Glasgow’s suffrage collections!

Kari
References and further reading

Kenney, Annie. Memories of a Militant. London, Edward Arnold & Co., 1924.

Roberts, Marie, and Tamae Mizuta. Perspectives on the History of British Feminism. Routledge/Thoemmes, London, 1994.

Cowman, Krista. “Let’s not forget the working class suffragettes” in New Statesman, 6 February 2018.

Information on Kenney can also obtained from the Working Class Movement Library.

The British Newspaper Archive gives access to articles which mention Kenney.

The Annie Kenney Project is an ongoing campaign to have a statue of Kenney erected in Oldham town square.

Picture courtesy of LSE Library.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suffragette Spotlight: Elizabeth Cady Stanton

As we look forward to our upcoming Suffrage Centenary Celebration at Glasgow’s People’s Palace Museum (26th and 27th May 1-4pm), we’ve decided to blog about some of the inspiring women who fought for women’s suffrage. Today, we’d like to tell you about an early American suffragist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born in Johnstown, New York in 1815. Throughout her life she was a prominent woman’s rights activist, abolitionist and writer. She’s perhaps best known for her role as an organiser of the world’s first women’s rights convention, the 1848 Senaca Falls Convention, and for authoring the Declaration of Sentiments that was presented there:

“The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise.

He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice.

He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men—both natives and foreigners.

Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides.”

Extract from the Declaration of Sentiments

Stanton wasn’t just concerned with women’s suffrage. She was a prominent abolitionist in the years leading up to the American Civil War, alongside her husband Henry B. Stanton. During the period after the war known as Reconstruction the two campaigned to have women’s rights issues considered alongside the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments, to the anger of some of their former allies.

Stanton fell out of favour with the mainstream women’s rights movement towards the end of her life, partly due to her outspoken stance on women’s reproductive rights and her support of women leaving unhappy marriages to seek a divorce. Nevertheless, she was elected as the first president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which was eventually successful in lobbying for the passage of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

Keep an eye on our website for more blogs like this one, or follow us on Twitter @transatlanticladies using the hashtag #TLWsuffrage. And if you want to learn more about ground-breaking suffragettes, make your own rosettes, and learn about women and the vote, join us at the People’s Palace for an afternoon of crafts, talks, and a look at Glasgow’s suffrage collections!

 

*image sourced here, last accessed May 6th 2018*

Sources/Further Reading:

https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/elizabeth-cady-stanton

https://www.biography.com/people/elizabeth-cady-stanton-9492182

https://www.nps.gov/wori/learn/historyculture/elizabeth-cady-stanton.htm

 

 

 

Suffragette Spotlight: Rosa May Billinghurst

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Photo courtesy of LSE Library

As we look forward to our upcoming Suffrage Centenary Celebration at Glasgow’s People’s Palace Museum (26th and 27th May 1-4pm), we’ve decided to blog about some of the inspiring women who fought for women’s suffrage. Today, we’d like to tell you about suffragette Rosa May Billinghurst.

Rosa May Billinghurst was born in London in 1875, contracted polio as a child, and was consequently a wheelchair user, dubbed by the press as ‘The Cripple Suffragette’. She worked with her sister to rehabilitate prostitutes and was inspired to become more involved in women’s rights. She said:

‘My heart ached and I thought surely if women were consulted in the management of the state happier and better conditions must exist for hard-working sweated lives such as these. It was gradually unfolded to me that the unequal laws which made women appear inferior to men were the main cause of these evils.’

She attended talks by Millicent Fawcett (whose statue was recently unveiled in London) and the Pankhursts, and became an active member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), organising campaigns and meetings. Billinghurst was at the November 1910 demonstration known as Black Friday, where she says:

‘At first the police threw me out of the machine [her wheelchair] on to the ground in a very brutal manner. Secondly when on the machine again they tried to push me along with my arms twisted behind me in a very painful position. Thirdly they took me down a side road and left me in the middle of a hooligan crowd, first taking all the valves out of the wheels and pocketing them so that I could not move the machine.’

At a demonstration shortly afterwards she turned the tables on her aggressors, using her wheelchair as a ram to push through a police cordon, and was arrested. She became increasingly militant, and in 1912 she was arrested for window–smashing, and sentenced to a month in Holloway prison. In 1913 she destroyed the contents of a letterbox and was sentenced to eight month’s imprisonment, and immediately went on hunger strike. The authorities, against the advice of her doctor, attempted to force-feed her, damaging her teeth in the process. The Home Secretary ordered her release after ten days, fearing that she might die in custody otherwise. Billinghurst, undeterred, began campaigning against force-feeding, continued fighting for votes for women, and was involved in the 1914 battle outside Buckingham Palace, between suffragettes and 1,500 policemen.

With the onset of the war, and after negotiations with the WSPU, the government released all suffragettes from prison, and in 1918 women of property over the age of thirty were granted the vote. Ten years later, this vote was extended to all British women over twenty-one years old, regardless of property. As far as Billinghurst was concerned, the campaign was not over. She continued to work with women’s societies, such as the Suffrage Fellowship and the Women’s Freedom League throughout her life, and when she died in 1953 of heart failure, she donated her body to the London school of Medicine for Women.

Keep an eye on our website for more blogs like this one, or follow us on Twitter @transatlanticladies using the hashtag #TLWsuffrage. And if you want to learn more about ground-breaking suffragettes, make your own rosettes, and learn about women and the vote, join us at the People’s Palace for an afternoon of crafts, talks, and a look at Glasgow’s suffrage collections!

Saskia

For more on Billinghurst see:

http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-63834?rskey=nofOpm&result=1

http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/rosa-may-billinghurst-suffragette-campaigner-cripple/

https://www.catfordcentral.com/rosa-may-billinghurst-suffragette-and-womens-rights-activist/

https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/rosa-may-billinghurst-disabled-suffragette-abused-police-force-fed-prison/