Monday, 10 June 2013

Emily Wilding Davison Season - Political Women Tour

On Friday afternoon, Collections Access Officer Chris Burgess gave a tour of main gallery one at the People's History Museum, highlighting the presence of women within political movements, even before they got the vote. The role of the Manchester Female Reformers Society at Peterloo was an active one, women would take part in demos and unions, which would bring together classes and genders.

Women were also involved in the Chartist Movement. Their role was usually to make banners and organise teas, but more radical members of the organisation supported women for the vote. In particular it was felt that while women with husbands were represented by their husbands vote, single women and widows should be given a vote as they did not have a man to represent their views. In the 1867 reform bill, John Stuart Mill suggested that the word 'man' should be replaced by 'person'. Whilst this idea was not passed, the ideas were there and represented by some, if not by the majority. 

Women were seen as the voice of reason within political literature, counteracting the radicalism of going on strike, as seen in the image below where the wife is telling her husband "Thank God Bill you didn't strike", as they enjoy a Christmas spread that they may not have been able to afford without his income. Women were seen as rational yet still could not vote.

Image courtesy of the People's History Museum

Beatrice Webb's Desk is in the museum. Along with her husband Sidney and numerous others, she co-founded the London School of Economics and Political Science and played a crucial role in the forming of the Fabian Society - a British socialist organisation.

 Image courtesy of the People's History Museum

The museum has a section on feminist movements, and Chris mentioned how forward thinking and effective the marketing by women's campaigns were. They represented middle class and working class women, and the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) had universal branding colours of purple white and green (purple symbolised dignity, white purity, and green hope).

Image courtesy of the People's History Museum
Womens WSPU prisoners felt they were political prisoners, and were recognised with badges and intricate certificates like the one below.

Image courtesy of the People's History Museum
The tour ended with a look at how political parties advertised to women once they were given the vote, putting them at the centre of the campaign.

Parties were not sure how to attract young women, as they thought women would only vote as mothers - the poster on the right here is typical of political campaigns, and many contemporary images have used this sort of angle to encourage women to vote.

On the left, the young woman is being encouraged to vote for as he is stylish and wearing more up to date fashions. The men wearing the top hats are being dismissed, playing up to the perceived vanity of women.

Image courtesy of the People's History Museum

You can find out more about Chris' work by reading his blog Unlocking Ideas or following him @UnlockIdeas