I want my vote!

I-want-my-vote

Front text: I want my vote!

This postcard features a kitten sitting in front of the three colours of the Women’s Social and Political Union, with the caption ‘I want my vote’. The postcard does not carry the name of a publisher or printer. Dating it is also difficult due to the lack of documentary records for postcards although it is probably from around 1908. This card seems to be one of the most common suffrage-themed cards judging by how readily available it is on eBay. It was the first suffrage-related postcard I bought and I now have a number of copies – I enjoy the messages written on the reverse of the cards.

The colours shown in the image were adopted in 1908 by the WSPU and were said to be representative of: white for purity, green for hope (youth or regeneration), and purple for dignity (loyalty or courage) (Tickner, 1987).

This postcard also featured in a more recent (2007) article on humour, used by and against those in the suffrage movement*. The writer, Krista Cowman, notes the use of images of animals and in particular of cats by commercial printers and comments that whilst this specific postcard is not ‘overtly hostile […] it could be read as an attempt at infantilization. Such images would appeal to those who found the suffrage campaign amusing and to its more passive supporters as it is not an overtly anti-suffragette image’. Reflecting its popularity it is also featured in several books about suffrage cards – page 89 of Watson (Suffragettes and the Post), page 47 of McDonald (Vindication! A Postcard History of the Women’s Movement) and page 57 of McQuiston (Suffragettes to She Devils: Women’s Liberation and Beyond).

A contemporaneous reference to the card which appeared on a women’s page of an American newspaper, the Baltimore Sun in 1910 can give us some insight into how it may have been viewed by some at the time of circulation. The anonymous writer describes the kitten as a ‘dear, little fluffy English pussy’ and the postcard as an ‘equal-suffrage card’. S/he writes of the postcard image: ‘It is adorned with the picture of an entirely adorable kitten – a black kitten with a white nose and breast and four white-gloved paws. It’s youth and helplessness are in amusing contrast to the demand written beneath it: “I want my vote.”’

The image of the kitten does seem to have been re-purposed to cater for consumers interested in the suffrage debate, I have seen several of other postcards dated to as early as 1906. The two below are captioned ‘I want my Ma!’. The first is postmarked 1906 and includes on the front ‘A kitten study’ under the main caption. The rear is also marked ‘The Wrench Series. Printed in England’. The second, postmarked 1911, has dropped the ‘kitten study’ reference and the rear only indicates that it was ‘Printed in Saxony’. The postcard company Evelyn Wrench went out of business in 1906 so it is unclear under what company the images were made. Another postcard using this image carries the caption ‘I’ve got my pension!’ (the Old Age Pensions Act was passed by Parliament in 1908).

I want my ma - A kitten study           I want my ma

Verso messages

I have 7 different copies of this postcard. The image of one is below and the others are offered only in transcription.

I want my vote - rear web

  • Card 1

Dear Ada./ Just a line to tell / you that we  cannot / the whole crowd / of single & married / women who are not / sufferegettes (sic). Do not / think or at least cannot grant / you of the feminine tribe / a vote under any considermt. // Yours from / the Anti Suff / Brigade // With best love from (George)

Sent to: Miss Ada Barlow / 418 High Street / Gouts Bridge / Lincoln.

  • Postmarked: Lincoln, October 29th 1908.
  • Card 2

Many happy / returns of the / day / […]

Sent to: Mr E. Cole /134 Thorpedale Rd / Hornsey Rd / N London.

Postmarked: Finsbury, November 17th 1911.

  • Card 3

Dear Addie / Have you got / your Vote. / (Alfonso)

Sent to: Miss A White / c/o Mrs Douglas / Groton House / Walmer.

Postmarked: Location unclear, October 17th 1908.

  • Card 4

Dear Girls. / Ethel and I / will be pleased to / come to tea with / you Wed. we will / be at Gloucester terminal at 4 oclock / I am feeling very / lazy to day Sun. // address / 23 Oak Village / Gospel Oak / NW // love to you / both. Maud / Fealy xxx

Sent to: The Misses Claxton / 102 Gloucester terrace / Hyde Park / W.

Postmarked: Hampstead, August 9th 1909.

  • Card 5

Kenilworth College. / Hastings / Sunday / My dear Mollie. / I am just / send you a P.C. / to add to your / collection. / Give my love to / Auntie, Uncle, / & baby. / With love. Ella.

Sent to: Miss Seaper / Hillside / Rodley / Newham / Gloucester.

Postmarked: Stamp removed – no information.

  • Card 6

Dear Nell & Clara / have sent you a photo of / your pet cat. I am staying / a few days with him. / all send their love to you both / Alice

Sent to: Mr […] / Sunny-Side / Penards Cross / Nr Slough / Bucks.

Postmarked: London S.W. Oct 31 [19]08 5.15 PM.

  • Card 7

Dear Myrtle / this is a Suffragette / Cat and they want / to vote / love to you all / Auntie May

Sent to: Miss Myrtle Ceale / 1005 Park Ave / Omaha / Neb. 

2 postmarks: (i) Location unreadable, 12.15PM / Oct 29; (ii) Omaha Neb / 4PM / Nov… / 1908. (British stamp)

Reference

* Cowman, Krista (2007) “Doing something silly”: the uses of humour by the Women’s Social and Political Union, 1903-1914. International Review of Social History, Vol 52, pp. 259-74.

Sunday morning, Newcastle Quayside

Sunday-morning-Newcastle

Front text:

Sunday morning, Newcastle Quayside, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Although I’m not certain that the woman speaking to the crowd on this postcard is definitely a suffragette it does seem quite likely. The card itself is unused and there are no further clues as to the identity of the woman or the occasion that brought the crowds to the quayside area.

Below is a similar postcard, also titled ‘Sunday morning, Newcastle Quayside, Newcastle-on-Tyne’. This one, mailed in 1915, unlike the one above does not have anyone speaking to the crowd but it does suggest that the large Sunday crowds were quite common.

Other picture

The publisher is listed as W.H. Smith & Son, Newcastle-on-Tyne. The only other text on the card reads ‘G 4351-346’.

Votes for Women

Image0025

Front text:

Votes for Women.

Two old “wemiiin”!!! wish you a jolly good-bye-

Guess who they are? =

This is a hand-made postcard that was created by sticking red stamps cut to shape onto a plain postcard to form a collage. The stamps are all Edward VII one penny stamps and the postmarks that are readable on the front are dated 1904-06. The meaning of the text is a little opaque although it seems clear that the strange spelling of women is not a misspelling as the word is spelt correctly elsewhere and is placed in speech marks.

I’ve seen a few available for sale over the years on the topic of women’s suffrage although, being hand-made, each is quite unique. Ian McDonald features another in his book (page 4, Vindication) and comments that a woman dressed in red and green on a white background would have been instantly recognisable as a member of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).  In his book Suffragettes and the Post (page 45), Norman Watson features three different home-made stamp collage cards, two by the same artist. The two are also posted in Paddington (West London) and the handwriting would suggest that it is the same creator as the card that I have.

Image0026

Verso:

Sent to: Master Hess / 29 Princes Square / Bayswater W

Posted: Paddington W / 12.15 AM / Oct 8

Hyde Park demonstration

Hyde park demonstration - front

Front text:

Hyde Park Demonstration, Sunday June 21 1908.

Mrs Pankhurst, Mrs Wostenholme Elmy.

The demonstration in Hyde Park on 21 June 1908 (‘Women’s Sunday’) was the first major event in support of women’s suffrage. Estimates of the number of people attending the event varies but it seems to have attracted 200-300,000 people. There were numerous marches and stages set up for speeches by the Pankhursts and other leading figures.

Capture

It was published by Sandle Brothers, Empire House, Paternoster Row, London EC. On the reverse of the card it states ‘No. 104, Photo, Half Tones’.

Hyde park - front

Front text:

Hyde Park Demonstration, Sunday June 21 1908.

Miss Christobel Pankhurst, LL.B & Mrs Pethick Lawrence.

I have another card from this demonstration and McDonald has a copy of one of the cards on page 45. The Museum of London has images of this event. A postcard shows the crowd and another, a photograph shows women preparing the banners.

Hyde park - back

MESSAGE: Dear G. / Arrived home safely / 12.30. lamps burnt alright I am / glad to say. It has started to / rain so cycling off. Have been / busy. Hope you have been / keeping fit. Kind regards / to all. BL&K Frank

SENT TO:  Miss .G. Ellis. / Fleetgate / Barton -on / Humber

POSTMARKED: Brigg / 6.5 PM / AU 31 / [19]08

A Lancashire Lass

Lancashire lass - front

Front text:

A Lancashire lass  in clogs and shawl being “escorted” through Palace Yard.

CHORUS

Take me back to Palace Yard, Palace Yard, Palace Yard,

That’s where I long to be, with the friends so dear to me;

The tall policeman, smiling, bland, to gently take me by the hand,

For Women’s Rights” anything we will dare; Palace Yard, take me there!

Parody on “Take me back to London Town”.

The suffragette in this postcard has been identified as Dora Thewlis, aged 16 at the time of the postcard, otherwise known as ‘Baby Suffragette’. She was actually from Yorkshire not Lancashire. This postcard is used as a cover of Jill Liddington’s book ‘Rebel Girls: How votes for women changed Edwardian lives’ and she has information about Thewlis. Several newspapers marked the release of her book with articles about Thewlis: The Independent (8th May 2006) carries an article entitled ‘Dora Thewlis: The lost suffragette’ and the Daily Mirror (10th June 2006) has an article entitled ‘The baby suffragette’.

McQuiston (Suffragettes to She Devils, page 26) has a copy of the postcard and writes that it was probably taken at a demonstration outside the House of Commons in 1907. The protest was at the failure of a bill introduced by W.H. Dickinson in March. She notes that it is unusual as it features a working woman. McDonald (Vindication! A postcard history of the women’s movement, page 37) feels that the card ‘marks a significant change in postcards of the movement by showing the involvement of working women and the authority of the police’. McDonald adds that it was also an early example of ‘news’ being made into a postcard.

Lancashire lass - rear

Verso message:

Dear ____ / Just a line to / hope you all well. / I hope you will enjoy / your holadays [sic.] / please write back / xxxx from Tom

  1. Gainard / 12 Baytons Bldgs / Ashton Gate

SENT TO: Miss L. Knight / 12 Carrington Road / Ashton Gate / Bedmister / Local

POSTMARKED: [Unclear] AUG 3 [190]7

London Life: arrest of a militant suffragette

London life - front

Front text:

10513-71   London Life.   Arrest of a militant suffragette.   Rotary Photo E.C.

Hustle them in, and bustle them in,

Scoop up th’ shriekin’ mob

Who says that “Justice” is going to win

When “the Law” takes up the job?”.

This postcard features the arrest of a suffragette, later identified as Mary Phillips. She has a policeman at each arm and the group are escorted by around six mounted police and others on foot. A male crowd watches as the group pass. Behind them is a bus heading to Kings Cross.

A  biography of Mary Phillips is available in Crawford’s The Women’s Suffrage Movement and online at Spartacus Education and a photograph of her at Bath in time. Copies of the postcard can be seen at the Museum of London and Diomedia.

London life - back

London Life. Votes for Women

The Suffragette

Front text:

 10513-10 London Life. “Votes for Women.” Rotary Photo, E.C.

According to Crawford, the Rotary Photo Company issued at least three ‘London Life’ suffrage postcards, two of women selling The Suffragette (1) this image; (2) a woman, identified as Jeanie Sheppard, in a horse-drawn cart; and (3) a woman being arrested (identified as Mary Phillips).

The woman in the image is wearing a ‘Holloway brooch’, a ‘brooch of honour’ designed by Sylvia Pankhurst for women who had been imprisoned in Holloway Prison. The brooch shows “a portcullis symbol of the House of commons, the gate and hanging chains in silver and the superimposed broad arrow in purple, white and green enamel“ (Crawford). According to the Museum of London it was first awarded to ex-prisoners at a demonstration at the Albert Hall on 29th April 1909. A photo of the Holloway brooch, can be seen at the Museum of London.

Close up

The newsletter ‘The Suffragette’ was published by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). It replaced the earlier ‘Votes for Women’ newsletter in 1912 following the ousting of the Pethick-Lawrences. The issue which is on display in the photograph (No. 2, October 25, 1912) may concern an important letter by written by James Barr to the Prison Commissioners (below) in which he describes the force-feeding of Rose Howey in Walton Prison, Liverpool in January 1910. Prior to this letter the official position on force-feeding was that it was done in order to save lives however Barr’s letter makes it clear that Howey was not at risk when she was force-fed. A copy of the letter from James Barr is available at Nerve.

The Suffragette - rear

Verso text

MESSAGE: Dear “Duchess”, I am sending you a p.c. at last, which I hope you will like. I expect  you received my letter last night. Please answer it quickly as I want something to read. Love from “Charlie”

SENT TO: Miss J. Meyer, The Retreat, 41 Wenham Drive, Westcliff-on-Sea

POSTMARKED: London 16 Oct [19]13

NWSPU Shop, Glastonbury

WSPU shop

This photograph shows the National Women’s Social and Political Union shop in Glastonbury. It carries several banners ‘Taxation without representation is tyranny’, ‘Votes for women’ and an advert for the ‘weekly newspaper Votes for Women’ available for one penny. According to Spartacus Educational, the newspaper was established in 1907 and was published monthly until April 1908 when it went weekly and from May 1908 it was reduced in price from 3 pennies to one penny.

The shop is now gone but the photograph below shows how Glastonbury High Street (number 82) looked when this photograph was taken a couple of years ago.

Modern

The NWSPU shop is where ‘Meridens’ is now situated. Clues that match the location are the windows of the upper two floors of the solid stone building next door – the window treatment, the door opening of the further (yellow) door and particularly the stringcourse, the stone line that defines the first and second floors—it’s stepped down a few inches in the centre of the building. An echo of the original building can also be seen on the side of stone building showing a mark where the roofline of the lower building abutted it.

There is a paper entitled ‘Commercial places, public spaces: suffragette shops and the public sphere‘ by John Mercer available online and a blog that also discusses the role of the WSPU shops in women’s lives.

WSPU shop rear

Verso text

Dr Miss F. This is Votes for Womens agricultural show series. Regards from […] Norbins Rd Victoria House Glastonbury

Sent to: Miss Francis Bridgewater Road Ashcott Nr B.Water

Postmarked: 8 April 1911

 Images of other shops

Twentieth Century Robbery

20th century robbery - front

Front text:

Twentieth Century Robbery! “Pay up and shut up”

The postcard shows a woman seated in a xxx being held up by two highway robbers. One of the robbers holds a pistol in one hand and his mask in the other. The other robber, on horseback, takes a bag of money from the woman. The bag is marked ‘Tax’. It relates to the ‘no taxation without representation’ campaign which emphasised the injustice of women having to pay taxes without having a say in how their taxes were used.

The artist’s name is Gladys Letcher and the card has no other publisher or printing information although a number of reliable sources credit it to the Suffrage Atelier, for example the Museum of London has a colour poster version. They name the two robbers as Liberals Asquith and Lloyd George and the date of the poster as 1912, published by the Suffrage Atelier. The postcard is also featured on page 159 of Tickner’s The Spectacle of Women.

Twentieth-c-robbery-reverse (3)

The Opportunist

Image0045

This postcard has the image of a woman in cap and gown riding on a sledge pulled by a politician riding a donkey. The woman is holding the donkey’s tail in one hand and a scroll with Women’s Franchise Bill written on it in the other. Around the donkey’s neck is a sash that says ‘ANTI SS’. This is likely to stand for ‘Anti Suffrage Society’ (ASS). The title is ‘The Opportunist’ and it is signed with the letters: EBW. There are no printer/publisher names.

The postcard is unused but writing on the reverse of the card says ‘W Asquith. A suffragist done by Miss Willis – Suffrage Atelier’.

Image0046

An online copy of The Common Cause, dated 25 November 1909 mentions this card under the heading Suffrage Publications:

The Suffrage Atelier. – Every week new postcards from the Suffrage Atelier, and some of the newest would be a refreshing change from the hackneyed Christmas card. Among them may be mentioned “The Opportunist,” “Might is Right,” and two amusing cards representing Mr. Asquith variously as Canute and a child pulling the petals of a daisy – “This year, next year. Sometime – !”

A write up, although no scan of the card is available at The Museum of London and they identify the artist as EB Willis. Harvard University Library also has a copy of The Opportunist along with the other three mentioned in the Common Cause – Might is Right, King Asquith Canute and In the dim and speculative future.