Imprisoned Suffragettes and their Visual Tools of Power

WSPU Procession 18 June 1910

Copyright: Speed, R / Source: UEA Archives

WSPU ‘From Prison to Citizenship’ procession, 18 June 1910

Unboxed blogger and UEA graduate, Nicholl Hardwick, explores the importance of the broad arrow symbol in suffragette protests.

This photograph captures one of the earliest mass marches organised by the suffrage movement.

As you focus in on the picture, it becomes clear that many of the women are carrying unique staffs. Yet not many of us may know what these visual tools symbolise.

Almost 15,000 women walked together from the Embankment to the Albert Hall in London, in order to hear Christabel Pankhurst and other suffragette leaders speak. These particular staffs represented the “broad arrow” symbol which was a triple line stitched or painted on prisoners’ uniforms at the time. The women carrying these staffs had all been imprisoned for their suffragette activities, hence their use of the symbol.

The staffs make a striking image, especially when considering how many women were holding them. They honoured the actions of those women who saw the crucial need to not just leave their families, but also to risk their freedom and health in their pursuit of gender equality. These staffs represented strength, solidarity, focus and togetherness, and demonstrated that this was a powerful movement whose aims and demands needed to be taken seriously and with empathy.

The scene appears chaotic and stifling, yet it represents bravery, progress and power. The suffragette movement was not without its exclusions and indications of deep-rooted racial prejudice, but it also contained elements of revolution, effective change and radical direct action that have influenced the ways in which many women participate in politics and protest today.

Source: The photograph is held within the papers of Suffragette, Annie Kenney, as part of the Kenney Papers at the University of East Anglia. Kenney was a suffragette pioneer who contributed considerably to the movement and its inclusion of working class women. The march ended at the Royal Albert Hall, where Kenney gave a speech. To visit the archive, email

View a short clip from the demonstration (BFI):



Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: May 2018

Suffragettes Heritage Project

Stanislava Dikova and Annie Kelly (Consortium for Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) placements) started on 8 May. They have been working to a tight deadline, selecting, describing and digitising materials from the suffragette archive (Kenney Papers) for a creative writing workshop and other community engagement workshops taking place within Norfolk Library service, as well as digitising materials which are soon to be loaned for an exhibition in Oldham.


Graham Linehan (Father Ted, IT Crowd …) held two scriptwriting seminars on 18 May – ‘Creating Ideas’ and ‘Writing Comedy’. These were held in the Enterprise Centre and hosted by the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW) & Dr Brett Mills (Art, Media & American Studies). 25 students attended.

‘Genuine & hilarious screenwriter imparting knowledge & experience.’
‘Brilliant insights into the industry, charismatic delivery.’
‘Excellent mix of self-reference and contemporary examples from elsewhere.’


The Academic and Research Libraries Group (ARLG) Eastern visited on 22 May for a general introduction to the BACW.

Doris Lessing Archive

A visiting postgraduate student researching ‘Gender, Culture and Social Change in the Fiction of Margaret Drabble’ has visited to read the correspondence between Lessing and her friend Drabble. Listing of this correspondence.

Kenney Papers (suffragettes)

KP-JK-Russian Diary CoverNorwich based ‘Art at Work’ visited our suffragette archives as part of an art and wellbeing community project funded for Suffragette 100 celebrations. They had the opportunity to see a display of archive material and were especially drawn to the 1917 Russian diary. This documents a three-month government sponsored trip made by Jessie Kenney and Emmeline Pankhurst as part of an effort to gain the support of Russian women in the war. The unpublished manuscript was prepared under the title The Price of Liberty.

Naomi Alderman Archive

MA students of Contemporary Fiction are visiting individually to study the first draft of The Power, winner of the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Pritchard Papers

PP. writer has visited over two days to work on the finalisation of a publication on Lawn Road Flats, the modernist building designed by Wells Coates and opened in 1934.

UEA Collection

  • Architectural consultants have visited to research some of UEA’s iconic buildings. They are assisting Estates in developing a buildings conservation strategy.
  • We have been trying to find a 1973 article which apparently appeared in the UEA student magazine Twice on dyeing the fountain in the Square pink. Whilst we have found a news cutting on the adding of soap powder, we have yet to find the ‘pink’ article.

Zuckerman Archive

A UEA academic is consulting bombing survey reports and papers on the WWII bombing of Pantelleria and mainland Italy. The island was invaded by Allied forces on 11 June 1943 under the code name of Operation Corkscrew.

Special Collections

There were 20 enquiries; and a visit from a MA Art History class studying the works of Peter Henry Emerson – Wild life on a tidal water: the adventures of a houseboat and her crew (1890); and Marsh leaves from the Norfolk broad-land (1898).


Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: April 2018


Norfolk Festival of Nature ‘celebrating the cultural relationships that exist between people and nature’ took place at the Forum in Norwich on 21 & 22 April. The literary element of the event was launched by Jos Smith and included Mark Cocker in conversation with Jean McNeil; the launch of Cocker’s new book Our Place and discussion and debate on ‘nature’s moral conscience’, nature conservation and the role of nature writing. The BACW displayed archive materials from Cocker’s collection.

NFON Exhibition Evening

Norfolk Festival of Nature

Teaching sessions in the Archives

• LDC PGT Publishing Module. This featured selected correspondence and manuscripts from the archives of: Tash Aw, Richard Beard, Andrew Cowan, Roger Deakin and Doris Lessing. Students were introduced to the BACW; they explored the editorial process and relationships between authors, editors and agents through real examples; and reflected on their own literary archives.

‘Seeing hard evidence of how an author and their agent talks formally with publishers is very helpful as an aspiring writer.’
‘Highly relevant. I concentrated only on Tash Aw’s story. It is neatly organized and I got to know the whole story from pitching to promotion of a book.’

Spring 2018 Visit MA Publishing cropped

LDC PGT Publishing Module

• LDC UG Short Stories Module. The students were able to see drafts, workshop comments and correspondence relating to Tash Aw’s short story The Sail, Naomi Alderman’s award winning Gravity and Sarah Taylor’s novel The Shore (a novel developed from short stories).

‘It was interesting to see and read the whole process of writing a short story.’
‘Seeing the steps of the process changes the way I think about the story.’


The Librarian from Cornell University, New York has visited to explore our research materials relating to American Studies.

A.P. Watt Archive

Following the recent death of the novelist Philip Kerr (1956-2018), his embargoed papers within this collection have now been made available. Kerr is the creator of the Bernie Gunther detective thriller series.

Charles Pick Archive

Requests relating to the wider William Heinemann archive are being referred to the Random House Group Archive and Library

Mark Cocker Archive

A recent deposit of papers relating to Loneliness and Time: British Travel Writing in the Twentieth Century (1992) has been listed and made available. Contains biographical research papers and correspondence concerning prominent travel writers.

Naomi Alderman Archive

MA students of Contemporary Fiction are visiting individually to study the first draft of The Power, winner of the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Patricia Crampton Archive

Patricia Crampton (1)

Miffy stories by Dick Bruna; translated by Patricia Crampton

This gifted archive from a literary translator of mainly children’s books arrived on 10 April. Re-boxing and an initial sort of the papers has begun.

Zuckerman Archive

• A survivor of the Hull blitz has been re-united with the essay she wrote as a 10 year old as part of a government psychological survey on the effects of bombing.
• Another recipient of an essay has written back ‘Not only is it personally very moving but it also offers a fascinating insight into a key period of our history.’
More on the 2,000 Hull school essays.

Special Collections

17 enquiries

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: March 2018

Teaching sessions in the Archives

• Literature, Drama and Creative Writing ‘Space Fiction’ module. The session focussed on Lessing’s Memoirs of a Survivor, Shikasta and Canopus in Argos, her interviews, related correspondence and wider reflections on ‘space’ and ‘science fiction’.

• LDC UG Poetics of Place module. This session focussed on the creation of book proposals in nature writing and drew on material from Mark Cocker and Roger Deakin.

Fascinating secret-seeming place. I feel there’s a lot of chances to get inspired down here and I’ll be back.

Amazing rich breadth of material.

• HISTORY UG History Controversy and Debate Module. This session focused on allowing the students to explore primary resources for the first time, including microfilm, correspondence and WWI material from the suffragette archives.

Found it interesting and useful to be able to see sources in same format as they were made, to bring history to life.

The session provides a practical and hands on way of showcasing the importance of primary sources, which I personally find very interesting.

Doris Lessing ArchiveDL 116

• A UEA MA student has been examining Lessing’s correspondence and works for references relating to the theme of domestic space. The confines and responsibilities of domestic life are a recurring theme in Lessing’s works and in her archive.
• An English student from a London university has asked for a citation of Lessing’s letter to John Major’s Private Secretary, refusing a damehood (DBE). She is later quoted as saying “When young I did my best to undo that bit of the British Empire I found myself in.”

Kenney Papers (Suffragettes)

• We are trying to trace a leaflet referenced to the Kenney Papers. It contains a 1918 general election speech by Christabel Pankhurst. This highlights the importance of referencing with as much detail and accuracy as possible.
• The British Library has sought copyright permission for the digitisation of a letter by Annie Kenney to Arthur Balfour which is currently on display in the Treasures Gallery.
• A 2nd year history student has visited to research her essay on the Kenney sisters.

Sara Taylor Archive

Shore (9)

Manuscript of The Shore

This collection has now been listed and is available for consultation. Taylor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Prose Fiction) from UEA (2013), and completed the Ph.D. in Creative and Critical Writing at UEA in 2017. This loan deposit includes novel manuscripts, correspondence, notebooks, and detailed research papers. Also included are submissions and workshopped pieces from the MA in Creative Writing with notes from visiting writer Ali Smith. Some of the short story submissions were later worked into her published novels The Shore and The Lauras.

UEA Collection

A UEA academic has visited to read the report by former Student Union President Ian McKenzie to the Vice-Chancellor on a visit made to the University by MP John Carlisle on 24/4/86. This forms part of Richard Grayson’s deposit (former UEA SU General Secretary and Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate).

Zuckerman Archive

• Staff at the Royal Zoological Society have expressed an interest in seeing the almost 50 boxes we have on the Society. Zuckerman was Secretary from 1955-1977 and President from 1977-1984.
• A request has been received for reports and surveys of the Allies’ campaign against Germany. These form part of the work of the RAF’s Bombing Analysis Unit, formed in 1944. Zuckerman was its Scientific Director.
• Portrait photographs of Zuckerman and the bombing aftermath of a German factory have been supplied for a public lecture at the Wellington Goethe Institut (4 May) entitled The Firebombing of German Cities, 1939-45.
• A returning visitor is researching The Committee on the Management and Control of Research and Development, 1958-1963.

Special Collections

18 enquiries

Ingmar Bergman, Doris Lessing & inconsistencies of the human psyche

by Johanne Elster Hanson (Unboxed)

After the success of films such as Through a Glass Darkly, The Silence and Persona in the 1960s, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman continued to explore the contradictive human psyche in his works. It was during this period that he first read Doris Lessing’s Briefing for a Decent into Hell.


In 1974, Bergman wrote an admiring letter to Lessing in which he proposed a meeting between the two in order to discuss a potential film adaptation of one of her novels. The letter is dated September 1st 1974 and is held in the British Archive for Contemporary Writing at University of East Anglia. In it the director expresses deep gratitude towards Lessing, and claims to have read almost all of the Swedish translations of her works. In Lessing’s 1962 novel The Golden Notebook, Bergman claimed to have found the material for more than ten different feature films.

Lessing’s reply on September 12th matches Bergman in admiration and enthusiasm: Pleased with his letter, she tells him how he is “the film-maker I most respect and admire.” She goes on to discuss her new book The Memoirs of a Survivor that is about to be published in the UK, and asks him to read it before their meeting. She also recounts how the writing of her last book The Summer Before The Dark was almost cinematic; “This is the only novel I have ever written when this happened to me – that as I was putting the word down, it was as if I were describing a film running before my eyes.” Lessing sent Bergman an English copy of Memoirs of a Survivor, and signed off by saying how she looked forward “very much” to hearing from him. However, the enthusiastic correspondence preserved in the British Archive for Contemporary Writing bore no fruits: Bergman never made a film based on Lessing’s book, although a film of Memoirs of a Survivor was later directed by David Gladwell and starred Julie Christie.

Michael Tapper, an affiliated researcher in film studies at Lund University in Sweden, writes in his 2017 book Ingmar Bergman’s Face to Face that Bergman appreciated how Lessing gave “credibility to insanity and/or dream as a reflection of an absurd existence”. Lessing’s The Golden Notebook tells the story of writer Anna Wulf who attempts to tie together various aspects of her life through coloured notebooks. The book’s fragmented, post-modern narrative must have appealed to Bergman; his film Cries and Whispers, a psychological chamber piece about four women whose pasts are revealed through flashbacks, had premiered at the Cannes Film Festival the year before he wrote to Doris Lessing.

2018 marks the centenary of the Swedish filmmaker’s birth. The British Film Institute is celebrating the filmmaker, who died in 2007, with its very own Bergman-festival. Stretching across three months from January through March, the festival involves screenings of classics such as The Seventh Seal, Scenes from a Marriage and Fanny & Alexander, as well as some if his lesser-known films. Given Bergman and Lessing’s overlapping interest in the inconsistencies of the human psyche, any collaboration between them would no doubt have been one of the headlines at the British Film Institute’s Bergman-festival.

 Johanne Elster Hanson is a second year undergraduate at the University of East Anglia, currently studying English Literature with Creative Writing and working as a volunteer blogger for the British Archive for Contemporary Writing’s Unboxed programme. A native Norwegian, she is particularly interested in translation and cases where Scandinavian and British culture overlaps.

Doris Lessing’s archive of correspondence is held at the University of East Anglia’s British Archive for Contemporary Writing. To visit the archive please email:



What’s the key to a brilliant piece of writing? Revisions – lots of them

Yin Lim uncovers the editing process behind the short fiction of award winning UEA MA graduate, Tash Aw, and his reluctance to alter the ending of his debut novel.

Authors will tell you that good writing is the product of countless edits and rewrites as they polish the work until they deem it ready for public consumption. For instance, Neil Gaiman recommends putting away a completed manuscript until the author can read it with ‘new eyes’ to be able to fix it, while Kazuo Ishiguro spends an average of six hours a day on his later drafts and revisions – twice the time he takes to work on his first drafts. Recent Booker prize winner George Saunders says that the artist ‘tweaks’ what is already there.

For award-winning author and UEA alumnus Tash Aw, it would take many revisions before he was happy for his short story Sail to be published in A Public Space, an award-winning literary and arts magazine. Annotated drafts that form part of archival material loaned by Aw to the British Archive for Contemporary Writing (BACW) at the University of East Anglia provide a fascinating insight into the all-important practice of revision. Through these documents we can see Aw’s process of writing the piece which tells the story of Yanzu, a Chinese businessman who despite his financial successes, still struggles with a sense of insecurity and failure following the end of a love affair. It’s a rare opportunity to peer into the author’s mind as we read his handwritten notes about the different ideas he had for the piece as it developed; for example, whether a specific section would eventually become the main set piece of the short story.

Going through these drafts, it’s not hard to be curious about the thought processes that prompted Aw to make his revisions; why he replaced certain words and sentences, moved around sections or omitted them altogether, deleted secondary characters and developed a new ending. Some of these revisions would have been responses to comments made by fellow author Yiyun Li, who is also a contributing editor with A Public Space. In a 2011 e-mail exchange with Aw, Li noted how one of the characters felt flat, and suggested that some cuts and revisions could help heighten conflict in the story. The final draft of Sail reveals that Aw also took into consideration Li’s feedback about shortening or changing a book club scene in the story, with the end result being a tighter and subtler version of the earlier drafts.

Not all editors’ feedback are necessarily as well-received however. Aw believed that revisions suggested by editor Cindy Spiegel of Riverhead Books, the US publisher of his debut novel The Harmony Silk Factory, could potentially alter the very essence of the book. A letter exchange between Aw and Spiegel reveals how Aw spent a month working on Spiegel’s edit notes and ‘agonising’ over them before finally making the decision to stand by his original ending instead of modifying it as Spiegel recommended.   As important as the process of editing and revising is to improving a manuscript, equally crucial is the author’s conviction of what works and what doesn’t.

This correspondence can be found in Aw’s archive within the BACW, which also includes typescripts, editorial comments and correspondence with agents and publishers for the critically-acclaimed The Harmony Silk Factory, whose draft manuscript was completed while Aw was on UEA’s MA Creative Writing (Prose Fiction) in 2003.

Yin F Lim is an MA student in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction at the UEA. A former journalist and editor, she is writing about her grandparents’ migration from China to colonial Malaya from her perspective as a recent immigrant to the UK. 

Tash Aw (1971-) a prize winning author and graduate of the MA in Creative Writing (Prose). Aw has produced three novels, all to critical acclaim: The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), Map of the Invisible World (2009) and Five Star Billionaire (2013). He is winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and has twice been longlisted for the MAN Booker prize. His short fiction has won an O. Henry Prize and been published in A Public Space, the landmark Granta 100, and elsewhere.  His non-fiction book, The Face: Strangers on a Pier, was a finalist for the LA Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose. 

More on the The Tash Aw Archive at BACW (UEA)

To visit the British Archive for Contemporary Writing, email 

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: February 2018

Teaching and training sessions in the Archives

• UG Digital Media: Theory and Practice. This session allowed students to consider the complexities and challenges of various formats of archival material and how they may best be tackled in terms of digitisation and access.
• Literature, Drama and Creative Writing (LDC) UG Reading texts: The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing. Students had the opportunity to see letters from Clancy Sigal – Lessing’s American lover and inspiration for the character, Saul.
• LDC UG Writing the Wild. Students were introduced to the Archives and its nature writing collections, and listened to interviews with Richard Mabey, Mark Cocker, Roger Deakin, and Robert MacFarlane.
• Blog writing workshop for ‘Unboxed’ volunteers. Two sessions were delivered by Claire Hynes (UEA Academic and Guardian writer), coinciding with ‘Do Something Different Week’.

“Good for learning the art of writing concisely and with a more personal and less academic touch.”
“Such an informative day which helped me tremendously. Would definitely recommend.”

• PGT MA Contemporary Fiction. An in depth look at literary archives and a chance to delve into Naomi Alderman’s complex born digital archive and see a first draft of The Power.

BACW-MA Contemp W feb 2018

The complexities of a digital archive.

• UG Contemporary Fiction. This session focussed on the works of Adam Foulds.

Doris Lessing Archive

A Guardian article features a lovely photograph from the Archives of Lessing with her baby son Peter. The photo was one sent by Lessing to her lover John Whitehorn in the 1940s. The parent trap: can you be a good writer and a good parent? Guardian Review by Lara Fiegel. Issue no. 6, 24/2/18.

Kenney Papers (Suffragettes)

• A visitor has been researching the friendship of Annie Kenney and Constance Lytton.
• Annie Kenney donated a number of artefacts to a ‘record room and museum’, the Lytton Estate is keen to identify the repository. Items included a bannerette and hat worn by Constance Lytton and a tablecloth worked by members of the W.S.P.U. of Knebworth. AK.JK. donation list
• The Government Equalities office is promoting the Archives’ suffragette display. Celebrating votes for women.

Roger Deakin Archive

Swimming trunks (1)

Deakin’s swimming trunks

Bathers at the Kenilworth lido are tapping into Deakin’s legacy as they try to save their swimming pool. Deakin swam in this pool as a child and recalls these impressionable early swims with his uncle on p. 2 of Waterlog. Campaign page.

Deakin has also been a source of interest to a researcher focussing on writers of the Waveney Valley in Suffolk. Listen to Deakin’s canoe journey down the River Waveney (BBC Radio 4).

Special Collections

20 enquiries

Jessie Kenney and the Battalion of Death

Adam Baker, third-year History undergraduate student at the University of East Anglia delves into the 1917 Russian diary of suffragette, Jessie Kenney, and an account of a  military procession on the 13th of July when Kenney and Emmeline Pankhurst met the ‘First Women’s Battalion of Death’, a newly formed group, led by the non-commissioned officer Maria Bochkarëva.

During Emmeline Pankhurst’s 1917 Russian expedition, Jessie Kenney met with the First Women’s Battalion of Death. The newly formed group, led by the non-commissioned officer Maria Bochkarëva, participated in a procession on the 13th of July. But why did a country in the grips of a bitter conflict decide to host such an elaborate event, and how did a women’s battalion come to exist in a country where many of its soldiers weren’t even full citizens?

Though Bochkarëva may have formed the first women’s battalion, this was certainly not the first time women had fought for Russia during the First World War. Russian women dug trenches, served as nurses and mechanics, and drove military vehicles. A few became pilots. Not all were satisfied with these roles, however. Some women secretly joined the front lines by enlisting as men. A select few (such as Bochkarëva) became officers, but those who promoted them were usually aware that they were women. Female combatants often outshone their male counterparts. Female soldiers were by definition enthusiastic volunteers, as only men were conscripted. Furthermore, women who had joined disguised as men had to display better discipline in order to avoid discovery. Bochkarëva carried this strictness over to her regiment, leading to 1700 of her original 2000 volunteers quitting. Her battalion was forbidden from showing ‘feminine’ qualities, such as having long hair or giggling.

The patriotism of the Russian women was admired by Kenney. In her unpublished memoir, she went as far as to call it “one of the greatest patriotic demonstrations being held during the revolution”1 – and Kenney had seen plenty of them during her tour. Kenney also noted the presence of a wounded soldier’s battalion, showing that the women were not the only patriots itching to get back to the war. The presence of the wounded battalion shows that the Russian spirit was uplifted by the Women’s Battalion, something that Alexander Kerensky had hoped for when they formed in March 1917. The Provisional Government decided that volunteer groups would reinvigorate front line troops who were becoming tired of the defensive war they were waging. Their patriotism would not have been lost on Emmeline Pankhurst, either. Her mission to Russia was also a patriotic one, encouraging the Russian people not to accept German treaties and to continue to fight alongside Britain. By 20 July 1917, just 7 days after this procession, all Russian women had gained the right to vote.

In October 1917, the Women’s Battalion was called to defend the Winter Palace. The 1000-strong battalion was unable to overcome the 40,000 Bolshevik soldiers, and they surrendered.

Further Reading:

  • Jessie Kenney Archive, Kenney Papers, University of East Anglia: KP/JK/4/1 Russian Diary available at the UEA Archives KP/JK/4/1 [Specific sub-files: KP/JK/4/1/1 Desk diary, 1917; KP/JK/4/1/6 The Price of Liberty, c. 1966 (unpublished memoir)]
  • ‘They fought for Russia: Female Soldiers of the First World War’ by Laurie Stoff. (From: A Soldier and a Woman. Edited by Gerard J. DeGroot and Corinna Peniston-Bird)

This blog is submitted as part of UEA’s Unboxed programme.

Battling for recognition: the suffragettes’ struggle with revolutionary Russia

Helen Williams is a first year undergraduate student at the University of East Anglia, currently studying History and working as a volunteer blogger on the University’s archives.

The events of 1917 forced a total revision of Russian society and governance, including to no small degree the status of women. From the beginning, female initiative had helped drive the revolution, the catalyst for which had been International Women’s Day; amid already heated discontent in Petrograd, women helped streamline protest by organising groups and compelled workers in Putilov to strike. By the next day, it had spread throughout the city. Its female residents continued to play a decisive role – such as swaying the Cossacks to join their forces against the czar[1] – and under the Russian Provisional Government, supported in part by women from both political and military angles, the trend promised to continue.

This was not lost on Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the suffragette movement in Britain. In June 1917, she and fellow suffragette Jessie Kenney travelled to Petrograd with two objectives: to appeal for Russia’s continuation of the war in the name of the Allied cause and, potentially, further her feminist agenda across Europe. The first was a daunting task. War had brought Russia to the brink of destruction, and advocation of peace at any price was by no means the preserve of her inhabitants. Pacifist Britons such as Labour Party member Ramsay McDonald supported the idea despite the ramifications it would have for the Allies. Pankhurst’s own daughter Sylvia was amongst those campaigning for British and Russian withdrawal.[2] Within Russia itself, the polemic ran deeper still.

Kenney’s diary papers, however, reveal an optimism on the part of both women that they could have an impact. Hindsight might tempt us to imagine this was misplaced; the Provisional Government would prove unable to sustain itself, much less Russia’s already unlikely position in the war. British Ambassador to Russia George Buchanan – with whom Pankhurst dined on the 27th – had earlier that morning voiced fears that this would happen to Prince Georgy Lvov[3], the new government’s Prime Minister. Yet nor was the suffragettes’ hope entirely unfounded, either. The Provisional Government was beginning to cultivate a securer position abroad – the USA had become the first foreign power to officially recognise it on 9th May[4] – and at home, through the person of the still-popular Minister of War, Alexander Kerensky. Indeed, public approval for him was reaching its zenith at this time,[5] fuelled by the initial success of a renewed offensive, just as Kenney was making her entries back in Petrograd. She and Pankhurst thus had little reason to doubt Mr Henderson when he reassured them that the Provisional Government ‘had got a much stronger hand’.

Perhaps the two suffragettes were more successful in their second objective. Kenney’s writing, furthermore, bespeaks a warmth with which those in the government were prepared to welcome them. Lvov himself displays a deep interest in Pankhurst’s work, shared by Minister of Posts and Telegrams Iraki Tsereteli, who Kenney tells us invites her opinions on Russia’s political future. That future saw women’s suffrage achieved less than a month later in July – almost a year before any woman could boast the same in Britain. Pankhurst and Kenney found in the Provisional Government friendly and perhaps genuine support for their cause, if not the guarantee of support for the Allies they had hoped for.

They would have been helped by their movement’s reputation, which preceded their arrival in Russia. While this, too, provoked polarisation, Kenney’s entries focus on the positive, extolling a mutual enthusiasm for female empowerment. She gives particular attention to the workers, and small wonder – June 1917 saw several strikes in Petrograd, initiated by women who were ‘extremely low-paid… principally laundrywomen, catering workers and women dye-workers’.[6] The two suffragettes would have seen all this; that Kenney underscores the issue of wage inequality so – directly repeating what Russian women had to say about it at their factory meeting – demonstrates how deeply it affected her.

Pankhurst herself had been just as – if not more – impressed by another group of women, namely Petrograd’s Women’s Battalion of Death. If Buchanan had disclosed to her his reservations about the Russian war effort during their luncheon on the 27th, they did not deter her from directly reaching out to the unit that same night, speaking at a concert to raise funds for them. The visit to their barracks two days earlier recorded by Kenney must have excited Pankhurst. She saw her own determination for both success in the war and female empowerment replicated in the battalion, for like the suffragettes themselves in Britain, there were women in Russia using voluntary participation in the war effort to work towards female suffrage.[7] Kenney mentions Maria Bochkareva, the battalion’s leader and creator. Of both her and her work, Pankhurst would write ‘glowing reports’[8], and photographs of the pair linked arm-in-arm survive, bespeaking a genuine affinity between them. Bochkareva, for her part, would remember Pankhurst fondly in her autobiography.[9]

Kenney and Pankhurst’s visit to Russia – and all that the former wrote of it – show many parallels between the changing status of women there and in Britain as a result of the First World War. In other ways, they contradicted each other, especially after the two countries’ military interests were no longer aligned. Yet that the two suffragettes could have come away from Russia with some positive memories such as these shows that in another fight, one in which women across nations were uniting, a degree of success had been justly felt.

This blog is part of the Unboxed programme.

Primary source: The Kenney Papers, University of East Anglia, KP/JK/4/1 Russian Diary

[1] Martin Sixsmith, Russia (London: BBC Books, 2012), p.185.

[2] June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biography (Psychology Press, 2002), p.292.

[3] George Buchanan, My Mission to Russia and Other Diplomatic Memories, Vol. II (London: Cassell & Co. Ltd, 1923), p.147.

[4] Roy Bainton, 1917: Russia’s Year of Revolution (London: Constable & Robinson Ltd., 2005), p.91.

[5] Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 (USA: Penguin Books), p.410.

[6] S. A. Smith, Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories, 1917–1918. (Cambridge University Press, 2010), p.118.

[7] Linda Harriet Edmondson. Feminism in Russia 1900-1917. (Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 1984), p.167.

[8] Rex A. Wade, Revolutionary Russia: New Approaches to the Russian Revolution of 1917. (New York: Routledge, 2004), p.122.

[9] Maria Bochkareva, Yashka: My Life as Peasant, Officer and Exile, (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1919), p.168.


Bainton, Roy. 1917: Russia’s Year of Revolution. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd., 2005.

Bochkareva, Maria. Yashka: My Life as Peasant, Officer and Exile. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1919.

Buchanan, George. My Mission to Russia and Other Diplomatic Memories, Vol. II London: Cassell & Co. Ltd, 1923.

Edmondson, Linda Harriet. Feminism in Russia 1900-1917. Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 1984.

Figes, Orlando. A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924. Rpt. Pimlico, London, 1997.

Purvis, June. Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biography. Psychology Press, 2002.

Sixsmith, Martin. Russia. London: BBC Books, 2012.

Smith, S. A. Red Petrograd: Revolution in the Factories, 1917–1918. Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Stockdale, Melissa K. ‘”My Death for the Motherland Is Happiness”: Women, Patriotism, and Soldiering in Russia’s Great War, 1914-1917’, in The American Historical Review, Vol. 109, No. 1, February 2004.

Wade, Rex A. Revolutionary Russia: New Approaches to the Russian Revolution of 1917. New York: Routledge, 2004.


‘Do Different’: a motto to be remembered, quoted and practised

Each year the UEA Students’ Union hosts a week-long festival of events encouraging students to ‘Do Something Different’, try something new, build knowledge and experience, meet new friends and have fun along the way. A wide range of extra-curricular activities are submitted to the programme, there’s something for everyone. By the end of the week (19-23 Feb) it is hoped that as many as possible will be able to say “I did different.”

This tradition is very much in keeping with the spirit of UEA when ‘Do different’ was adopted as the fledgling university’s motto in 1963. ‘Do different’ can be seen embedded in the foot of our coat of arms, along with three gold crowns symbolising the ancient kingdom of East Anglia, an angel holding an open book to indicate a place of learning and Norwich Castle at its centre.UEA Do different

Choosing a motto proved more controversial than deciding on the design of a coat of arms. The last thing Frank Thistlethwaite (founding Vice-Chancellor) wanted for a mid-twentieth century university was yet another late Victorian Latin tag. He was encouraged in this by medieval historian and friend Michael Maclagan. “Heraldry, [Maclagan] said, ever since it first evolved had been characterised by an element of pageant, of theatre, indeed of kitsch. Mottos should be bold and simple and were often in the vernacular.”

Ever since Thistlethwaite had come to Norwich he had enjoyed the Norfolk dialect saying ‘in Norfolk we du different’. He used the phrase as the theme in an early speech and won praise from the Eastern Evening News which ran with a headline ‘Du Different a Virtue’. The expression is based on the independent spirit of East Anglians who prefer the course of action they feel to be right to that which is conventional. When encouraged by the dean of BIO, Thomas Bennet-Clark, Thistlethwaite jumped at the chance to adopt it, though after going through the College of Arms mill it emerged as ‘Do different’.

UEA.SMI Do different (1)

Adrian Smith’s letter home, 1964.

It was found to be a contentious choice, some thinking it was making fun at the Norfolk dialect. Others praised it for expressing the independent nature of the local character. UEA’s attempt to produce a motto which broke with tradition, yet aimed to please, won it instant recognition for living up to its motto from the outset.

The rightness of the choice, as Thistlethwaite pointed out many decades later, has been proven over time, a motto not only remembered but quoted; and in this week of ‘Do Something Different’, brought into play.

Thistlethwaite, Frank. Origins: a personal reminiscence of UEA’s foundation.
UEA Collection/SMI (student’s correspondence, 1963-1966)].