Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: March 2019

Productions

Isokon and the Bauhaus in Britain (001)The Archives is pleased to have been of assistance to Leyla Daybelge and Magnus Englund with their publication Isokon and the Bauhaus in Britain. Pavilion Books. Published March 2019. The authors made countless research trips to the Archives, researching the Pritchard Papers.

Jos Smith (Director of the British Archive for Contemporary Writing) and Fiona Sinclair (UEA Archive’s Writer in Residence) were interviewed on local radio (BBC Radio Norfolk, 15 March). They talked about our local theatre collections as well as the Suffragette Stories community project and the significance of some tree-clippings (remnants of an arboretum planted by the suffragettes).

Teaching

MA Publishing Module, 4 March

Students had the opportunity to look at selected correspondence between authors, their agents, editors and publishers. Some letters are tense and fractious, others are encouraging and bear good news.

For those interested in literary translation the papers of translator John Fletcher (UEA Emeritus Professor) provided insight into the translation process, the time pressures of authors and publishers and the importance of watertight contracts. Nine attendees.

“It was really interesting to look at the letters regarding the publication process.”

“It’s been relevant to the whole Creative Writing course actually!”

LDC UG Creative Writers, 5 March (pm & late pm)

These two sessions focussed on the texts of Sara Taylor (The Shore). 16 attendees.

“It was extremely helpful to see how a published writer develops their work through redrafting. I felt inspired by her methods and will use these in my own writing.”

“ … Reading other people’s comments on the draft and the editors’ notes, and seeing how the author adapted the feedback or rejected it was also interesting.”

LDC PGT Contemporary Fiction, 7 March

Naomi Alderman The Power. 13 attendees.

“The session gave me a perspective which I would not have grasped on my own.”

LDC PGT Poetics of Place, 14 March

Deakin - Treyarnon Cornwall

Roger Deakin – Treyarnon Bay Cornwall

This module led by Jos Smith looked at proposals for Mark Cocker and Roger Deakin’s books, TV and radio programmes. Also Deakin’s preliminary work for Waterlog. Seven attendees and two additional visitors.

LDC PGT Feminist Writing, 20 March

A chance to explore feminist views in the works and letters of Doris Lessing, Margaret Drabble, Muriel Spark, prominent suffragettes, and Naomi Alderman. 11 attendees.

“This is my first archive session, and I wish I had done one sooner. This really is a great resource and I will definitely aim to sit in again.”

“Some great resources that I otherwise would’ve been unaware of. Great starting points to inspire our summative projects.”

“The material is great for specific information and contextualising ideologies or societal views.”

PGT Module ‘Cultural Heritage in the Digital Age’. Two three hour module seminars led by Justine Mann (Archivist) and Annie Kelly (Digitisation Assistant) on the Suffragette Stories project, 19 and 26 March

IMG_0540

Session one – Students worked with us in the Digitisation Suite (within UEA Media Suite) to digitise unique archive material from our suffragette archives. They worked through the process of capturing & enhancing digital surrogates in preparation for adding to the Suffragette Stories UEA digital exhibition. Nine attendees.

Session two – Students were given an overview of UEA Archives’ recent digitisation and engagement project, Suffragette Stories, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The session introduced i) key theoretical debates in the area of digitisation and public engagement and ii) the importance of metadata standards and controlled vocabulary. Students were also given a hands on introduction to our digital exhibition software, Omeka, and added their own digitised exhibits to the Suffragette Stories test site. Eleven attendees.

“Useful introduction to the Omeka site and info about metadata.”

“Great to see the lifecycle of a digitised item and to hear a critical engagement with a digitisation project.”

“Useful to have practical experience alongside the theory – learning in context!”

HUM Foundation Year – Adventures in the Archives, 26-28 March

Over a period of three days, three groups of students were introduced to the Archives for an opportunity to engage with the suffragette and WWII archives. A new discovery for most. 22 attendees.

“Very useful. I didn’t even know it existed before this week. Will use it for future research.”

“Interesting and thoroughly fascinating.”

Unboxed (blog writing)

Editorial workshop, 5 March. Five attendees.

Enquiries & Visits

• A student on the MA scriptwriting course is reading a suffragette’s diary of her 1917 trip to Russia, and Doris Lessing’s love letters of the 1940s.
• An AMA student is selecting slides on the Kalahari Bushmen, part of the UEA Collection.
• A DEV student is comparing UEA’s marketing and information literature before and after the introduction of the 2010 Equality Act.
• An overseas researcher is researching free speech at British universities, in particular the visit of politician John Carlisle to UEA in 1986.

Special Collections

There were 16 requests.

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Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: December 2018

Events

Suffragette Stories, 6 December

UEA and Norfolk County Council’s Library and Information Service hosted a celebration at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library to mark 100 years since women first voted in a general election in the UK. The event launched a physical archive exhibition curated by students from Broadland High Ormiston Academy. The exhibition, which ran throughout December, included material from the Kenney Papers and stories of local suffragettes and a showcase of the numerous intergenerational workshops held throughout Norfolk involving school children, who interviewed community residents in libraries on how women’s roles have changed since women first voted in 1918.

The launch also heard readings from an anthology of stories written by established and emerging writers, school children and other community members to be published online by UEA’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing (LDC) throughout 2019, to remember forgotten suffragettes and to recreate the suffragette tree plantation which was sadly destroyed in the 1960s to make way for housing.

Suffragette Stories is a partnership between the UEA and Norfolk County Council Library & Information Service, and is generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A digital exhibition of 100 digitised items from the Kenney Papers archive is nearing completion and will be launched online at the end of February 2019.

Displays

The suffragette display curated by Norfolk school children was on display at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library throughout December.

Teaching

Creative Writing module visit, 6 December

This module, delivered by Kate Moorhead-Kuhn, explored the manuscripts and working process of novelist Sara Taylor. 7 attendees.

Shore (9)

Manuscript of The Shore

Enquiries

Fisher Theatre, Bungay

Legal documents on the theatre from 1790-1886 have been made available to the board of trustees of this former theatre building. Collection description.

G.S. Callendar Archive

Callendarnotebook

Guy Callendar’s notebook on CO2, 1939-1940.

A Swiss online magazine, Republik, has published an article on climate change which describes Callendar’s painstaking audit of weather station data across the globe and his resultant theory of global warming in response to rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

Tinkler Theatre Collection

A couple from Great Yarmouth have visited to trace their relatives’ performances in the early 20th century. They were known as the ‘Two Magnets’ and performed in concert halls from 1890-1924.

UEA Collection

• The BBC has asked for contact details of the estate of the late Lord Oliver Franks (former Chancellor). They hope to re-run a recording of his 1954 Reith Lecture.
• The Students’ Union are gathering photographs of all former SU Presidents. The Archives holds an album of portrait photographs of all presidents from 1968-1980. The rest are scattered throughout UEA magazines.

Zuckerman Archive

An academic has visited to read the children’s essays describing the blitz in Hull. This is a collection of over 2,000 essays and is a rare resource of children’s first-hand accounts of their wartime experiences. More on the essays.

Special Collections

There were 19 requests.

Exploring the Archives: a monthly update: October 2018

Events

UEA Library 50th anniversary

A display to mark the anniversary has been set up in the Library foyer. This combines archive as well as contemporary material to show some of the changes the Library has undergone over the last 50 years. Alumni have been sharing their memories and these have been gathered together in a series of blogs. More.

Public Event: Suffragette Stories: Exploring the Legacy, 13 October 2018, The Forum, Norwich

Fifty two members of the public attended an Archive event to celebrate October 13 1905 when the ‘Votes for Women’ banner was first raised at the Free Trade Hall in 1905 by Annie Kenney. Talks from leading historians Krista Cowman and Lyndsey Jenkins shed light on the struggle against inequality of little known activists like the Kenney sisters, whose archive are held at UEA, and considered the uneven progress of gender relations since. The UEA Archive’s Writer in Residence Fiona Sinclair reported on the activities of our HLF project. More.

Teaching

MA Biography & Creative non-fiction (LDC PGT) with Andrew Kenrick, 16 October

© Estate of Roger Deakin

The current cohort visited the archive for a session exploring non-fiction writers’ archives held at UEA including those of Lorna Sage, Roger Deakin and Mark Cocker. The session also explored how non-fiction writers can research archives and use the material for creative inspiration. 16 attendees.

Charlie Higson – author, scriptwriter, actor and musician – returns to UEA to share ideas on breaking into a creative career

Charlie Higson

A day of scheduled student sessions with comedy writer Higson took place on 17 October. Emily Walker (comedy archive PhD placement) interviewed Higson about his archive. A Q&A session (led by Brett Mills) on the comedy writing and performance industry followed; students were able to sit in and ask questions. Individual seminars on the creative process followed with small selected groups of students asking specific questions for discussion. Emily Walker, has written a blog about the visit. 16 attendees.

MA Gender Studies (HUM) – Feminist Research Methods Module, 9 October

blog post image AK postcard votes for women

Annie Kenney

Students visited the archives of suffragette sisters, Annie and Jessie Kenney, and explored the legacy of working class suffragettes. A graduate of last year’s cohort, Laura Noon, and an Unboxed volunteer with the archive during 2017-18, has published a blog drawing on the archive material. 12 attendees.

Creative Writing Workshops with Fiona Sinclair, 12 October

Our HLF funded Writer in Residence, Fiona Sinclair, held creative writing workshops with undergraduate students interested in submitting to the Suffragette Stories anthology. More. 4 attendees.

Suffragette Stories Archive Research Day (Fiona Sinclair, Kate Cooper and Stanislava Dikova), 15 October

The Suffragette Stories project team made selections from the Kenney Papers archive. Children in schools, including Wroxham, then ‘curated’ the final selection. The material will be on display at the Millennium Library (The Forum, Norwich) throughout December. An event to celebrate the project, and launch the creative writing anthology, will be held on 6 December at the venue. 3 attendees.

The BACW featured at UEA Open Day, 20 October

Twenty nine prospective students and their parents visited the Archive to discover how students work with archive material during their studies.

MA in Literary Translation (MALT) – seminar with Tom Boll, 23 October 

Students visited the archive of literary translator, David Bellos, to understand his process. 11 attendees.

Anthony Vivis Archive

A request was received from a US university for a copy of a translation by Vivis of a playscript by Rainer Fassbinder. The copyright holder has been traced and permission granted.

Enquiries

Some of the enquiries and visits we’ve received:
• a creative writing student sought material for a character sketch
• a student of prose fiction enquired about authors who use scrap-books and collage to inform their work
• a couple of our students have been in to read the letters of J.D. Salinger
• a lecturer enquired about access to a BBC recording of a Samuel Beckett interview
• a Gender Studies student viewed the Kenney Papers to see how the suffragettes viewed the struggle in the decades following
• a PhD student in Germany sought lectures delivered by W.G. Sebald at UEA
• a volunteer at Felbrigg Hall sought audio recordings of lectures delivered in the sixties at UEA by Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer.

Images for publications

The Archives have assisted publishers and writers with high quality images for forthcoming publications. Two separate publications relate to the Pritchard Papers and one to the Roger Deakin Archive.

UEA Collection

• The Archives have found photos of a Science lecture theatre for Estates in order to gain a sense of the original look and feel. Other enquiries related to the History of Art, the Library’s carrels, and early UEA artwork and designs.

• Five alumni from 1968 visited the Library and Archives and enjoyed looking at past student handbooks and press-cuttings albums. They subsequently shared with us some of their memories of the Library.

Zuckerman Archive

Papers relating to Zuckerman’s career as Chief Scientific Advisor, nuclear and chemical defence policy have been consulted by an academic from the University of Milan and a student from the London School of Economics.

Special Collections

There were 12 requests.

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 archives@uea.ac.uk

View a short clip from the demonstration (BFI): https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-demonstration-of-suffragettes-1910-online

 

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.

Bibliography

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.

 

Archive Exhibition: Identity, Memory and Legacy in Suffragette History

 

The archives of leading working class suffragettes, Annie Kenney and Jessie Kenney, are held at the University of East Anglia (UEA) as ‘The Kenney Papers’ and include diaries, memorabilia and original correspondence from leading political figures, including Lady Constance Lytton, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. To celebrate the lives of these extraordinary women and the centenary of partial suffrage in 1918, a small display is on show during 2018 at UEA Library’s Archives Foyer (Floor 02), and available to the public. The archive itself is publicly accessible Mon-Fri by prior appointment e: archives@uea.ac.uk p: 01603 59 3491.

A project to digitise material from the archive as part of an online exhibition is also underway and material is being loaned to the Kenney sisters’ home town in Oldham as part of an exhibition at Oldham Gallery.

About the Kenney sisters

Annie Kenney (1879-1953) worked in a cotton mill from the age of 10. In 1905 she was recruited to the cause of women’s suffrage after hearing Mrs Pankhurst and her daughters addressing an open-air meeting in Manchester. On the 13th October 1905 she carried out what is now recognised as the first militant act of the suffrage movement when she accompanied Christabel Pankhurst to an election meeting in Manchester Free Trade Hall and heckled the speakers, Sir Edward Grey and Winston Churchill. She and Christabel were arrested and imprisoned. Thereafter Annie Kenney was a leading figure in the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the organisation founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903.

Jessie Kenney (1887-1985) was Annie’s younger sister. She was Secretary of the WSPU and worked alongside Christabel Pankhurst in Paris from 1912, assisting in the long-range operations of WSPU. In 1917, she accompanied Emmeline Pankhurst to Russia, on behalf of the British government to promote the mobilisation of Russian women in the war effort. Jessie was in Russia for some three months and made a detailed record of events. Unpublished memoirs within the archive reveal fascinating insights into the movement and the legacy of the Kenney sisters.

Link to the Kenney Papers’ Archive page

Men can be feminists: Lord Pethick-Lawrence writes about the suffragettes

Lord and Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Lord and Lady Pethick-Lawrence

An Unboxed Blog from Yaiza Canopoli.

Lady Pethick-Lawrence was an important figure in the suffragette movement. In 1907 she started the publication Votes for Women, with the help of her husband. Supportive male partners are not so rare these days. But in the early 20th century, a man would more likely be scared off by a woman who wanted the vote than to stand by her side as she campaigned. Lord Pethick-Lawrence supported the movement from the start, and in the 1950s published an article, preserved in the UEA Archive, reflecting on the impressive struggle for women to get the vote.

As a prominent and proud member of the Labour party, Lord Pethick-Lawrence begins the article by explaining that this is where the movement began, and where most of the suffragette tactics were taken from. Nonetheless, the women from the Labour party had to accept other political ideologies into the community, for the movement could not have survived by remaining ‘a section of a section’. What is interesting about this article is his praise for the more radical tactics adopted by the movement, ‘which would alienate the timid and the lukewarm’. This praise is a considerable change of opinion, for in 1912 he served a nine-month prison sentence for a violent form of protest that he and Lady Pethick-Lawrence disapproved of at the time (their disapproval caused them to be expelled from the Women’s Social and Political Union).

In the article, he endearingly praises the militant women involved in the movement:

A tiny suffragette—Mary Gawthorpe—had a cabbage thrown at her by a male auditor during a park meeting. Catching it and holding it up, she remarked: “I knew a man would lose his head before long.”

This kind of appreciation and subtle humour is present throughout the article. Perhaps the most hilarious passage is his recounting of a conspiracy trial staged by the government: he and some other suffragettes were found guilty in court and the judge sentenced them to nine months in prison, but he remembers the moment with humour, saying that ‘shortly afterwards [the judge’s] two daughters joined the organisation’.

This way of remembering the suffragettes in an almost nostalgic way goes to show that feminist men are not a modern invention, and that people were different back then is not a valid excuse for any kind of oppression. We are living in a time now where meninism has become a thing, and feminists are still seen as radical and men-hating by many people all over the world. This article puts things into perspective: feminism is not new, it is not the internet corrupting women, and it is perfectly valid for men to be supportive of the movement even today.

Another thing Lord Pethick-Lawrence shows his readers (both at the time he wrote and now) is how to be a good ally: write about the movement, write about the people who were involved and who had to fight for their own rights, and don’t make it about yourself.

Unfortunately the article is not preserved in its entirety, and thus we cannot read the full extent of Lord Pethick-Lawrence’s memories of the movement, but we get a clear idea of where his thoughts are headed. He and his wife might have disagreed with some of the more radical aspects of protesting, but they were undoubtedly an important part of the organisation, and their names deserve to be remembered.

Lord Pethick-Lawrence’s article can be viewed as part of the Kenney Papers in the UEA Archives at the University of East Anglia, alongside multiple documents and forms of correspondence between the Pethick-Lawrences and other suffragettes. https://portal.uea.ac.uk/library/archives/kenney

Yaiza Canopoli