Feminist Fabricby Niamh McCooey
As this week marks the centenary of women getting the right to vote in Britain, we look back to Selvedge issue 67, when Nicola Donovan examined the politics of Suffragette clothing...
Although for some the word ‘suffragette’ might bring to mind images of Edwardian, middle class ladies chained to railings, or the horrific, grainy pictures of Emily Wilding Davison suffering fatal injuries from the King’s horse at the 1913 Derby, this resistance movement also operated as a sophisticated political organisation.
Actually called by its members the ‘Women’s Social and Political Union’, who were themselves dubbed ‘Suffragettes’ by the Daily Mail, this organisation chose its colours as a means to covertly, and also overtly, indicate solidarity. The colours, which were chosen to represent dignity and freedom (purple), purity in public and private life (white) and hope and newness (green), created a sense of unity, which was something that many women of the time had not yet experienced.
Expression of this new commonality amongst women appeared in the form of textile crafts and is particularly visible in the embroidered, stencilled and appliquéd banners that identified ‘chapters’ of the Women’s Social and Political Union. The banners were used to promote The Causein processions and marches, or used as templates for printed leaflets.
The collaboratively produced banners would carry beautifully crafted slogans such as ‘Votes for Women’, ‘Believe and You Will Conquer’ and the notorious call for violent protest – ‘Deeds, not Words’. Some banners were even woven and there are some intriguing examples of these held in the Women’s Library at the London School of Economics (LSE) Suffragette banner collection...
You can read this article in full in Selvedge issue 67.