Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Suffragette In Court - Festival of Postcards

The Suffragette In Court - "Two months without chocolates."
Postcard front. Note the
Tuck trademark on your lower left.

The Festival of Postcards is a carnival celebrating both vintage and modern postcards.
Each issue features members’ postcards gathered around a certain theme.

This time, for July 2009, the theme is 'Signs'.

Everyone is welcome, from Postcrossers to vintage postcard collectors, from beginners to experienced deltiologists*. There’s just one requirement – you must love postcards!

For my Carnival entry, I've chosen this women's history related postcard from my collections, c. 1910. What kind of sign does it refer to?

Why protest signs, of course!

This is one of many British anti-suffrage postcards. It illustrates a very young girl in the prisoner's dock facing a judge in wig and gown sitting at a desk. The little girl's eyes seem to be closed - perhaps she is holding her breath till she hears the verdict? She is well dressed in green and pink. Could it be her ribbons and socks were meant to be violet? The colours green, purple and white were associated with woman's suffrage. She has a 'Votes For Women' sign beside her in the dock.

This 'scene' appears to have been set in a photographer's studio; the edge of the plain backdrop is visible.

There are anti-woman's suffrage postcards from Canada and from the United States too, but British postcards seem to me to have far more pointed references than the others. The mention of the sentence given - "Two months without chocolates" not only trivializes the sentences given to adult suffragettes, but likely refers to the consequences of imprisonment for suffragettes who went on hunger strikes - forcefeeding - which went on from 1909 -1913. Thus the card may well date from this period or afterwards.

Tuck's was a very well known and a very prolific postcard publishing company. This card was bought from a Canadian dealer and it, or ones like it, may have circulated in Canada. Canadians were well aware of woman's suffrage events and activities in Great Britain. These were widely reported in Canadian newspapers and often mentioned in discussions (pro and con) concerning woman's suffrage in Canada.

In 1910, a group of western Canadian teachers visited England and mainland Europe and one of them spoke to a Winnipeg newspaper about her impressions of a large suffrage parade in London, likely the one held 23 July, 1910.

“An Impressive Parade

One of the Canadian teachers, who returned this week form the trip to England and the continent saw the suffragette parade in London, a parade of forty thousand women, and heard Mrs. Pankhurst speak. She says the parade was wonderfully impressive, and it was timed to be just forty years later than a parade of laborers who desired the vote, and who when the gates of Hyde Park were closed against them, tore the gates down and went in, despite the protests of the police. Mrs. Pankhurst illustrated the progress made by the fact that the women did not need to tear the gates down. In the park were forty platforms, and forty speakers urged the cause of women, frequently interrupted by men when a good point was made. In the parade were eight hundred university graduates in caps and gowns; there were carriages of the wealthy and aristocratic and hundreds of the middle class and poor walked. Every class of society was represented in that immense parade, a parade that will never be forgotten by the Canadian women who saw it.
The following day the anti-suffragettes had a parade, which was such a poorly managed, weak affair, that had the supported aimed to show their losing cause they could not have taken a better way. It was a surprise to many the number of men in the old country who are strongly in sympathy with the suffragettes, and who point out that forty years of quiet constitutional work of earnest women did not do so much for the cause of women as two or three years of stones and brick-bats.”

Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada,
Friday, 9 September, 1910, page 9.

Woman's suffrage related postcards seemed once almost neglected by collectors, but today's prices often reflect a new interest.

Here's a display of 'Suffragette Postcards , c.1910' including ones from Great Britain, from the University of Waterloo Library, Archives and Rare Books Division, in Ontario, Canada. The Exploring 20th century London website has others on-line.

Suffrage women's groups also published pro-suffrage postcards in Great Britain. Some were done by members of the Artists' Suffrage League allied with the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). The
Women's Library (London Metropolitan University, England) holds NUWSS records, as well as records of the Artists' Suffrage League.

Tuck's Post Card (back), Carte Postale Postkarte "Raphael Tuck & Sons" "Rapholette" "The Suffragette"
Series 8090 Art Publishers to their Majesties The King & Queen. Processed in Saxony.
See also trademark, etc. Divided back; unused; poor condition. Private collection.

For more about both suffragette and anti-suffragette use of images, including postcards, particularly in Great Britain, see:

The spectacle of women: Imagery of the Suffrage Campaign 1907-14 by Lisa Tickner (London: Chatto & Windus, 1987).
Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866 -1928 by Elizabeth Crawford (Abingdon, England: Routledge, 2001 - originally published London UCL Press, 1999).

*deltiologist - from the Greek δελτίον, deltion, diminutive of δέλτος - deltos, 'writing tablet, letter' and from λογία - logia - 'speech', also 'study' - thus someone who studies and collects postcards. See Deltiology at Wikipedia.

If you're a postcard collector or interested in learning about postcards, visit the Vancouver Postcard Club, British Columbia, Canada


lindalee said...

This has been a fascinating and informative blog. I love the postcard....quite a find. Thanks.

footnoteMaven said...


An absolutely spectacular job of research and writing.

So much valuable information. I loved this!


Evelyn Yvonne Theriault said...

I always learn so much more about Canadian history by reading your blog. History through postcards - who would have thought?
Thanks again for participating in the Festival of Postcards!
Evelyn in Montreal

Sheila said...

It's that last sentence about 40 years of quiet work not having as much effect as 2-3 years of stones and brickbats that always makes me stop and think. That is a wonderful post.