During Victorian times and before computers and mobile phones, if you wanted to talk to your friends you’d often go and visit them for dinner parties. Among the middle or upper classes it was popular to play ‘parlour games’ after dinner. The Autograph Book in the image is an example of one of these games, and The Box looks after this archive so that people can come and see it and because it records people’s experience of the past.
The Autograph Book had questions which you and your friends would answer. Some of the questions were a little bit silly, like who is your favourite musician, but some of the questions asked what roles men and women should play in society. This meant that the issue of votes for women was brought up in the context of a dinner party, for people to discuss. Before you look through the answers that people 100 years wrote, think or talk about what your answers would be.
Activity 1: Answer these questions
Answer the following questions, either alone or in a group:
- What characteristic do you admire most in a man?
- What characteristic do you admire most in a woman?
- What, do you consider is your best quality?
- What, do you consider is your greatest failing?
- What is your favourite pastime?
- What gives you most annoyance?
- What foreign land would you like to visit?
- Whom do you consider has the greater brain power – man or woman?
- Do you think women should take part in public life?
- Do you consider dress influences character?
- Describe the 'girl of the period'
- Describe the 'young man of the day'
- What is your favourite motto?
- Which is your favourite flower, and what is its meaning?
- Whom do you consider is the best sovereign in Europe?
- Whom do you consider is the greatest living politician of Great Britain?
- Whom do you consider is the greatest artist of the present age?
- Whom do you consider is the greatest musician of the present age?
- Whom do you consider is the greatest orator of the present age?
- Whom do you consider is the greatest author of the present age?
- Whom do you consider is the greatest poet of the present age?
- Name two poems that have given you much pleasure
- Name two books of fiction that have given you most profit
- Name your hero or heroine in life
- Name your hero or heroine in fiction
- Name the composer who you most enjoy
Now look at the answers in the images below. How do your answers compare?
Activity 2: Make your own
Can you make your own autograph book to ask your friends? You might have noticed that some of the questions are about celebrities and musicians of the time. What questions would you ask your friends, in the same style as the autograph book? How can you weave in an issue that you feel strongly about? It could be about gender issues today, or something else like climate change.
Do you think this example of activism would be successful for fighting for a particular issue? Why, or why not?