Votes for Women in Plymouth: Lesson Two

Votes for Women in Plymouth: Lesson Three - Suffragists

The image above and the images below show suffragist protests from the early 1900s. They were taken by an officer in the Navy and now are looked after by The Box so that researchers like you can study them.

First, look at the photos themselves. You may think they're supportive of the suffragist movement. They seem to show the women in power, protesting proudly. But, you may be interested to know that some of the comments the photographer wrote underneath them were quite mean. This is an important thing to remember. It took nearly 50 years of protest for women to get the vote, and lots of people - including this photographer - didn’t necessarily think it was a good idea.

Can you see some of the words on the banners that the women are holding? These protesters weren’t just calling for votes for women, but lots of other things that give women equal status as men. If you were at a protest, what would you write on your banners to convince the photographer that giving women the vote was a good thing?

One thing is missing from these images is colour. There was a difference between the colours used by the Suffragettes and the suffragists. Suffragette colours were purple, white and green and have become famous as a colour combination. Suffragis colours were purple, white and gold.

Suffragist photo 1
Suffragist photo 2
Suffragist photo 3
Suffragist photo 4
Suffragist photo 5
Suffragist photo 6
Suffragist photo 7
Suffragist photo 8

In 2017, a large contemporary art exhibition took placed in Plymouth called ‘We The People Are The Work’. One of the artists involved was called Peter Liversidge, and he worked with members of the public to create protest placards by painting words onto cardboard. The placards were paraded through the streets and then ceremonially burned. You can see some pictures here. If you were going to paint a placard, what would it say? What messages are best conveyed in this format? Have a go at making your own placard – what message do you want to share?

How effective is activism in the format of parading with placards? What makes this form of protest impactful?