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- The Soft Heart of the British Empire
- Men and the Women’s Liberation Movement
- Facts are Sacred: the Manchester Guardian and India
- Anti-imperialism in 1960
- The British Left and India
- The Labour Party and the Aristocratic Embrace
- Civil Society and British Progressives in India
- The Conservative Party and Indian Independence
- The Cripps Mission: A Reinterpretation
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The film above is the earliest surviving footage of a suffragette demonstration, in Newcastle in 1909. I have been researching this demonstration recently because it provides the background for a remarkable human drama, based on a recent discovery I have made in the National Archives.
It occurred among the Nation group of New Liberals – the journalists, MPs grouped around H.A.Massingham’s The Nation, the most prominent weekly periodical of the New Liberal period. Once a week, the Nation group met for lunch at the National Liberal Club in London.
Although united in their New Liberalism, they were divided on the issue of women’s suffrage. The divisions were not only political – whether the Liberal Government should introduce a women’s suffrage bill – but also personal. Many of the women close to the Nation Liberals were involved in the women’s suffrage organisations, and some of them in the most militant part of the movement, the Women’s Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U.).
The W.S.P.U had sent one of these women, Jane Malloch, the wife of the Liberal journalist, H.N.Brailsford, to Newcastle with instructions to disrupt the speaking tour of the Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George. Jane Malloch did so, was arrested and convicted with several other women, and began a hunger-strike in Newcastle Prison. Her husband and close friends among the Nation group were distraught. And with the Home Secretary away in Scotland, the minister in charge of the government response was Charles Masterman, junior minister at the Home Office, opponent of women’s suffrage, another member of the Nation group, and personal friend of the Brailsfords …
The women in the photograph above are Christabel Pankhurst, one of the leaders of the Women’s Social and Political Union (on the right); and Rebecca West, journalist and suffragette (on the left). West wrote for a newspaper edited by Dora Marsden called The Freewoman, an avant-garde feminist journal which had a brief but influential existence before the First World War.
Much has been written about The Freewoman, but one aspect which is sometimes noted but never explored is that a lot of the contributors to it were men. This makes it an excellent source for my research project on the participation of outsiders in social movements: Other People’s Struggles. I am therefore analysing the men’s and women’s contributions to see what points they have in common, and what divides them.
IMAGE CREDITS: REBECCA WEST (CICILY ISABEL ANDREWS), (c. 1912) PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGE C. BERESFORD, NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY, LONDON / CHRISTABEL PANKHURST (DETAIL) UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER (DECEMBER 1918) FROM GEORGE GRANTHAM BAIN COLLECTION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, WASHINGTON DC.