Friday, September 23, 2016

Mrs Pethick Lawrence rallies the troops

Continuing a series of blogposts about the Women's Exhibition and Sale of Work held in May 1909 in advance of our own Swindon Suffragette event on November 12.

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence got the ball rolling for the Women's Exhibition and Sale of Work in the January 28th 1909 edition of the Votes for Women newspaper.

The special scheme to which I have referred is connected, not directly with the militant side of this movement, but with its organising and its educational side, a side not one whit less important, a side absolutely essential to success. Everybody can take part in this scheme. Not one in our ranks is too poor, not one is too old or too young, or too frail to render some bit of service in connection with it. And everybody can begin at once – this very day. We are holding in May an exhibition. It will be an Exhibition of the Colours; an Exhibition and a Sale of women’s work, and will be open for a fortnight. During that time we shall attract and draw together many thousands of people, and having drawn them together we shall make new recruits and win new members, new supporters, and new workers to strengthen our ranks. We shall draw the attention of the business world and of the holiday world to our colours, and extend their popularity, purple, white, and green must be the prevailing colours of the summer of 1909. The popularity of the colours means very much to the influence of our organisation. Our exhibition must also prove so original, so interesting, and so effective from the picturesque point of view as to be yet another revelation of the resource and capacity that is in the Women’s Social and Political Union. It must be so successful as to be the talk of the town.

Apart from all this, however, the Exhibition and the Sale of women’s work has to fill the war chest. The financial result should be expressed in a sum of at least £5,000 for the campaign fund. How is this sum to be realised? There are to be one hundred stalls set aside for articles for sale. The allotment of these stalls should take place at once. There is no time to lose if they are to be adequately furnished. The stalls are not large. They measure 6ft, 8ft and 10ft respectively. But since the exhibition will be open for a fortnight – from May 13 to May 26 – everyone who becomes responsible for one stall must undertake to collect and supply goods to the value of £100 at the very least. Every day the stall will have to be replenished as articles are sold and taken away by the purchasers.

We are anxious to receive applications at once, both from individuals and from local unions or other societies. Those who cannot promise to supply one whole stall can make themselves responsible for one-half, one-quarter, one-fifth, one-tenth or even for one-twentieth part of a stall. In order to perfect our plan of organisation it is necessary to have promises sent in without delay.

Very prompt has been the response already to this new need for help and co-operation.

The secretary of the recently formed Actresses’ Franchise League has written, most generously offering on behalf of her society to take over the entire responsibility and work of providing the whole of the entertainment programme, and as many popular actresses have promised to take part, the success of this department is ensured. Women artists have proved themselves equally generous , and their stall will be one of the attractions of the exhibition. And women writers have also come forward, and will give not only a stall but their personal service during that fortnight in May.

The West of England has offered to supply two stalls, many of the London Unions have come forward with the promise to help by becoming responsible for the whole or for the half of one stall. The Women’s Press is taking several stalls.

About thirty stalls have been allocated already. The remainder ought to be taken over this week. Working parties are being organised in various centres. So far as it is possible the colour scheme should be followed. White, purple and green should be the predominating colour upon all the stalls.

Handwork of all kinds – embroidery, needlework, art work in wood or leather, in metal or enamel – all these things are wanted in large quantities, and all these things take time to do and complete. And the time is short. Every little helps; and wherever our members are, however isolated from comrades who sympathise with them, they should sit down at once and ask themselves: “What is my contribution going to be to the success of this scheme? What have I got to do now?” And the moment they have made their decision let them communicate with the Exhibition Secretary at 4, Clements Inn, Strand, London, W.C. I would urge them not to lose a single post…

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence
Our very own Artkore teapot made by Lynette Thomas

Edith New as she appears on the Cambria Bridge mural by local artists The Visual Drop

Swindon Suffragette - Edith New 

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