Suffragettes and art
Of the three suffragettes named below two for entirely different reasons and actions had art at the centre of their actions.
E Andrews was arrested on 19 November 1910 and 27 November 1911. Before marriage, her name was Emily Jane Harding born in March 1850 in Clifton, Bristol to Thomas and Rose Harding. Emily was their first child. When she was born her father was an ironmonger’s clerk but by the time of the 1861 census, he had become a commercial traveller selling goods from town to town. Two sisters quickly followed Emily: Gertrude and Rose and three brothers: Thomas, George and Frederick. This was the last census return when the family were recorded all living together. Sometime between Frederick’s birth in 1864 and the census in 1871 Rosa, Gertrude and the youngest Frederick have moved from Clifton and are living in Holland Road, Kensington. Her father Thomas was hundreds of miles away presumably for his work.
Emily was a talented artist who initially specialised in miniatures. In 1877 she exhibited a miniature at the Royal Academy something that she did not repeat for another twenty years. Two years later in 1879 tragedy struck when Emily’s mother, Rosa, died. Only a few months later Emily, on 18 August 1879, married Edward William Andrews in Fulham, London. It was not common to marry so soon after a mother’s death and at best it would have been a rather gloomy affair. On the marriage certificate both the bride and groom give their occupations as artists. Edward gives his birth on census returns as 1840 and his place of birth as Kidderminster although no such record can be found. Edward in census returns describes himself as a portrait artist, and several are recorded in the National Collection.
The couple settled in Hampstead and interestingly although Edward’s occupation is recorded on the 1881 census return Emily’s is left blank. By the mid-1880s Emily has started illustrating books. Initially she focused on illustrating children books. One of the first was Happy Hours published circa 1887, a typical Victoria children’s book with a moral message and beautiful illustrations. Sometimes she collaborated with Thomas Heath Robinson, the brother of William Heath Robinson.
Interestingly she always used her maiden name for work. By the 1891 census the couple had moved to another property in Hampstead. Their finances do not seem to have been very stable because they no longer had a live-in servant. Although Emily’s occupation is recorded it is as a ditto for her husbands of portrait artist.
In 1896 Emily published a book which she had both translated from French and illustrated: “The Fairy Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsman.” A year later she exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time in twenty years and again two years later. By 1901 the couple had moved again. This time their occupations are the same artist (painter). In 1907 the Artists’ Suffrage League was formed with the initial intention of providing banners and posters for a march from Hyde Park to Exeter Hall on the north side of the Strand on February 7th 1907 organised by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. The weather was so atrocious that it became known as the Mud March.
The poster above was designed by Emily, and in the VADS collection a design for Christmas card survives along with the card that accompanied it when she sent it to the chair of the society for her consideration.
In November 1910 the suffragettes attempted to enter the House of Commons with over hundred being arrested for assault, disturbance or wilful damage. Appearing in court the next day many of the women arrived with bags ready to go to prison. To the disappointment of some the Home Secretary offered on evidence, and all the women were discharged. The 1911 census records the couple living apart. Edward is living in West Hampstead in an artist’s studio, and Emily is lodging in Bayswater. On 27 November of the same year Emily was arrested for her part in the window smashing campaign.
Edward died on 30 January 1915 without leaving a will. His assets were a little over one hundred pounds. On the electoral register for 1918 Emily is living in Camden with fellow artists, a holder of the vote at last. In August 1935 by now an elderly lady she sailed for Australia settling with one of her sisters who had emigrated many years before. She died in Australia in 1940.
Jessie Anscott arrested on 21 March 1907 as part of the deputation who attempted to enter the House of Commons. The official records also note her surname as Arscott. She was fined twenty shillings or fourteen days imprisonment.
Gertrude Mary Ansell was arrested on 14 October 1908, 2 August 1913 and in May 1914. Gertrude was born on 2 June 1861 the daughter of George and Sarah who at the time were living in Vernon Place, Bloomsbury, London. George was employed as a chemist at the Royal Mint and was responsible for the production of a sovereign coin known today as the Ansell Sovereign. Alongside this George had an interest in preventing colliery explosions due to the presence of firedamp, a lethal mixture of combustible gases. He patented an index which detected the level of gas to operate alongside safety lamps which were not totally dependable.
The 1881 census records Sarah, Gertrude and her three brothers living in Holloway, north London. All of the children, including Augustus who is only fifteen are working. Gertrude is a telephone clerk. The following year George died leaving a very modest amount of money. Ten years later Gertrude staying with her aunt is recorded as having no occupation. Elizabeth Crawford writes in her book the Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 that by 1908 Gertrude was running a typing bureau and presumably supporting herself financially.
In due course Gertrude joined the Women’s Social and Political Union and in February 1907 joined the march from Hyde Park to the Strand, the Mud March, for which the Artist’s Suffrage League including Emily Harding Andrews, prepared banners and posters. Her first arrest was on 14 October 1908 for her part in the attempt to enter the House of Commons. Leaving from Caxton Hall the women strode two abreast down streets lined with policeman towards Parliament. At their head was Miss Wallace Dunlop and Gertrude. Many had congregated to watch the women marching, some intent on trouble picked fights with the police, but the women continued until the police brought them to halt informing them, they had to wait until eight o'clock. When the appointed time came the women tried to push, but the police pushed back tossing Gertrude to one side. Matters swiftly turned ugly and Gertrude was arrested for, riotous behaviour. Refusing to pay the fine that was imposed on her in court Gertrude was imprisoned in Holloway.
She and other suffragettes who were released on 21 November 1908 were met by Mrs Pethick Lawrence and serenaded by a band playing the Marseillaise. They all returned to the WSPU’s headquarters for a celebratory breakfast. Within days Gertrude had resumed her activities. Addressing a meeting in Camden dressed in her prison uniform she was pelted with eggs and fireworks were let off in the hall drowning out her words. Women refused to pay their taxes on the principle that if they could not vote why they should pay tax. Gertrude had a gold watch seized by the bailiffs and auctioned off to pay her tax debt. As was often the case it was bought by a supporter and immediately returned to her.
Gertrude was active in arenas outside of women’s suffrage. She was a member of the Fabian Women’s Society, an offshoot of the Fabian Society founded to promote debate on social progression and social justice and several animal charities. She had undertaken to one of these animal charities that she would not take part in any militant suffrage activities, but the defeat of two bills in the House of Commons both relating to animals made her think again. She was sentenced at the end of July 1913 to one month’s imprisonment for breaking a window at the Home Office. She went on hunger strike and was freed under the Cat and Mouse Act on 6 August. When your health had sufficiently recovered you were detained again to complete your sentence. Each time Gertrude was detained she went on hunger strike, and she was in and out of prison for the rest of 1913 and into 1914.
Her last arrest in respect of this prison sentence being in January 1914 when she was detained at a WSPU meeting. Following her release, she made it known that a woman in an adjacent cell had been groaning in pain in consequence of force feeding. Her statement to this effect was taken by a deputation of women to demand from the Bishop of London what steps the church intended to take in this regard. In response the Bishop wrote to the prison chaplain and undertook to visit himself. When he did so he was convinced that the woman was not force fed something which the woman herself apparently denied. This incident received extensive press coverage, and Gertrude’s reputation was brought into doubt as the WSPU’s claims regarding force feeding.
After Mary Ann Aldham, discussed in an earlier blog, attacked a picture at the Royal Academy security was stepped up. Despite this only ten days later Gertrude attacked with an axe a portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Sir Hubert von Herkomer. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Again, she went on hunger strike and was reportedly force fed two hundred and thirty-six times before being released when the amnesty came into force following the outbreak of war in August 1914.
Gertrude died in 1932.
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