Suffragettes and the Serjeant at Arms : how the suffragettes used performative tactics of protest in and around the Houses of Parliament

Neylon, C ORCID: 2018, 'Suffragettes and the Serjeant at Arms : how the suffragettes used performative tactics of protest in and around the Houses of Parliament' , in: Amending Speech: Women's voices in parliament , Hansard, London, pp. 256-261.

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From plays written specifically for the cause to huge processions through the streets of UK cities, the British woman suffrage movement relied on spectacle and performance as a key tactic in the fight for votes for women. However, they also employed other ‘performatively based practices’ (Parkins, 1997: 38) in many ways to gain attention for their cause. The Houses of Parliament were a natural focus for much of this performative activity, being both the site of their oppression and a public place where they could hope to reach politicians and voters with their message. Some of the acts of resistance carried out in and around the Houses of Parliament have been documented in Melanie Unwin’s article The 1908 Pankhurst Medal: Remembering the Campaign for Votes for Women in Parliament (2008). However, a deeper examination of the archives reveals a wealth of unpublished actions and vocal protest reported to the Sergeant at Arms, which give a fuller picture of the range of tactics and the imagination and tenacity employed in the fight for suffrage. These include Catherine Wilson sneaking a whip into the Central Hall while dressed as a man and Sylvia Pankhurst allegedly proclaiming ‘The glass is hard. If I had known it would not break, I would have broken something else’ after attempting to smash the glass on a painting in St. Stephen’s Hall, among many others. This chapter draws on parliamentary archives and news reports of the time to provide a more detailed understanding of the protests in and around Westminster and the effects of these protests, both on the women themselves and on their cause.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Inchley, M and Vice, J
Schools: Schools > School of Arts & Media > Arts, Media and Communication Research Centre
Publisher: Hansard
ISBN: 9781527229075
Depositing User: C Neylon
Date Deposited: 15 May 2020 14:52
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2022 04:39

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