The British Newspaper Archive (BNA) regularly releases new titles available (for paying subscribers) to search. I use digitised newspapers regularly in my research, so when in February the BNA announced a raft of new suffragette papers had been added to the collection I was intrigued to see whether these might shed light on the activities of some of the women I've been researching.
My curiosity was rewarded recently when I discovered evidence that archaeological-artist (and later author) Jessie Mothersole, about whom I have previously written, participated in the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) "Christmas Fair and Fete" in 1911. I knew Jessie was active in the suffrage movement – in his 1914 memoir her art-tutor Henry Holiday included a suffrage-infused poem she wrote with his illustration on suffrage originally published in Labour Leader, and a copy of her portrait of suffragette Myra Sadd Brown is in the Women's Library at LSE.
However, notices in WSPU newspaper Votes for Women, issues of which are now digitised and searchable on the BNA database, reveal that Jessie Mothersole was one of a number of artists involved in creating artwork for the Fair which took place over six days in early December 1911 at Portman Rooms on Baker Street.
Various branches of the WSPU were responsible for organising tables and activities at the Fair, representing London neighbourhoods and other cities and regions, including Leeds, Birmingham, Hertfordshire, Nottingham and Kent. Profits were to go towards the WSPU. It seems that Jessie created the signage for the Hampstead WSPU branch's stand (selling chintz and ceramics), which was organised by branch Secretary Lilian Martha Hicks of Finchley Road. Jessie was thanked by name for her efforts alongside other fellow artists in a letter from Sylvia Pankhurst to the Editor of Votes for Women published in the paper on the penultimate day of the Fair.
The Women's Library has a series of postcards showing scenes of the 1911 Fair; they are accessible in the Jill Craigie Collection (Ref 7JCC/O/01) at the LSE Library. Thanks very much to Debbie Challis for bringing these to my attention! Debbie has also written about documents relating to archaeologist Hilda Urlin Petrie's suffrage activities; you can read Part 1 and Part 2 of her Hilda history on the Institute of Archaeology History of Archaeology Network website. In related news Fern Riddell's biography of suffragette Kitty Marion, Death in Ten Minutes, has been published this month by Hodder & Stoughton, and the LSE Library's exhibition "At Last! Votes for Women" will be open from next week (23 April) until the end of August.
Suffrage historian Elizabeth Crawford has just published Art and Suffrage, a compendium of biographies of artists working for the suffrage movement. Jessie Mothersole isn't included in it, but I'm sure some of the other artists who took part in the Fair are. Her presence at the WSPU Christmas Fair suggests that she supported a more militant approach to suffrage than other women working in archaeology (like Agnes Conway, for example).
Just how far that support went, however, remains a mystery. For now.
Crawford, E. 2018. Art and Suffrage: a biographical dictionary of suffrage artists. London: Francis Boutle.
Crawford, E. 1999. The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide. London: Routledge.
Christmas Fair and Fete. Votes for Women. 18 August 1911: 749.
Holiday, H. 1914. Reminiscences of My Life. London: William Heinemann.
Pankhurst, E. S. Letter to the Editor. Votes for Women. 8 Dec 1911: 163.