Created by suffrage campaigner Maud Arncliffe Sennett, this scrapbook is part of a wider series that provides a unique and personal record of the suffragette movement. Containing press-cuttings, letters, pamphlets, leaflets and other ephemera, interspersed with Arncliffe Sennett’s handwritten notes and comments, the scrapbooks span a period of 30 years between 1906 and 1936. These excerpts are from Volume One of the series of 37 scrapbooks.
Who was Maud Arncliffe Sennett?
Maud Arncliffe Sennett (1862–1936) was the daughter of an Italian confectioner who, together with her husband Henry, ran her family’s ornamental confectionary and cracker manufacturing business. She became interested in women’s suffrage in 1906 when she read a letter by Millicent Fawcett in The Times.
Arncliffe Sennett belonged – sometimes simultaneously – to both the constitutional and the militant wings of the suffrage movement. She was a member of several suffrage societies including the constitutional London Society for Women’s Suffrage and the Hampstead branch of the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union), for which a Member’s Card can be seen on p.  of the scrapbook. She also joined the Women’s Freedom League and the Actresses’ Franchise League and founded, in July 1913, the Northern Men's Federation for Women's Suffrage. As a former actress who worked under the stage name ‘Mary Kingsley’, she was much in demand as a speaker at meetings across the country.
Arncliffe Sennett provided several thousand red and white rosettes for the NUWSS’ first large-scale demonstration on 7 February 1907, known, because of the terrible weather conditions, as the Mud March. A cutting from the newspaper Black and White on p. 17 of the scrapbook depicts women on the march, one of whom is wearing a white rosette.
Arncliffe Sennett was briefly imprisoned in Holloway prison in November 1911 for breaking the windows at the Daily Mail offices. She has inserted a clipping showing a photograph of the prison on p. 53 of the scrapbook.
‘The Dignity of the Franchise’
This cartoon was originally published in the satirical magazine Punch in 1905. It illustrates that although some women were property-owners and taxpayers, they were excluded from the democratic process. Male suffrage was based on how much property men owned. As the threshold for how much property men had to own in order to qualify for the vote became lower, wealthy, educated women saw poorer, uneducated men gain the vote. They perceived this as deeply unfair. As an employer of male labour, Arncliffe Sennett was angry that the men for whom she provided a livelihood could vote, but she could not.
Women’s Enfranchisement Bill
On 8 March 1907, Liberal MP Willoughby H Dickinson introduced a Women’s Enfranchisement Bill to Parliament for its second reading but it was talked out – a parliamentary procedure whereby opponents of a bill continue to debate beyond the time fixed for voting, so that no vote can be taken and the bill fails.
The NUWSS were angry and disappointed at the insulting manner in which Parliament had handled the Enfranchisement Bill. A report of the lengthy debate, cut from in The Times and inserted into the scrapbook on pp. 25–28, is peppered throughout with Arncliffe Sennett’s comments and markings, testament to her own fury and exasperation at the failed bill.
Suffragettes storm the Houses of Parliament
In protest at the defeat of the Dickinson Bill members of the WSPU tried to break into the Houses of Parliament on 20 March 1907. The hundreds of demonstrators included a group of mill girls from the North of England, dressed in clogs and shawls and accompanied by former mill worker, Annie Kenney. The Houses of Parliament were defended by over 500 constables and, following repeated attempts at breaking through the police lines, over 70 women were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
Arncliffe Sennett was one of the women arrested and recorded the outcome of the demonstration in her scrapbook (pp. 50–51). As a suffragette who strongly supported women workers, she took a particular interest in the mill girls. She wanted working-class women to get the vote and believed the anti-suffrage movement was based on class prejudice.
The case of Dora Thewlis
One of the mill girls whose story captured the public’s attention was Dora Thewlis. Aged just 16 at the time of her arrest, she had travelled to London from Huddersfield to take part in the protest. As the cuttings reveal, her story received widespread press coverage (pp. 50–51) with newspapers calling her the ‘girl suffragist’ and ‘infant agitator[s]’.
The magistrate hearing her case, Horace Smith, commented that she ought to be at school and called it ‘disgraceful’ that she was away from home, ‘adrift on the London streets’. In response to Smith’s judgment of their daughter’s situation, her parents commented that:
girls of Dora’s age in her station of life are … compelled by their thousands to spend ten hours per day in health-destroying factories and that the conditions and regulations under which they toil are sanctioned by law, in the making of which women have no voice.
Beneath a photograph of Horace Smith, Arncliffe Sennett has written the words: ‘This benign looking old patriarch has since inflicted savage and spiteful sentences of three months in the 2nd Division on some of the suffragists’ (p. 51).
- Full title:
- [A collection of press cuttings, pamphlets, leaflets and letters mainly relating to the movement for women's suffrage in England, formed and annotated by M. Arncliffe Sennett.]
- February - July 1907
- Ephemera / Image / Illustration / Scrapbook
- Maud Arncliffe Sennett
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Women's Social and Political Union, member card: This material is in the Public Domain.
National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, handbill: This material is in the Public Domain.
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