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 Five 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 and was involved in both the constitutional and the militant wings of the suffrage movement.
A member of the constitutional London Society for Women’s Suffrage, she was also on the executive committees of the Hampstead branch of the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union), the Women’s Freedom League (WFL) and the Actresses’ Franchise League. She also 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’, Arncliffe Sennett was much in demand as a speaker at meetings across the country (see, for example, the poster for a WFL meeting in the scrapbook, between pp. 14–15).
During the years of the suffrage campaign, a variety of arguments were put forward against granting women the vote. Opponents of women’s suffrage were known as ‘antis’. Arncliffe Sennett kept cuttings about the views and activities of the antis in her scrapbook (see p. 20).
The Anti-Suffrage League and its founder, Mrs Humphrey Ward, claimed that the vote was not desired by the majority of British women. Often focusing on the perceived physical, emotional and intellectual differences between men and women, anti-suffragists generally believed that women’s role was firmly located in the private sphere of the home. While Humphrey Ward acknowledged that women could take on roles outside the home and in public life, she argued that this role was in local government and on school boards rather than in government.
Some antis even believed that if women got the vote, Britain’s moral and social order would collapse. In ‘The Opponents’ View’, which outlines some of the reasons why the Anti-Suffrage League opposed the vote, Mrs Frederic Harrison says, ‘we believe in the division of functions as the keystone of civilisation’ (after p. 20).
In ‘Right to Work’, politician and anti-suffragist Dr Macnamara makes the argument that if a woman’s husband can maintain her and the family financially then she has no business in going out to work. He also claims that ‘it is not good for the race that women should go out into employment’ (p. 21).
Suffragettes demonstrate at the opening of Parliament
In October 1908, in response to the government’s failure to include a women’s suffrage bill that had earlier passed its second reading, suffrage campaigners organised protests to coincide with the opening day of the autumn session in the House of Commons.
The WSPU issued thousands of handbills printed with the words, ‘Men and Women, Help the Suffragettes to Rush the House of Commons on Tuesday Evening, October 13, at 7.30’. As part of this campaign, Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst and Flora Drummond spoke at a public meeting in Trafalgar Square on Sunday 11 October, emphasising that they wanted people to come unarmed and peacefully support the cause. They were subsequently summonsed to court on the basis they were guilty of conduct likely to provoke a breach of the peace.
The front page of the Daily Graphic, pasted by Arncliffe Sennett into her scrapbook (p. 36), records the day in photographs. A line of policemen protect the House of Commons from the anticipated onslaught by suffragettes, and a smiling Mr Asquith ‘reaches the house in safety’.
A letter to Arncliffe Sennett from prominent WFL activists Teresa Billington-Greig and Edith How Martyn outlines arrangements for a widespread fly-posting campaign to take place during the night and very early in the morning before the opening of Parliament on Tuesday 13 October (see p. 29 of the scrapbook). A photograph showing two women putting up one of the posters– with the words ‘Women’s Freedom League Demands votes for women this session’ – is included on the front page of the Daily Graphic (p. 36).
- 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.]
- 22 August - 31 October 1908
- Ephemera / Illustration / Image / Photograph / Scrapbook
- Maud Arncliffe Sennett
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Women's Freedom League: This material is in the Public Domain.
Mrs Pember Reeves: © Margaret Dusa McDuff. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.
Ethel Bertha Harrison: This material is in the Public Domain.
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