Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family Suffrage Research Collection

The women’s suffrage movement in the United Kingdom was a momentous event, not just in social history, but in the history of popular design and fashion. From the mid nineteenth century until universal female suffrage was granted in England in 1928, numerous suffrage societies were established to campaign for women’s right to vote using both peaceful and militant tactics. Designers and artists played an important role in popularising and disseminating the suffrage message. They designed and produced jewellery, accessories, ceramics, banners, printed ephemera and other artistic products, using distinct colour schemes and logos to raise awareness of the cause and build their political advantage. Through this manipulation of their image, suffrage campaigners aimed to demonstrate the dignity and ‘womanliness’ of the suffrage campaign. The well-organised, orderly and beautifully outfitted campaigners were a firm riposte to anti-suffragists’ claims that the movement was hysterical, shrieking and crazed.

Mary Lowndes, founder of the Artists’ Suffrage League, declared ‘Who takes the eye takes all.’ Visual images defined the suffrage movement, from the purple, green and white sashes worn by the Women’s Social and Political Union, to the ‘Votes for Women’ posters designed by Hilda Dallas and distributed in their thousands around London and beyond. Capitalising on a young generation of women designers, new technologies in printing and distribution and the rise of daily newspapers and mass-produced merchandise, suffrage organisations developed one of the early twentieth century’s most distinctive visual identities.

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NGV International

16 Aug 19 – 16 Aug 20

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Letters and Documents

Selina Martin (author)
England 1882–1972
page one from No title c. 1909
coloured ink on paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Shaw Research Library
Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family Suffrage Research Collection

Suffragette Selina Martin wrote this six-page typewritten account detailing the period from her arrest on 21 December 1909 to her release from Walton Gaol on 3 February 1910. In this first-person description, the reality and brutality of the suffrage hunger strikes and the subsequent force feeding of women who undertook them is graphically presented. Hunger strikes in gaol were seen by the leaders of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union as an important tool in publicising and arousing support for the suffrage movement, with accounts featured in Votes for Women.

Selina Martin (author)
England 1882–1972
page two from No title c. 1909
coloured ink on paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Shaw Research Library
Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family Suffrage Research Collection

Suffragette Selina Martin wrote this six-page typewritten account detailing the period from her arrest on 21 December 1909 to her release from Walton Gaol on 3 February 1910. In this first-person description, the reality and brutality of the suffrage hunger strikes and the subsequent force feeding of women who undertook them is graphically presented. Hunger strikes in gaol were seen by the leaders of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union as an important tool in publicising and arousing support for the suffrage movement, with accounts featured in Votes for Women.

Selina Martin (author)
England 1882–1972
page six from No title c. 1909
coloured ink on paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Shaw Research Library
Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family Suffrage Research Collection

Suffragette Selina Martin wrote this six-page typewritten account detailing the period from her arrest on 21 December 1909 to her release from Walton Gaol on 3 February 1910. In this first-person description, the reality and brutality of the suffrage hunger strikes and the subsequent force feeding of women who undertook them is graphically presented. Hunger strikes in gaol were seen by the leaders of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union as an important tool in publicising and arousing support for the suffrage movement, with accounts featured in Votes for Women.

Jennie Baines (author)
England 1866–Australia 1961
Letter to Selina Martin 26 December 1909
pen on paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Shaw Research Library
Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family Suffrage Research Collection

This letter is written on stationery produced by the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) for its employees and supporters, featuring a Sylvia Pankhurst-designed logo showing a purple, white and green trumpeting angel. Suffragette Selina Martin received this letter from Sarah Jane (Jennie) Baines, a WSPU organiser who was imprisoned fifteen times from 1908 to 1913. Weakened from prison hunger strikes, Baines fled London for Melbourne, where she became a prominent women’s and labour activist. The letter ends with the plea: ‘keep of your courage. No surrender. The mist will soon roll away and bring freedom and justice to our long neglected sex’.

Court summons 1909
paper, ink
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Shaw Research Library
Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family Suffrage Research Collection

This court summons was issued to suffragette Selina Martin (under her alias Mary Richards) in September 1909 when she was charged with wilful damage for smashing fourteen panes of glass. Martin was imprisoned many times and was effectively a ‘professional’ suffrage militant. She took part in five demonstrations that included militant incidents between May and September 1909 and spent much of the next year either in prison or recovering from hunger strikes. Only a relatively small group of women were willing to engage in militant activity, so activists like Martin were highly valued by the Pankhurst-led Women’s Social and Political Union.

Christabel Pankhurst (author)
England 1880 – United States 1958
Letter to Selina Martin 1 November 1909
ink on paper
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Shaw Research Library
Krystyna Campbell-Pretty AM and Family Suffrage Research Collection

Christabel Pankhurst wrote this letter to suffragette Selina Martin when Martin was released from prison in November 1909. Pankhurst was one of the major figures in the Women’s Social and Political Union and to receive a personal letter from her would have been a great honour. In the letter, Pankhurst expresses her pride in Martin’s bravery during her imprisonment and empahasises the great lesson her resistance in prison has taught the movement. Pankhurst notes at the end of the letter, ‘Tomorrow I shall see you’. This may have been in reference to a ‘welcome home’ party often held for suffragettes released from prison.