Saturday, July 20, 2019

Goo Goo Eyes: Advertising and the Suffragettes

In The Road to Representation: Essays on the Women’s Suffrage Campaign, I wrote a piece about how businesses made money from the suffrage campaign (Making Money From the Suffragettes). In it I mentioned how for some companies, the campaign was a fruitful marketing opportunity. I also referred to an advert produced by The Keeloma Dairy Company.

So I was amused when I recently bought a copy of an advertisement by another dairy company which also used women’s suffrage in its marketing campaign. The company was Aplin & Barrett and the advertisement was for their St Ivel brand. Such was their faith in their product, they claimed it could even win women the vote. 

In this adventure, the knight St Ivel meets a group of suffragettes, who ask him for his support.
"Beshrew me!" he replies, "Ye have the goo-goo eye which likes me well. Right gladly would I wield my trusty blade on behalf of damsels so buxom. But I wot not what ye want." The women explain, "We demand a vote, but the tyrant Man doth scoff at us and casts us into durance vile." St Ivel advises them, "Hie ye to your homes and set before the tyrants a goodly meal of St Ivel Cheese and other St Ivel dainties. Thus will ye so please them that they will grant ye votes galore."

The cartoon was drawn by the commercial artist Alexander (Alick) P F Ritchie (1868–1938), some of whose work is held at the British Cartoons Archive at the University of Kent. Ritchie was born in Dundee, and studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Antwerp. You can see some wonderful examples of his work on the National Portrait Gallery website.

You can even see the artist in action in this brilliant 1915 film on the British Film Institute website, where he is doing a version of the music-hall act the “chalk-talk”.

The St Ivel brand was established in 1901 by dairy wholesalers James Shorland Aplin and William Henry Barrett who formed Aplin & Barrett Ltd in 1897 (they had gone into partnership in 1888). The company was based in Yeovil, and amalgamated with Western Counties Creameries in 1898. For more information see The A-to-Zof Yeovil’s History. There are more examples of Aplin & Barrett’s advertising on the website, along with photographs of promotional items such as cups, playing cards and notepads – reminiscent of the WSPU’s own talent for producing Votes for Women merchandise. There are also some examples at The History of Advertising Trust website. Sadly there are no more suffrage adverts!

You can find out more about Alick P F Ritchie at A History of British Animation.

Making Money From the Suffragettes was originally published on my blog in July 2016.

The Road to Representation: Essays on the Women’s Suffrage Campaign is available to new subscribers to my newsletter as a free ebook. You can sign up here.

Note re image: My copy of the image does not include details of the publication it appeared in or the date it appeared, nor do I have any information about the commissioner, which I assume was Aplin & Barrett, or any agreement made concerning copyright. The firm was taken over by Unigate in 1960 and so far as I know no longer exists. Therefore, so far as I can ascertain, based on the date of death of the artist, and assuming copyright remained with the artist, to the best of my knowledge the image is not in copyright.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Spotlight On...Mr and Mrs F W Rogers of Bristol

Frederick William Rogers (1859–1927), who ran a firm of Bristol stone masons, and Blanche Mary Rogers (1866–1951), were married at St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol in 1889. They were supporters of the non-militant Bristol and West of England Women’s Suffrage Society. On one occasion, Mrs Rogers went to a meeting at the home of the Misses Duncan at 16 West Mall when she read a sketch by Miss M Duncan with the intriguing title “Latest intelligence from the planet Venus”.  

However, when Annie Kenney came to Bristol to set up the Bristol and West of England branch of the WSPU in 1907, Mrs Rogers was one of the many Bristol suffragists who offered practical and financial support to the WSPU. Annie Kenney held a meeting in Mrs Rogers’ house in August 1908. When the Bristol WSPU put on two suffragette plays at Princes Theatre in 1910 – How the Vote was Won (by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John) and A Pageant of Great Women by Cicely Hamilton – Mrs Rogers played Madame Christine in How the Vote was Won, and Mr Rogers played an attendant to Catherine the Great in the Pageant.  

Prince's Theatre, Bristol

The Rogers participated in the Census Protest in 1911, when Mrs Rogers joined census evaders in Bath. Mrs Mansel, the Bath WSPU organiser, had taken an empty house at 12 Lansdown Crescent for the occasion. Twenty nine women gathered, and entertained one another with music, recitations, and a lecture on clairvoyance. Mrs Rogers gave a recital but left at midnight. According to their census form, the Rogers’ home in Clifton was unoccupied that night so it seems Mr Rogers also evaded. The census enumerator, who recorded that there were two daughters, obtained her information about the family from a neighbour.

Mrs Rogers gave recitals and violin performances for a number of other good causes, including the Workers’ Education Association, the Women’s Total Abstinence Union, and children’s charities. She was involved with a group called the Folk House Players in the 1920s.

She was chair of the Bristol Women’s Citizen Association, and a founder member of The Venture Club, a women’s club formed by the Rotary Club in Bristol in 1920. The Bristol Club inspired the formation of other Venture Clubs around the country. It later amalgamated with the Soroptimists group, which was originally formed in California in 1921, to form the International Soroptimists. Membership of the Venture Club was open to women engaged in honorary social or philanthropic work. Mrs Rogers is listed in 1922–1923 as “Elocutionist: Kensington Villa, Royal Park”.[1]

In 1923 Mrs Rogers was a member of the Bristol branch of the Women’s International League (WIL). She gave a recitation at a WIL garden party for foreign students in June 1923. In December 1923 she reported to a WIL meeting about a visit she had made to Czechoslovakia. She was still involved with WIL in 1932, when she chaired a meeting at Bristol Folk House.  

Mr Rogers was the honorary secretary of the Bristol Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage. The branch was founded in 1908 and its address was the Rogers’ home, 2 Kensington Villas in Clifton. In June 1909 Mr Rogers chaired a Men’s League meeting on Durdham Down. In July 1910 he chaired a meeting of the Bristol Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage at one of the four platforms of a WSPU meeting on Durdham Down; the meeting was nosily heckled by a group of young men.  

Frederick William Rogers died in Derby Royal Infirmary in February 1927. Mrs Rogers died in St Mary’s Hospital, Clifton in January 1951, leaving two daughters.

[1] The listing for Mrs Rogers was provided by Marion Reid, who is researching the local Soroptimists. 

Men's League for Womans Suffrage image: Women's Library on Flickr; No Known Copyright Restrictions.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Mercedes Gleitze: Pioneering Sportswoman

I was delighted to be at the Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival last month to interview Doloranda Pember, the author of In the Wake of Mercedes Gleitze: Open Water Swimming Pioneer, a biography of her mother who was the first British woman to swim the English Channel in 1927. Mercedes was a young working woman with an immigrant background who, without any sponsorship or financial backing, carried out some astonishing long distance and endurance swims. During her sporting career, she was a household name.

Mercedes was an independent woman who set her own goals and never gave up, in spite of obstacles and set backs. She challenged prevailing stereotypes about women – many of which still linger today – proving by her exploits that women could be fit and strong. She also defied the pressures on women to conform to restrictive notions of body image. In her day, it was the craze for boyish figures, but as the Dublin Evening Mail noted, her lead was “certain to be welcomed by women, who are weary of the rigours of dieting”.

Now, I’m not particularly interested in swimming, or any other sport for that matter. But I recommend this book because even if, like me, you think sport isn’t really your thing, Mercedes’s story is one that will inspire anyone to make their dream a reality, whatever that dream may be.

Find out more about In the Wake of Mercedes Gleitze: Open Water Swimming Pioneer by Doloranda Pember at The History Press website.

The Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival is a one day festival that takes place every April in the Cotswold village of Hawkesbury Upton. Make a date for HULF 2020, when the Festival will take place on Saturday 25 April. Find out more at the HULF website.