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Spotlight On...George Abraham Gibbs (1873–1931)

This is the view from our picnic spot when we had a day out at Tyntesfield just outside Bristol recently. Tyntesfield is now a National Trust property, but was once the home of Bristol MP George Abraham Gibbs. George Abraham Gibbs (1873–1931) was the Conservative MP for Bristol West between 1906 and 1928. That meant he was in Parliament during the women’s suffrage campaign, and one of Bristol’s MPs at the height of suffragette militancy in the city. Gibbs, though, was opposed to women’s suffrage, and in 1910 voted against the Conciliation Bill which would have enfranchised some women.However, unlike his more unfortunate Liberal counterparts, he did not have to endure heckling and interruptions at his meetings, arson attacks on his homes, or thrashings such as the one suffragette Theresa Garnett gave Liberal MP Winston Churchill in Bristol in 1909. This was because the target of WSPU militancy was the government and its ministers, and that government was a Liberal one.
In fact, the Bris…
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The Women Are Revolting: Charles G Harper and the Ladies of Llangollen

I’ve been reading The Holyhead Road: The Mail Coach Road to Dublin by Charles G Harper. It’s a whopping two-volume work, with each volume being around 300 pages. Harper (1863-1943) was a prolific author, illustrator and journalist, and a keen walker and cyclist. His other books include The Brighton Road, The Portsmouth Road, The Norwich Road and many others in the same vein, as well as books about ghosts, highwaymen, motoring and smuggling.You might think that having to wade through two volumes of a book entitled The Holyhead Road: The Mail Coach Road to Dublin shows just how much a historical novelist is prepared to suffer for the sake of research. I thought so myself before I started reading the books. In fact, they turned out to be strangely entertaining. Reading Harper is like being in the company of some old-fashioned curmudgeon who likes nothing better than having a good swipe at the world and its oddities.

Writing of a statue of Prince Albert in Wolverhampton, for example, Harp…

Judy the Obscure

I’ve just read Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars by Francesca Wade. I loved this book. It’s about a group of women whose lives and work I find really inspiring though I don’t know much about some of them, and nothing at all about one (HD). The other women are Dorothy L Sayers (I’m a huge fan), Virginia Woolf, Eileen Power and Jane Ellen Harrison.


I’m moved and encouraged by their passion for and dedication to their work. I love the way they just kept going through all the discouragements and disappointments. I’m fascinated by their lives between the wars. I’m infuriated by the attitudes they faced – which still ring oh-too-true today. I eagerly devour these stories of women who were not just seeking but creating their own space.

Of course, space here doesn’t just mean their physical space, but how and where they chose to live is a huge part of it. Hence the book’s brilliant focus on place, on a place: Mecklenburgh Square in London. The book gives a vivi…

"The suffragette who beat Win C": Theresa Garnett and the International Alliance of Women

I’ve always been interested in the “after life” of the suffrage campaigners in Britain – what they did after the campaign for the vote – especially since so many histories about them stop at the point when their involvement in the campaign came to an end. Because women’s war work during the First World War is associated with (and often cited as a direct cause of) the eventual enfranchisement of British women, these accounts often extend into the war, and sometimes into the Second World War. Thus we hear of women working in munitions, medicine or quasi-military organisations. We might also hear that they joined other women’s organisations, such as the Suffragette Fellowship or the Six Point Group. Often, though, you’d think that most women suffrage campaigners’ lives came to an end when the franchise campaign ended. Unless, of course, they were well known, in which case their lives are better documented. So it was very exciting to discover evidence of one suffragette’s “after life” whe…