Friday, July 22, 2016

Making Money From the Suffragettes

The suffragette campaign spearheaded by Mrs Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was a time of heady excitement, courage, endurance and persistence. Women marched under stirring banners – From Prison to Citizenship, Deeds Not Words, Ask With Courage (a pun on prime minister Asquith's name). They endured violence and imprisonment in their quest for justice. They made news – and for some they also made money.

The Keeloma Dairy Company was one of the businesses which saw the suffragette campaign as a marketing opportunity. In 1907 they advertised their “butter substitute” in the Yorkshire Evening Post with a stock cartoon image of the suffragette – ugly, mannish and strident. The advertisement reads:-

The suffragette says she ought to have a vote. Maybe it would be policy, perhaps not. But what we do know is that when once ladies have tried Keeloma, they unanimously vote it of a delicious creamy flavour, and quite equal to freshly-churned country butter.

The Keeloma advertisement appeared, whether by accident or design, on the same page as a report of a suffragette deputation to the House of Commons on 20 March 1907.

Other companies didn’t just use the suffragette campaign to advertise their wares, they developed products aimed at the campaigners. The Kensington store Derry & Toms carried a range of hats in the colours of various organisations due to take part in a demonstration on 17 June 1911. It was, they said, “a unique opportunity for purchasing suitable millinery for the great Procession”. On Oxford Street, Selfridges sold blouses, ribbons, badges and “dainty wrist bags” in the WSPU colours – purple, white and green. William Owen sold white dresses for wearing in suffrage processions.

Presumably published before the suffragette arson campaign started - and regretted after!

Swan and Edgar, Burberrys and Peter Robinsons were amongst other stores which offered clothes and accessories for suffragettes, as well as for non-militant campaigners of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. The NUWSS colours were green, white and red. Unfortunately for these stores, their willingness to commercialise the suffrage movement didn’t protect their windows when the WSPU launched its window-smashing campaign.

The suffragette campaign inspired money makers from swanky department stores to “gutter merchants”. The London Daily News reported on 22 March 1907 that hawkers outside the police courts, where 75 women and one man were being tried after the violent demonstration outside the House of Commons on 20 March, were doing a “roaring trade” selling postcards of suffragette leaders.

Alongside the postcard sellers was one vendor who demonstrated the true entrepreneurial spirit. Pitched as “Spoils of the Fight”, he sold items harvested from the women’s struggle to breach the police cordons around the House of Commons. His goods included torn pieces of clothing, hatpins, feathers, and hair – souvenirs of the brutal opposition women met with when they demanded the vote.  

You can find out more about suffragette merchandise, including goods sold by the WSPU themselves (tea, soap, badges etc), in Diane Atkinson’s book The Purple White & Green: London 1906-14 (London: Museum of London, 1992).

See also Theatre and Fashion: Oscar Wilde to the Suffragettes, Joel H Kaplan and Sheila Stowell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Piratesses - A Guest Blog by Helen Hollick

I'm delighted to welcome Helen Hollick back with a riproaring blog about women pirates. The latest book in Helen's thrilling Sea Witch Voyages - On the Account - is out now! Read all about Captain Jesamiah Acorne's latest adventures and release your inner seadog...see below for details.

You get authoress, manageress, actress – so why not pirate-ess? The word might be made-up (and the gender-specific ‘ess’ bit rarely used nowadays) but they were there, the women. Two in particular are the most famous.

The early eighteenth century was not a good place to be if you were poor, black, or a woman. For women there were no rights; they were little more than possessions. No right to law, to decision of marriage – and about one in four died in childbirth. Mention pirates and Anne Bonny and Mary Read enter the conversation. Anne was pirate Captain ‘Calico’ Jack Rackham’s lover, Mary Read a member of his crew, although we do not know if she was initially disguised as a man or not. We know of them because they were captured and tried in Jamaica. Rackham hanged. The two women did not.

 Anne Bonny

Anne was born around 1700 in Ireland to a serving woman who was in the employ of lawyer, William Cormac. When Anne was about twelve the family emigrated to America settling in Carolina. Her mother died soon after and her father re-established himself as a man of law. He did not do very well, so pursued a career in a merchant business, amassing a sizable fortune. Anne married against the wishes of her father, taking a poor sailor, James Bonny as her husband. Mr Cormac disowned both of them and at some point between 1715-1718 they moved to Nassau.

James was not a ‘good sort’. Lazy, probably a drunkard, he spent his time in the taverns, employed surreptitiously as an informer. The pirates of Nassau had been given amnesty from former crimes providing they did not return to piracy. Informers like James Bonny kept a watchful eye on who broke the agreement. Anne met Calico Jack Rackham and became his lover. Her husband was not especially happy with this – understandable – and had Anne arrested for adultery, the punishment being stripped bare and publically flogged. James Bonny and Jack Rackham came to an agreement. Bonny sold Anne to him.

Tired of the ‘going straight’ life of boredom, Rackham and Anne stole a ship from the harbour, put to sea and became pirates, menacing merchant shipping across the Caribbean. While not achieving a fortune they were moderately successful, capturing many small vessels. Anne’s name and gender was widely known, she fought openly alongside the crew and did not disguise herself as a man, although she more than likely wore male apparel.

Mary Read

Mary was the daughter of a sea captain’s widow, born illegitimately in England at some time in the late 17th century. Mrs Read received an allowance for her eldest (legitimate) son, Mark, from his paternal grandmother, but when he died to retain the financial support Mary was disguised as a boy. The two of them relied upon this aid until Mary’s teenage years. Continuing to dress as a boy, Mary/Mark found work as a footboy, and then as crew aboard a ship. From 1701-1714 she was with the army, still dressed as a young man. Her career came to an end when she fell in love with a Flemish soldier. They married and purchased a tavern near Breda in the Netherlands. Sadly, her husband died and Mary returned to the Dutch army in male uniform. Peace came, however, and she joined a ship’s crew bound for the Caribbean. The ship was taken as a Prize by pirates and she was forced to join them, presumably maintaining her male role. She accepted the King’s Pardon at Nassau, but meeting with Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham joined their crew and returned to piracy. The big question: were Anne or Jack, or both, aware of Mary’s gender identity?

The End of the Adventure

In October 1720 Jack Rackham, his crew and two women were apprehended by a pirate hunter. Drunk and carousing below deck the men had made no attempt to defend themselves, while Bonny and Reed, swearing at their comrades to come on deck to help, fought hard to resist capture. The two women had little chance of success and the entire crew were taken to Jamaica to face trial. The trial was a sensation with all the men found guilty and hanged, but both women ‘pleaded their belly’ – they were pregnant, so execution was postponed until the birth of the babies. Mary died in jail of fever a few months later, but there is no record of Anne’s labour, delivery, release or execution. It is assumed that her father paid for her release and took her back home to Carolina.

 It may be fact, legend, or pure fiction, but Bonny's last words to Jack Rackham as he was led out to the gallows were: "Had you fought like a man, you need not hang like a dog."

Maybe Anne was relieved to be rid of it all, and settled quietly in a stabilised role firmly on land with not a single glimpse of the sea to stir the memories of days that, beyond the excitement of adventure, were maybe not quite what she was expecting?

Helen Hollick is the author of the Sea Witch Voyages – swashbuckling nautical adventure yarns, with a touch of fantasy for adults

Sea Witch : Voyage One
Pirate Code : Voyage Two
Bring It Close : Voyage Three
Ripples In The Sand : Voyage Four
On The Account : Voyage Five

Find out more about Helen and her work:-

Twitter: @HelenHollick
Author Page on an Amazon near you :
1066 Turned Upside Down (e-book)