Skip to main content

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).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dickens and Chickens

On 17 April 1860, in fields near Farnborough, Charles Dickens joined an audience amongst whom were the Prince of Wales and the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, as well as a number of MPs and clergymen, to watch the American John Carmel Heenan and England’s Tom Sayers (the Brighton Titch) beat one another blind and bloody in a bare-knuckle fight that lasted nearly two and a half hours. The fight ended in a draw when Aldershot police stormed the ring, forcing the fighters and their illustrious spectators to flee the scene. It was the brutality of this match that signalled an end to the bare-knuckle era and prompted the development of the Marquess of Queensberry’s rules. Dickens’s interest in pugilism was of long standing. In 1848 Dombey and Son , which had been published in serial form over the preceding two years, came out in book form. One of many of his novels that draws on the world of the prize fighter, it introduces the unforgettable Mr Toots, a would-be man about town, an

Spotlight On...Begbrook House, Frenchay, Bristol

On 11 November 1913, the head gardener at Begbrook House in Frenchay near Bristol discovered that the   building was on fire. The house stood in its own wooded grounds, and was said to have twenty rooms and a fine old staircase. Within a few hours the house was gutted. The fire caused £3,000 worth of damage. A copy of the WSPU newspaper, The Suffragette , was left at the site with the message, “Birrell is coming. Rachel Pease is still being tortured”.  Begbrook House Picture: Frenchay Village Museum Augustine Birrell was the Liberal MP for Bristol North, and a cabinet minister. He was frequently targetted by militants in Bristol. Suffragettes interrupted his meetings and two women once accosted him at Temple Meads Railway Station with their demand for the vote.    Begbrook House belonged to Hugh Thomas Coles, a wealthy banker. Hugh Coles was the son of   William Gale Cole of Clifton, who was also a banker, and was born in Clifton in 1856. Lik

The Bristol Boys: The Bare Knuckle Champions and The Hatchet Inn

The Hatchet Inn on Frogmore Street in Bristol is all that remains of a row of seventeenth-century timbered houses dating back to 1606 – making it one of the city’s oldest pubs. It was substantially altered in the 1960s, and these days it stands on a traffic island. But at one time it boasted extensive grounds – and amongst the facilities on offer was a bare-knuckle boxing ring. Plaque at The Hatchet Inn, Bristol The pub’s connection with Bristol’s boxing heroes is commemorated in a plaque illustrating five of Bristol’s champions – one of whom, Hen Pearce, features in Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery. Hen Pearce (Detail) Bristol born Hen Pearce, The Game Chicken (1777 – 1809), a former butcher’s boy, became champion of England in 1805. He was a hero inside and outside the ring. In 1807 he climbed onto the roof of a building in Thomas Street, Bristol to rescue a servant girl from a fire. Always a popular figure, this courageous act inspired many eulogies in pr