The Suffragette movement was a testimony to how protesting and resilience can truly make a difference. The women of the suffragist era took on incredible demonstrations with little fear of breaking the law, all in desperation to campaign for their right to vote, so much so that they were often regarded as ‘militant campaigners’. Women were willing to become martyrs for their cause, Emily Davison being the most famous example when she jumped in front of King George’s horse at Epsom. Apart from these large demonstrations that were so essential to the cause. The artwork and posters that accompanied these marches and demonstrations and were present in the media were a smaller aspect but just as crucial to the movement.
The Artists’ Suffrage League was established in 1907 and lasted until 1918. It placed its emphasis on using its art as propaganda. It began as an aid to the Mud March 1907, yet continued on after this and became an essential part of creating visuals for the suffragette cause in the form of posters, banners, christmas cards and postcards. This new wave of posters and cartoons from a woman’s point of view in order to push for acknowledgement of their rights was a first, and often regarded as the first major stage in promoting feminism until the burst of feminist art in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Mary Lowndes (1856-1929) was the chair of the ASL. Having trained at the Slade School of Fine Art, Lowndes went on to design stained glass windows and having founded ‘Lowndes & Drury’ in 1897 and ‘The Glass House’ in 1907, she created a huge body of work with designs featured in churches all over England. Lowndes’ stained glass training had a huge influence on the composition of the posters, maintaining strong colours and shapes, with striking contrasts of orange, blue, green and magenta, as various groups identified with different colours despite green white and purple being the most recognised of these.
These posters were an opportunity to get a political message across with strong messages, wit, dominant female profiles and audacious scenes in which women were portrayed as the better sex. The ASL was a body of talented artists and illustrators of who could combine their artistry with politics to achieve recognition.
Holly Lloyd – Arts & Events Editor