Sunday 7 July 2013

Beamish Suffragette Celebrations Pt1

Hello there.

As part of the photography scavenger hunt I've already shared some images of a recent trip to Beamish a few days ago, so it's about time I shared the main reason we were there on that particular day ... to experience the special events of their Suffragette Celebration Weekend.

A shop window in The Town
Marking the centenary of the death of Emily Wilding Davison [who died after trying to pin the colours of their cause on to the King's racehorse, mid race], there were all kinds of suffrage-related events and activities going on around the open-air museum to really give a flavour of life at the time when women were demanding the vote.
It was a great experience which all started out quite light-hearted and fun, like when we watched school children with placards dancing to the suffrage version of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance [yes, there is such a thing! Who knew?]

And then we laughed at the ridiculous reasons given in the Anti-Suffrage leaflet we picked up in one of the houses in the Pit Village such as
  • "Women are not physically strong enough to enforce the law, so should not make the law";
  • "There are more women in the country than men. If granted the vote, the sovereignty of the British Empire will pass from the hands of men into the hands of women."
  • "Women are ruled by their womb not their brain so are prone to insanity and hysteria".
So we were quickly in the mood for a invigorating day out!

Plus ... you know you're in for a good day out when you get a text message from your Dad warning you not to get arrested!

But as we moved into the town things got a little more pro-active ...
There were suffragettes encouraging passers-by to write slogans on the pavement ...
... an offer which Mam joined in with: 
... enthusiastically:
And you thought my Dad was joking about us getting arrested ... ;-)
It seems like he knew what he was talking about because soon afterwards, as we rested in the park, one of the ladies from the campaign for a peaceful approach to getting the vote brought her petition round ... 
Here she is debating with a pro-suffrage gentleman!
When she approached us - my Mam, sister and I [James, in some sort of perfect metaphor for the men of the day ... was half-asleep on the grass next to us!] - she offered us the petition and we almost did sign it ... after all we'd seen her weaving her way through the crowd, picking up signatures from everyone who she'd asked.
 But then ... she said it was for the peaceful protest and 'not like those silly suffragettes'!  
Which is when we all refused to sign!
She then [rather wonderfully] chastised us all and asked if we'd been involved in the bombing of the Co-Op!

She castigated us for putting the new Policeman to a lot of trouble and said we were probably be the kind of women who'd write on the pavements too ... [ahem].

We laughed and it was a lot of fun ... however ... once she'd left that's when things started to feel a little edgy ... my sister turned to me and asked "Do you think we really would have been suffragettes?" and, to be honest, I just didn't know the answer to that.

I'd like to think I'd have been bold enough ... but would I? Would you?

And how fortunate are we that, because of the women who went before us, not so very long ago, we don't have to make that decision?

All this was brought into even sharper focus when, after we'd been to the park, we decided to visit the tea room for a completely innocent cuppa [honestly officer!!] ... and yet we found ourselves on the edge of a argument between a suffragette and the local townswomen.
At one point the phrase 'people like you' was hurled and, while it was only part of the drama ... it felt real enough. Enough to make you think ...

And, as us British do in the midst of all this hubbub over tea ... everyone just kept calm and carried on, until ...
... the suffragette tried to chain herself to the table and she was promptly arrested.

[Somehow I don't even think a text message from her Dad would have dissuaded her from doing it]
And the good folk of the tea room booed and jeered and applauded the suffragette ... and I took photos  ... 

But as we sat there drinking our tea, we were also clock watching. Because we had a funeral to go to ...
And, in a few days, I'll be back to share photos from the day's main event, the re-enactment of  Emily Wilding Davison's funeral procession.


I've just realised that today - as is the case each 1st Sunday of the month - my friend Sian is hosting Storytelling Sunday on her blog From High in the Sky. Her overarching theme for this year's stories has been 'Pick Your Precious' where you write about an item that really means something to you.

And so Sian - while this isn't an 'official' Storytelling Sunday post - in light of my subject matter today - I'd just like to just document something 'precious' and that's my right to vote.

See you all soon.



  1. I definitely like to think of myself as someone who would have been a suffragette, and i think this is a great topic for storytelling Sunday.

  2. Wow I would have loved to have gone to this, I'm interested in anything to do with the Suffragettes but I'm the same as you, I'd like the idea of being one but think I'd be too chicken. Can't wait to here about Emily Davidson's funeral xx

  3. I'm with Rinda, I'm sure I would have been a suffragette. I have been heavily involved in legal political campaigns. Sounds a fabulous day

  4. Oh Julie - this is a wonderful topic for Storytelling Sunday - and I think our right to vote is one of our most precious possessions. I have often discussed this with my mum and we think we would be a Suffragettes - - I come from the same town in Lancashire that is the birthplace of Annie Kenney - the only working class woman who was part of the senior leadership of the Suffrage Movement. My mum and my gran would be ashamed of me if I didn't use my vote - and I have tried to instill its value into my own daughters.

  5. Looks a brilliant day, will have to go when they have another of a reenactment day. Some of our students get involved as suffragettes and dress up when we have our day there but have never seen it. Love your Mum writing on the pavement :0)

  6. My grandmother, born 1892, was a strong supporter of the suffragette movement. She was never arrested but she campaigned with them and raised funds for them. When I was 18 she made me swear that I would always vote in every election just as soon as I was old enough. It was my granny that told me that abstaining is not a protest it is just laziness. If you don't want anyone to get in you MUST spoil your ballot because it still has to be counted. I don't think I would have been brave enough to get arrested but I would have certainly been there with Granny raising the money to ensure that voices were heard. I have never missed a vote and I have taught my daughter and my granddaughters the same

  7. That sounds like a great event to have been to.

  8. I love the fact that the whole town is playing along (even the kids apparently). Very interesting post! Sounds like a great day indeed!

  9. Wow! This sounds so interesting! I actually had to laugh when I saw the anti suffragette leaflet info, because that last one "women are ruled by their womb not their brain so are prone to insanity and hysteria" kinda feels like me right now! I know it sounds totally old school and wrong for men to say that, however, being 8 months pregnant and feeling totally emotional and bordering on insanity, I don't think it's that far off sometimes!! Don't get me wrong, I am SO happy for the right to vote and I eternally grateful for the women who fought for it before my time. I'm just feeling a little "ruled by my womb" right now! lol

  10. Oh, you know how much TSO and I would have loved this! She is still talking about the day she marched on stage as a Suffragette as part of "Mary Poppins" when she was ten. I made a page and we had a big Girl Power chat about..stuff. Not sure if we covered not getting arrested..

    I love this and I'm going to link it up for you..that's okay, isn't it?

  11. I would love to think I would have been with the suffragettes. Ruled by our wombs! and what may I ask are men ruled by? This is a wonderful post for Sian's Story Telling Sunday. It is about a hundred years since I went to Beamish, You brought back a few memories for me. Thanks Julie.

  12. It looks like you had a really amazing day. I work in Epsom and was pleased that a memorial was put at the racecourse for Emily

  13. What a FUN event! I'd like to think I'd have had the courage to participate in the fight for women's rights, but since I'm the type to avoid conflict at all costs, maybe not...

  14. I had to chuckle at Miriam's comment because that was exactly what I was thinking too! This is a lovely story of a very important movement who changed our history forever. I would love to think I would have been a suffragette as I believe in the empowerment of women everywhere!

  15. What an interesting and informative post, Julie! Your descriptions and photos are very evocative. The right to be respected and treated as equals across the world is by no means won, and I like to think we are all still putting energy into making it a reality.

  16. I love your post. It looks like a day out we would have all enjoyed. Would I have been a suffragette...i'm not sure...but i am sure that with the right to vote now, we must.

  17. Oh I'm glad Sian linked you up - I so enjoyed reading this. Off to look up the Beamish museum and like you I feel my right to vote and be involved politically is such a blessing. Have raised my kids to vote and analyse the politics involved. Important and necessary life skills.

  18. I love this post Julie and actually got a bit of a lump in my throat reading about some of the enactments and your response to them.

    I'd like to think I'd have been with them in the day - but I also know I like a quiet life and don't like to upset people (sometimes to the detriment of what I want myself) :/ I do like to think that I stand up for what's right though... argh. Got my head in a spin thinking on this one.

    I love the song!


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