LSE’s Library, the British Library of Political and Economic Science, opened in November 1896. In a series of posts celebrating LSE Library’s 120th anniversary in 2016, Gillian Murphy explores the women behind the names on the suffrage banner inspired by the 1866 women’s suffrage petition.
LSE Library houses a number of suffrage banners. Most of these banners were made by the Artists’ Suffrage League for the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies procession in 1908. Mary Lowndes said that a banner was “a thing to float in the wind, to flicker in the breeze, to flirt its colours for your pleasure”. She founded the Artists’ Suffrage League in 1907 to further the cause of women’s enfranchisement by the work and professional help of artists. The Artists’ Suffrage League produced not only banners but posters, postcards and illustrative leaflets and many of these are also held in the Library’s collection. The suffrage banners either represent a region (eg, East Anglia), an occupation (eg, shorthand writers), a heroine or historical figure (eg, Elizabeth Fry) or a society (eg, Civil Service Suffrage Society).
The banner discussed here is made from purple satin with appliqued arts and crafts stylised flowers and the names of six women who were involved in the early suffrage campaign stencilled below. There are two golden ribbons attached at the top of the banner which would have fluttered in the breeze as the women walked holding the banner in procession.
Who were the women featured on this suffrage banner?
Agnes Montgomerie Beddoe was member of the first committee of the Bristol and West of England Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1868 and remained on the executive committee until she died in 1914. She campaigned for the Married Women’s Property Act.
Mary Carpenter was the only woman on the banner who did not sign the 1866 women’s suffrage petition, but she signed subsequent suffrage petitions. Mary campaigned for the state care of neglected children and was the force behind the Youthful Offenders Act in 1854. In later life, she travelled to India campaigning for female education. Mary was friends with Elizabeth Adelaide Manning and Frances Power Cobbe.
Frances Power Cobbe was part of a network of feminist friends who campaigned for women’s suffrage, most notably Emily Davies, John Stuart Mill, Millicent Garrett Fawcett. She was, however, most passionate about the campaign for reform to the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1878.
Lilias Ashworth Hallett was a busy speaker for the suffrage cause. She organised Millicent Garrett Fawcett’s lecture tour of the west of England in 1871.
Elizabeth Adelaide Manning was also part of the campaign for the vote, but she is probably better known for her work with girls’ education and in the National Indian Association, which was founded by Mary Carpenter in 1870.
Harriet Martineau was a writer and journalist who wrote numerous articles for English Woman’s Journal and the Daily News amongst others.
One banner is currently on display in the Library’s exhibition Endless Endeavours: from the 1866 Women’s Suffrage Petition to the Fawcett Society.
Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide 1866-1928, 1999
Lisa Tickner, The Spectacle of Women, 1987
Posts about LSE Library explore the history of the Library, our archives and special collections.