Votes for Women! – Deeds Not Words
A new presentation from 2010, again designed for working together with a much younger colleague, Sarah Gilkes – and preferably with the addition of an arresting police presence.
The year 1910 saw a turning point in the suffrage movement: Though passed in the Commons, a Conciliation Bill that offered votes for some women was abandoned on 18 November, as an election was called . That ‘Black Friday’ brought a pitched battle between women and police outside Parliament; suffragette Ellen Pitfield died later as a consequence of the injuries she received. This was the year that many woman ceased to be willing to be arrested quietly and without resistance.
As promises of progress on the Vote were endlessly shelved or broken, disillusioned women joined more radical groups such as the Womens Social & Political Union (WSPU) whose slogan was ‘Deeds Not Words’ Some engaged in a programme of civil disobedience and demonstration – even violence – to highlight their cause.
Miss Rouse and Mrs Gilkes belong to this militant faction.
In addition to the unauthorised advertisement of meetings and distribution of unsettling political leaflets – to the startled public – the women intend to invade public buildings to forcibly make their point.
However, where the authorities are forewarned the indefatigable Detecting Officer, Inspector Corner, is on their trail – complete with letters of instruction, visual intelligence, a hacksaw and a Very Loud Whistle..
Even if moved on, ejected and thwarted in their original purpose, where at all possible Mrs Gilkes and Miss Rouse will swiftly reveal WSPU sashes and ribbons, handcuff themselves to a suitable obstacle, unfurl the Votes for Women banners and address the assembled crowd. (One will then swallow the key to the handcuffs and both invite the authorities to do their damndest!)
Passers-by may be asked directly if, when and where they have seen Miss Rouse and Mrs Gilkes, or else be confronted by the plainclothes detective who witheringly makes comparisons with his wanted photographs. Some people will be all too pleased to point the women out, while others will make the decision to tell glaringly obvious lies.
This is an interpretation designed to gradually enlist public participation whether as supporters of or informants against the women:
One way or another the resourceful pair will usually get away, so the scene can be re-set and replayed throughout an event either at the same or various close locations.
In a fortunate outcome former Detecting Officer Atthow has unexpectedly seen the error of his previous ways – and joined the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage! Here he valiantly takes part in a WSPU fund raising initiative with the Camera Obscura…
If you would like to see more details of our multi-period optics presentation click on the highlighted link to see our full Eye Magic! presentation.