On This Day: Black Friday, 18th November 1910

Black Friday Museum of London

A suffragette struggling with a police officer during Black Friday. Photo by Rachel Barratt (Source: Museum of London).

By 1910, the women’s suffrage campaign had been gathering steam for several years. Frustrated with the lack of progress, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) were becoming increasingly militant, and their relationship with the government was deteriorating. Violence was escalating on both sides; the force-feeding of hunger strikers began in October 1909, for example. On the 18th of November 1910, around 300 members of the WSPU were treated so poorly by the police and bystanders outside Parliament in Westminster that the day became known as Black Friday.

During the 1910 general election campaign, Herbert Asquith, Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Party, promised a Conciliation Bill to allow some women the right to vote in national elections. The Liberal Party won the election, and a committee of MPs proposed legislation that would have given 1 million women the right to vote. For many suffrage campaigners, the proposals didn’t go far enough, but it was still a massive step forward, and most campaigners supported the Conciliation Bill. Many MPs also supported the Bill, and it passed it’s first and second readings in Parliament. Asquith refused to give the Bill more parliamentary time, however, and called another general election before it could become law, killing it.

The WSPU saw Asquith’s actions as a gross betrayal; they had suspended militant action on the 13th of January 1910 because of the promise Asquith made to give some women the vote, and now their hopes had been dashed. They organised a rally at Caxton Hall in Westminster, followed by a protest march to Parliament. The rally started at 12pm, after which WSPU organiser Flora ‘the General’ Drummond organised the women into groups to march to parliament and petition Asquith directly. The first group was led by Emmeline Pankhurst and included several prominent suffragettes including Dr. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Dr. Louisa Anderson (sister and niece respectively of Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Hertha Ayrton and Sophia Duleep-Singh. When this group arrived at parliament at about 1:20 pm, they were admitted, told that Asquith wouldn’t see them, and then shown out into Parliament Square where they were met with utter chaos.

Caxton Hall Black Friday

WSPU leaders at the meeting at Caxton Hall in Westminster on Black Friday (Source: Museum of London).

When the rest of the 300 marchers reached Parliament Square, they were met by aggressive police officers and male bystanders. The local A Division of the Metropolitan Police had plenty of experience policing suffragette protests, and knew how to handle them without resorting to excessive violence. Most of the policemen in Parliament Square on the 18th of November, however, were from Whitechapel and East London, and had less experience of policing WSPU protests. The women clashed with the police for 6 hours, during which time many of the women were sexually assaulted. Rosa May Billingshurst was a WSPU member who used a wheelchair. She was taken down a side street by policemen who stole the valves from her wheelchair so she couldn’t move, and abandoned her. Caxton Hall became a triage point, where injured protesters could retreat from the chaos. It appeared that the police deliberately tried to sexually humiliate the women to teach them a lesson rather than just arresting them. 4 men and 115 women were eventually arrested, although all of the charges were dropped by the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, the following day.

The committee which had proposed the Conciliation Bill were appalled by the accounts of violence, and decided to investigate. They interviewed 135 protesters, 29 of whom described examples of sexual assault. Media sympathy was largely with the police, although plenty of people did speak out against the treatment of the protesters. There were calls for an inquiry, but Winston Churchill refused. The protest led to a change of tactics on both sides. The WSPU increasingly turned to covert protest tactics, such as window breaking and stone throwing, which gave them a chance to escape before the police arrived. The Metropolitan Police were also more careful about how they policed protests and when they made arrests.

The term Black Friday is now associated with over-the-top sales and rampant consumerism, but 100 years ago it had very different connotations. It was associated with the violent suppression of peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the campaign for women’s suffrage.

Sources and Further Reading

Hawksley, Lucinda. March, Women, March: Voices of the Women’s Movement from the First Feminist to the Suffragettes. London: Andre Deutsch, 2015.

Raw, Louise. “The Sexual Assaults Faced by the Suffragettes.” Politics.co.uk. Last modified 8 February 2018, accessed 23 October 2018. Available at  http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2018/02/08/the-sexual-assault-faced-by-the-suffragettes

Wikipedia, “Black Friday (1910).” Last modified 21 July 2018, accessed 18 October 2018. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_(1910)

Turbulent Londoners: Jessie Kenney, 1887-1985

Turbulent Londoners is a series of posts about radical individuals in London’s history who contributed to the city’s contentious past, with a particular focus of women, whose contribution to history is often overlooked. My definition of ‘Londoner’ is quite loose, anyone who has played a role in protest in the city can be included. Any suggestions for future Turbulent Londoners posts are very welcome. To celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, all of the Turbulent Londoners featured in 2018 will have been involved in the campaign for women’s suffrage. This post is about Jessie Kenney, younger sister of Annie Kenney, the best-known working class member of the Women’s Social and Political Union.


Jessie Kenney

Jessie Kenney (Source: Unbound).

Most people who are familiar with the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) know about Annie Kenney, the charismatic working class organiser from Oldham in Greater Manchester. What fewer people know is that Annie’s sisters were also involved in the fight for women’s suffrage. Annie’s younger sister, Jessie, was also a full-time organiser for the WSPU, although she had a different skill set to Annie.

Jessie Kenney was born in Oldham in 1887, the ninth of 12 children. When she was 13, she left school to start working in a cotton mill, although she continued her education through evening classes. In 1905, she went with her sister Annie to the Oldham Clarion Vocal Club to listen to Teresa Billington-Grieg and Christabel Pankhurst speak about women’s suffrage. After that, both sisters joined the WSPU. Annie, eight years older than Jessie, was a charismatic and engaging speaker. Jessie’s skills were more organisational, and in 1906 she began working for the WSPU full time as Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence‘s secretary.

Jessie used her organisational skills to great effect, arranging deputations to visit politicians and interrupt meetings. On the 23rd of February 1909 Jessie took advantage of a loophole that allowed ‘human letters’ to be sent through the Royal Mail to send Daisy Soloman and Elspeth McClellan to the Prime Minister from the Strand Post Office. In October 1910, she organised the WSPU’s campaign during the Walthamstow by-election. In 1912, she did the same in South Hackney.

Jessie did not just organise WSPU actions, she also took part in them. She was imprisoned for a month after being arrested at a protest in Parliament Square on the 30th of June 1908. On the 10th of December 1909 she disguised herself as a telegraph boy in order to try and access the Prime Minister Herbert Asquith at a public meeting in Manchester. On the 5th of September 1910, along with Elsie Howey and Vera Wentworth, she accosted Asquith and Herbert Gladstone whilst they were play golf.

Jessie Kenney's office

Jessie Kenney’s office in the WSPU headquarters in Clement’s Inn, London. The picture was taken by an H. Seargeant in July 1911 (Source: Museum of London).

In 1913 Jessie was taken ill and sent to Switzerland to recover. She didn’t destroy her papers before she left, and evidence that the authorities found in her flat was used to convict the WSPU’s chemist, Edwy Clayton, to 21 months in prison for his role in the group’s arson campaign. In 1914, Jessie went to stay with Christabel Pankhurst, who was living in hiding in Paris. Between July and August, she travelled to Glasgow once a week to make sure the WSPU’s newspaper, The Suffragette, was published successfully.

When Britain joined the First World War in August 1914, Jessie threw herself into the war effort with the rest of the WSPU. In 1915, she travelled to America to organise the early stages of the Pankhurst’s Serbian Mission. The following year, she helped to organise the WSPU’s War Work Procession in London, encouraging women to join the war effort. In 1917, Jessie travelled to Russia with Emmeline Pankhurst to meet with the Provisional Government and try and persuade them to keep Russia in the war.

After the war, Jessie worked for the American Red Cross in Paris. She decided she wanted to be a Radio Officer on a ship, and trained at the North Wales Wireless College. She got a first class certificate in Radio Telegraphy, but was unable to get a job in such a male-dominated industry. Instead she worked as a steward on cruise liners before settling in Battersea and working as an administrative secretary in a school. She died 1985.

Jessie Kenney may not be as famous as her sister, but there is no doubt that she worked just as hard to win women the right to vote. Her skills kept her out of the spotlight, but she made an invaluable contribution to the WSPU and deserves just as much recognition as any other woman who campaigned for the right to vote.

References and Further Reading

ArchivesHub. “Papers of Jessie Kenney.” No date, accessed 14 October 2018. Available at https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/046b1a57-c944-3de8-bc81-00176e398001

Simkin, John. “Jessie Kenney.” Spartacus Educational. Last modified February 2015, accessed 14 October 2018. Available at https://spartacus-educational.com/WkenneyJ.htm

Wikipedia, “Jessie Kenney.” Last modified 15 August 2018, accessed 9 October 2018. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jessie_Kenney

London’s Protest Stickers: Immigration and Race 2

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Immigration and racism have been a key issue for activists in London in recent years (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, Whitechapel High Street).

In recent years, events such as the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean and Brexit have made immigration and race particularly contentious issues in Britain. As I have discussed before, London is no stranger to immigration; the city would be a very different place without it. Unfortunately, it is also no stranger to xenophobia, racism, and anti-migrant sentiments, as some of the stickers below demonstrate. However, there are groups, social movements, and activists who are willing to defend the rights of migrants and ethnic minorities in Britain, as most of the stickers below will show.

To see where the protest stickers in this post were located, check out the Turbulent London Map.

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Most protest stickers represent left-wing points of view, but there are some that promote particularly nasty politics. These next few stickers are all of this type. When I went back the next day, this one had been removed, suggesting that I’m not the only one that found it unpleasant (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 02/06/16, Euston Road).

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The text of this sticker has been obscured by water damage, but the first half says “When Tibet is full of Chinese it’s genocide.” I’m not sure what the second half says, but it implies that there is a similar situation in North America and Europe, but it’s called diversity (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 02/06/16, Euston Road).

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I suspect that the last three stickers were all made by the same people/person, given they have the same message, similar design, and were all located in close proximity (Photo: 03/06/15, Great Portland Street).

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This sticker was made by an anti-fascist group, and the slogan is quite common amongst anti-fascist stickers, although the image varies (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, Cable Street).

09-10-16 Cable Street (24)

United Glasgow FC is a football team that aims to make the sport accessible and bring communities together to all by keeping costs down and combating discrimination. At some point one of them, or their supporters, came to London and put up a sticker (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, Cable Street).

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This sticker has a very simple design, but I think it’s effective. It also doesn’t provide any clues as to who produced it, suggesting that the message was more important to whoever produced it than promoting a particular group or campaign (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 23/03/17, Charing Cross Road).

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Stand Up to Racism is a fairly self-explanatory organisation. This sticker is promoting their national day of action in 2017. They also organise national conferences, and smaller protests and campaigns on specific issues. Recently, they have been campaigning against the popular neo-fascist leader, Tommy Robinson, and the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, which they accuse of being racist (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 20/03/16, New Cross Road).

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This sticker on Euston Road is another example of a simple, effective message (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 23/03/17, Euston Road).

09-10-16 Whitechapel High Street (6)

This slogan has become a common refrain amongst those campaigning against the handling of the European migrant crisis. If there were no borders, then there would be no illegal immigrants, and there would be no need for fences to keep them out (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, Whitechapel High Street).

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The UK Border Agency has come under fire in recent years for the immigration raids it conducts across London. A movement has grown up that seeks to counter the raids in a variety of ways, including publicising the movements  of the UKBA on social media, so it is harder for them to make surprise raids (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, St. George’s Gardens).

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Sisters Uncut is an organisation that campaigns against cuts to services related to domestic violence (see London’s Protest Stickers: Gender). Here, they are expressing solidarity for another vulnerable group. Migrant women are also particularly susceptible to domestic violence (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/10/17, Regent’s Canal).

 

Book Review: London Fog- The Biography

London fog cover

London Fog by Christine L. Corton.

Christine L. Corton. London Fog: The Biography. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017. RRP £13.95 paperback.

I like books about London, and I like books that take very specific objects or phenomena, such as a particular weather condition, and links them to wider political, social, economic, cultural, and historical contexts (Tear Gas by Anna Feigenbaum is a really good example of this). So when I found London Fog: The Biography, I was excited to read it.

Although London’s location in the Thames basin means it has always been susceptible to mist and damp, London Fog begins in the 1840s, when the city’s rapid expansion and industrialisation meant London began to suffer from fog in earnest. The book’s narrative ends in the 1960s; the last major period of fog London experienced was in December 1962. For more than a century the city suffered from dense, cloying fog during the winter months that was capable of shutting down the city by reducing visibility to almost zero, and caused breathing difficulties, respiratory illnesses, and even death.

Christine L. Corton uses the fog to tell a social, cultural, and political history of London between those two dates. She explores the way that fog was constructed and interpreted in various narratives, including political debates and identity. Over the course of the century in which fog was a defining characteristic of London life it was the subject of many arguments about what caused the fog, what was so dangerous about it, what could be done to prevent it, and whose responsibility it was. Corton traces these debates with skill and patience.

There is also a lot of literary and art criticism in London Fog; Corton devotes significant attention to how fog in London has been represented in various art forms including paintings, photography, novels, and films. In this way, London Fog reminds me of Nightwalking by Mathew Beaumont, which explores the literary history of London at night. Whereas Nightwalking suffers from a distinct lack of female writers, however, London Fog does discuss female artists.

London Fog is obviously the product of extensive and detailed research. It is full of wonderful images, often in colour. This is a big plus; it is quite unusual for books like this to have so many high-quality images. The narrative is incredibly detailed, which occasionally causes the pacing to suffer; readers with only a mild interest in the topic may struggle.

There are a huge number of books about London’s history, and it takes a lot to write one that stands out from the crowd. London Fog is about a subject that is quintessentially London, but also manages to be original. It is an excellent example about how something small and specific can be used to better understand the large and general.

On This Day: The Battle of Lewisham, 13th August 1977

Most people who know anything about the history of protest in London are familiar with the Battle of Cable Street, which is remembered by many as a victory of anti-fascism over the anti-Semitic British Union of Fascists in 1936. Less well-known is the Battle of Lewisham, which took place four decades later in South East London. The two events share many similarities; the Battle of Lewisham was also sparked by attempts to prevent a far-right group from promoting a xenophobic message by marching through the streets of London, and it also ended with clashes between demonstrators and police. It is also seen as the beginning of a decline in the fortunes of the fascist group involved, the National Front, leading to a significant period of unpopularity for far-right ideologies which has only recently come to an end.

BoL Right-Left clash

Far-right and left-wing activists clash on the streets of south east London during the Battle of Lewisham (Photo: John Hodder for the Guardian).

The events known as the Battle of Lewisham were spread out over quite a large area, so I put together this map to help make sense of things:

During the mid-1970s, New Cross in south east London was a focus for the organising activities of the National Front, a far-right fascist group. The National Front was quite popular in the area, and in 1976 the All Lewisham Campaign Against Fascism and Racism (ALCARAF) was set up in order to counter this growing popularity. In 1977, tensions increased further due to the arrest and trial of the ‘Lewisham 21,’ 21 young black people whom the police accused of being part of a gang responsible for 90% of the street crime in south east London. The National Front decided to capitalise on this tension, and announced plans for an ‘anti-mugging’ march in the area on the afternoon of 13th August.

Local church leaders, Lewisham Council and the Liberal Party all called for the march to be banned, but David McNee, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, refused. Anti-fascist groups started planning how to disrupt the march itself, but could not agree on the best response. As a result, 3 separate counter demonstrations were planned by different groups:

  1. ALCARAF organised a peaceful demonstration for the morning of the 13th August.
  2. The 13 August Ad Hoc Committee planned to occupy the National Front’s meeting point at Clifton Rise.
  3. The Anti-Racist/Anti-Fascist Co-ordinating Committee (ARAFCC) called for support for the ALCARAF march and for a physical attempt to stop the National Front. To confuse matters further, the ALCARAF was a member of the ARAFCC.

At 11:30 on the 13th of August, the ALCARAF demonstration gathered in Ladywell Fields in Lewisham. Around 5000 people listened to speeches by the Mayor of Lewisham, the Bishop of Southwark and the exiled Bishop of Namibia. After the rally, ALCARAF marched as far as Algernon, where the police turned them back towards Ladywell Fields. After this, however, ARAFCC stewards led people through back streets to New Cross Road, which was part of the National Front’s planned route. As a result, lots of people made it from the ALCARAF demonstration to the afternoon protests.

BoL Police

Police officers attempt to hold back demonstrators (Photo: John Hodder for the Observer).

The first clashes between police and counter-demonstrators happened at about 12:00 pm, when Socialist Worker Party activists were evicted from a derelict shop on New Cross Road near Clifton Rise. There were further clashes when the police tried to force the demonstrators down Clifton Rise, away from Achilles Street, where the National Front started assembling at about 1:30 pm. At 3:00 pm, the police escorted the National Front out of Achilles Street and onto New Cross Road. The police had cleared a route with some difficulty, but the road was still lined with people, and the National Front were pelted with bricks, smoke bombs, bottles and other objects. Some protesters managed to break through the police lines and separate the back of the march from everyone else. National Front banners were captured and burnt before the police managed to separate the two groups. Mounted police were used to clear a path through crowds who were trying to stop the National Front advancing along New Cross Road. The police used roadblocks to keep people out of the area, and officers surrounded the National Front 3 deep.

BoL NF

National Front marchers surrounded by police officers (Photo: Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy).

Anti-fascist protesters went to Lewisham town centre, where the National Front march was supposed to finish, and blocked the High Street. As a result, the National Front had a short rally in a car park on Cressington Road, then were escorted by the police to trains which were waiting at Lewisham Station to take them out of the area. Most counter-demonstrators were not aware that the National Front had left the area, and clashes continued between them and the police for several more hours. At one point, the police briefly lost control of central Lewisham, a period that was later dubbed ‘the People’s Republic of Lewisham Clock Tower.’ Throughout the day, more than 100 people were injured, about half of them police officers, and around 200 were arrested.

BoL New Cross Road-Lewisham Way

Anti-fascist protesters gather at the junction of New Cross Road and Lewisham Way (Photo: Chris Schwartz).

The Battle of Lewisham was a humiliation for the National Front. They were vastly outnumbered by counter demonstrators, and what was meant to be a show of strength and legitimacy made them look weak and unpopular. It was also a significant moment in the history of protest policing: it was the first time riot shields were used on the British mainland (many tools used to police protesters were used in northern Ireland first). Baton charges and mounted police were also used to try and disperse protests, a technique which has become familiar to activists in London over the last few decades.

According to the Remembering the Battle of Lewisham project, undertaken by Goldsmiths to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Battle in 2017, very few people know what happened in south east London that day in 1977. On the 40th anniversary of the Battle, a plaque commemorating the protest was installed on 314 New Cross Road. There are also plans for a community memorial to be situated on nearby Batavia Road. Perhaps projects like these will make more people aware of what happened during the Battle of Lewisham. As people like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, and Jacob Rees Mogg continue to gain power and influence, it can only be a good thing for people to know that fascism can be defeated by popular protest.

Sources and Further Reading

Goldsmiths, University of London. “Remembering the Battle of Lewisham 40 Years on.” No date, accessed 8 August 2018. Available at  https://www.gold.ac.uk/history/research/battle-of-lewisham/ (There are a lot of great resources on these webpages).

Townsend, Mark. “How the Battle of Lewisham Helped to Halt the Rise of Britain’s Far Right.” The Guardian. Last modified 13 August 2017, accessed 8 August 2018. Available at  https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/aug/13/battle-of-lewisham-national-front-1977-far-right-london-police

Whitmore, Greg. “Flares and Fury: The Battle of Lewisham 1977–in Pictures.” The Guardian. Last modified 12 August 2017, accessed 8 August 2018. Available at  https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/gallery/2017/aug/12/flares-and-fury-the-battle-of-lewisham-1977

Wikipedia. “Battle of Lewisham.” Last modified 5 January 2018, accessed 8 August 2018. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lewisham

 

 

London’s Protest Stickers: Work

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Stickers of all kinds are common in urban areas (Photo: Hannah Awcock, King’s Cross Station, 27/02/16 ).

Since austerity began a decade ago, people in all forms have employment have had to endure a fall in their working conditions. Issues include reductions in pensions, reductions in pay, increased workload, and the rise of zero-hour and fixed term contracts.

There are a number of groups that campaign for improved working conditions and better wages. Most of them are unions, although working conditions and wages are also the concern of campaign groups and social movements. Unions range in size; from the very large and powerful, such as Unite and the National Union of Teachers, to the small and specific. Many unions in the UK are part of the Trades Union Congress, which offers support to unions and campaigns for the rights of working people. Many of these organisations can be found amongst the work-related protest stickers on London’s streets.

To see where I found these stickers, check out the Turbulent London map.

13-09-15 Bethnal Green Road

Some protest stickers related to work are quite general, like this one. This sticker was produced by Strike! a dissident female-run collective that publishes a quarterly magazine (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Bethnal Green Road, 13/09/15).

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This sticker links wages with quality of work. I’m not sure that many people in low-paid work would feel confident enough to take this kind of action, out of fear of losing their jobs completely. The text is yellow is the same message in Polish. Workers from Poland and other countries in eastern Europe are often blamed for low wages, but many radical groups understand the need for solidarity with non-British workers, rather than their victimisation. This sticker was produced by Workers Wild West, a worker’s newspaper based in Ealing in West London (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Cable Street, 09/10/16)

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This sticker was produced by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (CPGN-ML). The 1st of May is celebrated as a holiday in many cultures, but it has been closely associated with the international worker’s movement for more than a century. It seems that someone disapproved of the image of Lenin on this sticker, and tried to remove it (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

18-08-15 Mile End Road

Unison is the UK’s largest union for public services, with 1.3 million members. The living wage, which is higher than the minimum wage, is an important issue in places like London, where the cost of living is so high (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 18/08/15 Mile End Road).

03-09-15 Euston Road (8)

The bigger unions are often organised into local branches. This sticker was produced by Camden Unison, and advertises a strike by traffic wardens in the area. The sticker is designed to look like a parking fine ticket–I’m not sure many drivers would find it amusing! (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 03/09/15, Euston Road).

09-10-16 St. George's Gardens (15)

The Solidarity Federation is not a union, it is the British branch of the International Worker’s Association. They support the formation of local groups and networks in order to form a worldwide solidarity movement (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/10/16, St George’s Garden).

12-03-15 Malet Street

This sticker was produced by the Fire Brigades Union, which is fairly self-explanatory. In 2015, when this photo was taken, they were in a dispute with the government over plans for firefighter’s pensions, which led to strike action (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/15, Malet Street).

14-04-15 Upper Street, Islington

This sticker was produced by the RMT union (otherwise known as the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) represents workers from all sectors of the transport industry. It has been in the news a lot recently, because of conflicts over the use of guards on trains (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 14/04/15 Upper Street, Islington).

15-04-15 Euston Road

This sticker was produced by the Wirral branch of the TUC. The politician Esther McVey was the Minister of State for employment between 2013 and 2015. Zero hour contracts, where the number of hours workers are given each week are not guaranteed, are another controversial development of recent years (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 15/04/15, Euston Road).

18-02-15 Inner London Crown Court

PCS is the Public and Commercial Services Union, representing employees in the civil service and government agencies. (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 18/02/15, Inner London Crown Court).

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The GMB began life in 1889 as the Gas Workers and General Union. It is not a general union, which means anyone can join, no matter how they make their living. This sticker is demanding the minimum wage rise to £10 an hour (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 18/10/16, Broad Sanctuary).

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This sticker is also calling for a £10/hr minimum wage. It is produced by the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, hence the pun that the sticker uses (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 23/03/17, Euston Road).

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This sticker does not promote a particular campaign group or union. The text at the bottom of the sticker is Spanish for “the fight continues!” Cleaners are often very poorly paid. I found this sticker near the University of London buildings in Bloomsbury, which has been the focus of a campaign in recent years over the rights of cleaners. Many employers subcontract out work such as cleaning, which frequently results in low pay and poor working conditions (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 09/02/15, Gordon Street).

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Unless this sticker was produced by a rap group or a clothing label, I haven’t been able to figure out who ‘Foreign Boyz’ are. Whoever they are, they oppose zero hour contracts (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 21/09/17, Tottenham Court Road).

 

 

On This Day: Women’s Sunday, 21st June 1908

Women's Sunday Ticket

A ticket for Women’s Sunday (Source: Museum of London).

On the 13th of June 1908, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), organised a huge march in London to demonstrate the strength of their commitment to women’s suffrage. Just a week later, on the 21st of June, the Women’s Social Political Union (WSPU) organised a ‘monster meeting,’ also in London. The WSPU was much smaller than the NUWSS, but its militant tactics were better at grabbing headlines, and it is by far the best-known women’s suffrage group now. In June 1908, however, the WSPU decided to try a more peaceful method of campaigning, which was a resounding success. Up to 500,000 people gathered in Hyde Park to hear 80 speakers talk about women’s suffrage at the biggest political demonstration the UK had ever seen.

The meeting was organised by WSPU Treasurer, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, and her husband Frederick. Like the NUWSS’s march a week earlier, the demonstration was organised in response to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith’s challenge to prove the strength of feeling behind the demand that women be given the vote. Special trains were chartered to transport WSPU supporters to London from around the country, and a Sunday was chosen in order to maximise working class attendance.

Women's Sunday More Crowds

The crowds in Hyde Park, surrounding some of the 700 banners carried by the WSPU marchers (Source: Museum of London.

7 processions totaling 30,000 suffragettes marched from around London to Hyde Park. This was the first time that the WSPU’s now infamous colours of purple, green, and white were featured in public. Women were asked to wear white dresses, and accessorise with green and purple. The effect was striking. Emmeline Pankhurst and Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy led the procession from Euston Road, Annie Kenney headed the march from Paddington, and Christabel Pankhurst and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence helmed the demonstration from Victoria Embankment. Flora ‘the General’ Drummond, a formidable suffragette known for leading marches in a military-style uniform, visited each of the 7 processions. Like the NUWSS procession the previous week, banners played an important role in the marches. The suffragettes carried up to 700, although none are known to survive.

Women's Sunday Platform 6

A photo of speaker’s platform 6, taken by professional photographer Christina Broom (Source: Museum of London).

20 raised platforms had been constructed in Hyde Park, from which 80 prominent supporters of women’s suffrage gave speeches, including Emmeline Pankhurst (of course!) Keir Hardy, Barnard Shaw, Israel Zangwill, and Amy Catherine Robbins (wife of H.G. Wells). The meeting was considered to be a great success, although several newspapers pointed out that most of those attending were there out of curiosity rather than support for the cause. I don’t really see this as a problem though; surely it was a good opportunity to win over a few converts to the cause.

It seems unlikely that the WSPU deliberately planned Women’s Sunday to be a week after the NUWSS procession, but the sight of women marching through the streets of London, proud, defiant, and well-ordered, was still enough of a novelty to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Hyde Park.

Sources and Further Reading

Marches, Protest, and Militancy. “Women’s Sunday: Hyde Park 1908.” Last modified 14 April 2016, accessed 6 June 2018. Available at  https://womenofinfluencesite.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/womens-sunday-hyde-park-1908/

Wikipedia. “Women’s Sunday.” Last modified 18th March 2018, accessed 6 June 2018. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Sunday

Women of Tunbridge Wells History Project. “‘Women’s Sunday’: Hyde Park Rally 21st June 1908.” Inspiring Women: Hidden Histories from West Kent. No date, accessed 11 June 2018. Available at https://www.kent.ac.uk/sspssr/womenshistorykent/themes/suffrage/womenssunday.html

London’s Protest Stickers: Vegetarianism and Veganism

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There were quite a few stickers relating to veganism and animal rights stuck on these phone boxes in Charing Cross Road (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

I have written about protest stickers related to animal welfare before, but I have since collected enough stickers to put together a post solely about vegetarianism and veganism. According to The Vegan Society, there are more than half a million vegans in the UK. Whilst this isn’t many, it’s more than three and a half times the number there was in 2006. There are also around 1.2 million vegetarians in the UK and the variety of vegan alternatives in shops and restaurants is increasing all the time. Whether it’s a fad or a lasting trend remains to be seen, but there are certainly plenty of protest stickers on the issue.

To see whereabouts in London I found these stickers, check out the Turbulent London Map.

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This sticker makes a connection between veganism and the environment, arguing that meat production contributes to global warming and pollution, amongst other things (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 14/02/17, Tate Modern).

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This sticker implies support of veganism rather than actually spelling it out. Rain has caused the ink to bleed, making quite a pretty pattern (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

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This sticker is disputing the argument that animals for the meat industry can be killed humanely (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

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This sticker targets the stereotypically British drink, tea, as a way of protesting the mass consumption of milk (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

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This sticker goes into more detail about the milk industry, portraying it as vicious and cruel (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

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This stickers builds on the arguments above by suggesting milks derived from alternative sources. The web address belongs to an organisation called Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today and Tomorrow (ADAPTT–I suspect the name was chosen for the acronym rather than anything else), which promotes veganism and animal rights (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

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This sticker focuses on fish, listing characteristics seemingly intended to invoke sympathy. I suspect that most people would not normally associate these attributes with fish, and many vegetarians do eat fish (pescatarians) (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

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This sticker aims to persuade the viewer that veganism is healthy, suggesting that eating meat leads to higher rates of cancer. It also promotes a YouTube video, a particularly common tactic on animal rights stickers (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

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The key slogan of this sticker has been obscured, but it’s message is clear, condemning the attitude that human appetites are more important than the suffering of animals. It utilises another common tactic of animal rights stickers, photos of cute animals (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Pentonville Road, 23/03/17).

 

Turbulent Londoners: Rosa May Billinghurst, 1875-1953

Turbulent Londoners is a series of posts about radical individuals in London’s history who contributed to the city’s contentious past, with a particular focus of women, whose contribution to history is often overlooked. My definition of ‘Londoner’ is quite loose, anyone who has played a role in protest in the city can be included. Any suggestions for future Turbulent Londoners posts are very welcome. To celebrate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, all of the Turbulent Londoners featured in 2018 will have been involved in the campaign for women’s suffrage. Next up is Rosa May Billinghurst, known at the time as ‘the cripple suffragette.’


Rosa May Billinghurst Close up

Rosa May Billinghurst (Source: Sheilahanlon.com)

Rosa May Billinghurst was born on the 31st May 1875 to a well-off middle class family in Lewisham, south east London. She suffered with polio as a young child which left her unable to walk; she wore leg irons and used crutches or a modified tricycle for the rest of her life. This would not prevent her from throwing herself headlong into the campaign for women’s suffrage however. In fact, she often used her disability to the advantage of the cause.

As a young women Rosa volunteered with the poor in Greenwich, taught Sunday School, and was a member of the Band of Hope, a charity which taught children about the benefits of sobriety and teetotalism. She was also a member of the Women’s Liberal Association, although she later rejected the Liberal Party because of its approach to women’s suffrage. Rosa came to believe that women’s inferior position in society held back society as a whole.

Rosa joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1907 and took an active part in marches and demonstrations despite her limited mobility. In 1910, she founded a Greenwich branch of the WSPU and served as its Secretary. On the 18th of November, she took part in the demonstration that would become known as Black Friday. The demonstration was organised to protest the government’s abandonment of the Conciliation Bill, which would have given about one million of the wealthiest women the right to vote. The police used excessive force in quelling the demonstration, arresting 119 people, and assaulting many more. In a pattern that would become familiar to Rosa, police officers threw her out of her tricycle and sabotaged it, leaving her unable to move. Unfortunately, this behaviour was echoed by police officers almost a century later, when Jody McIntyre was pulled from his wheelchair twice during the Student Tuition Fee Demonstrations in 2010.

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Rosa and her adapted tricycle at a Votes for Women demonstration (Source: LSE Library).

Rosa used her tricycle to its full advantage however. During demonstrations, she would decorate her tricycle with coloured ribbons and WSPU banners. During confrontations with the police, she would place her crutches on either side of the tricycle and repeatedly charge at police lines, happy to use herself as a battering ram. She was also known to hide the tools of the suffragette’s trade–stones for smashing windows and packages of thick brown liquid for pouring into post boxes and destroying letters–under the blanket that covered her knees. In addition, Rosa was fully aware of the publicity she could attract as a disabled suffragette; it was very difficult to portray her in a negative light without seeming particularly callous.

In March 1912 Rosa took part the WSPU’s campaign of mass window smashing. She was sentenced to one month’s hard labour for smashing a window on Henrietta Street. The sentence caused confusion amongst prison authorities, who did not know what kind of labour she could be put to. In December, she was caught sabotaging post boxes in Deptford, also part of a wider WSPU campaign. She was apparently glad to be arrested, believing that it would finally get the media attention the campaign had been trying to achieve. Rosa was sentenced to 8 months in prison. She went on hunger strike, and the subsequent force-feeding had such an effect on her health that she was released after two weeks.

Despite this traumatic ordeal, Rosa continued to participate in direct action. On the 24th of May 1913, she chained herself to the gates of Buckingham Palace. The following month, on the 14th of June, she took part in Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral procession. Emily had died after attempting to attach a Votes for Women sash to the King’s horse during the Epsom Derby, and she was celebrated as a martyr for the cause.

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Rosa grappling with police (Source: LSE Library).

 

Emmeline and Christabel’s decision to suspend WSPU campaigning at the outbreak of the First World War in order to concentrate on the war effort was a controversial one. Rosa joined the Women’s Freedom League, who continued to campaign, suggesting that she didn’t personally agree with the Pankhurst’s decision. However, she remained loyal to the Pankhursts and the WSPU, helping in Christabel’s 1918 election campaign in Smethwick as the candidate for the Women’s Party. Emmeline and Christabel had founded the Women’s Party when the dissolved the WSPU in November 1917. Christabel lost, but only by 800 votes.

Rosa withdrew from activism after the passage of the Representation of the People Act in 1918. During her time in the WSPU, however, she was a fierce campaigner who used her disability to the best possible advantage.

Sources and Further Reading

Fox, Kathryn. “Rosa May Billinghurst: Disabled Suffragette Campaigner.” Huffpost UK. Last modified 23rd December 2017, accessed 22nd March 2018. Available at  https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/rosa-may-billinghurst-disabled-suffragette-campaigner_uk_5a37f1dde4b02bd1c8c608c8

Fox, Katie. “Rosa May Billinghurst: The Disabled Suffragette Abused by Police and Force-fed in Prison.” i. Last modified 5th February 2018, accessed 22nd March 2018. Available at https://inews.co.uk/news/uk/rosa-may-billinghurst-disabled-suffragette-abused-police-force-fed-prison/

Hanlon, Sheila. “Rosa May Billinghurst: Suffragette on Three Wheels.” SheilaHanlon.com. No date, accessed 22nd March 2018. Available at http://www.sheilahanlon.com/?page_id=1314 

John Simkin. “May Billinghurst.” Spartacus Educational. Last modified March 2017, accessed 22nd March 2018. Available at http://spartacus-educational.com/Wbillinghurst.htm 

Wikipedia. “Rosa May Billinghurst.” Last modified 4th February 2018, accessed 22nd March 2018. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_May_Billinghurst

Wikipedia. “Women’s Party (UK).” Last modified 29th January 2018, accessed 23rd March 2018. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_Party_(UK)

London’s Protest Stickers: Gender

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Stickers of all kinds are a common sight on the streets of London (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 12/03/15).

Gender-related issues and sexism have been hot topics of debate recently, thanks to campaigns such as #MeToo, and Time’s Up. #MeToo was a social media campaign to demonstrate the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, with women sharing their own experiences to show just how common it is. The Times Up movement calls for an end to sexual harassment, assault and inequality in the film industry, developing in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Many women wore back at the 2018 BAFTA awards to show their support. The campaign has also had an effect in the music industry, with attendees at the 2018 Brit awards showing their support by carrying white roses on the red carpet. This is a recent upsurge in an ongoing series of struggles to achieve gender equality that is reflected in London’s protest stickers.

To see where I found these stickers in the city, check out the Turbulent London Map.

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This sticker was produced by Revolutionary Socialists in the 21st Century. It is quite common on London’s streets (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Gordon Street, Bloomsbury, 12/03/15).

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This sticker connects feminism with anti-fascism. They two flags is the most common symbol of anti-fascism, and the phrasing of the sticker is also often associated with anti-fascist stickers; “Goodnight White Pride” is a particularly common phrase (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Albany Road, 02/04/15).

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Class War is an anarchist group that organises direct action against a society that it sees as deeply unequal. The Women’s Death Brigade is a branch of Class War with a feminist focus (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Euston Road, 05/09/15).

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Intersectionality is the idea that different aspects of a person (race, gender, sexuality etc.) do not exist separately from each other. Therefore, in order to solve issues such as sexism or racism, we need to combat all of them simultaneously, not just one. This sticker links sexism and homophobia, as well as representing Snow White in a more violent pose than we’re used to (Photo: Hannah Awcock, New Cross Road, 20/03/16).

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Sisters Uncut is a direct action campaign group formed to protest against cuts to domestic violence services in the UK. Research suggests that women are disproportionately affected by recent austerity, bearing more of the burden than men (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Lewisham Way, 20/03/16).

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One of Sisters Uncut’s best known tactics is crashing red carpets-they did it at the premier of the 2015 film Suffragette, and the 2018 BAFTA awards. The colours that Sisters Uncut use, white, green, and purple, echo those of the suffragette group the Women’s Social and Political Union (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Torrington Place, 20/10/15).

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This is arguably more of a poster than a sticker, but I liked it too much to leave it out. George Osborne was the Chancellor of the Exchequer between 2010 and 2016 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, 20/03/16 New Cross Road).

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Sexual consent has been another big issue for feminist campaigns in recent years. I Heart Consent is an educational consent campaign ran by the National Union of Students and Sexpression UK which focuses on universities and colleges (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Charing Cross Road, 23/03/17).

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This photo is a fantastic illustration of how the placement of a sticker can contribute to its meaning and impact (Photo: Hannah Awcock, King’s College London, 31/05/15).

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Unfortunately, feminism does not always present a united front. There is an ongoing debate over whether transgender women count as ‘real’ women, with some feminists arguing that transgender women cannot truly understand what it is like to deal with the prejudices faced by women. More generally, some people question whether or not is even possible to be genuinely transgender. This sticker is a reaction to such debates (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Victoria Station, 10/03/15)