Motive/Motif: Artists Commemorate the Suffragettes at The Vestry House Museum
The Vestry House Museum is marking the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act with an exhibition inspired by the work of imprisoned Suffragettes.
1918 saw reform in Great Britain’s electoral system in the form of the Representation of the people Act. For the first time, women were entitled to electoral rights. Still, they had to be over the age of 30 and meet certain property qualifications, but the crucial journey towards electoral equality had begun.
The WSPU, better known as the ‘Suffragettes’ had fought for this reform. They were the more militant than previous women’s suffrage groups and their motto ‘deeds, not words’ led then to show their dissent through acts of protest, vandalism and violence. These acts led to many of the women being incarcerated.
The Vestry House Museum’s exhibition was inspired by a piece of cloth which was embroidered in 1912 by 78 Suffragettes imprisoned in Holloway Prison. Most of these women were in prison as a direct result of their actions within the WSPU. The cloth was embroidered in purple and green – the colour scheme of the Suffragettes. Purple signified purity and dignity and green signified hope.
(Detail from the original cloth from 1912 – full image at the bottom of post)
20 contemporary artists were asked to embroider handkerchiefs inspired by this original cloth and the efforts and struggles of the Suffragettes. These artists included Sarah Lucas and Rachel Whiteread.