Print, Protest & the Polls: Suffrage Action Recorded in Print
Surviving contemporary photographs, newspapers, and print ephemera record a number of the many varied activities carried out by Irish suffragists in their efforts to win public and political support and achieve the right to vote. These records show brave and innovative forms of public protest, and their effective promotion and publicity of the cause.
The introduction and overview page for the Print, Protest & the Polls exhibition is here.
This press cutting was retained by suffragette Louisa (Isa) Lawler. Isa was the founding secretary/manager of Dublin’s Gate Theatre, and was married to Hector Hughes, a co-founder of the Irish Socialist Party. Isa was the founding secretary/manager of Dublin’s Gate Theatre, and was married to Hector Hughes, a co-founder of the Irish Socialist Party. Isa Lawler can be viewed in the newspaper clipping on the second from the left, where she is seen campaigning with the Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL) on the streets of Dublin. The photograph shows how the suffragettes worked hard to display an alternative image of their campaign to the public in contrast to the negative representations showing them to be violent, angry, and masculine. The newspaper cutting records how the campaigners sold “fruit, flowers and Suffragette literature”, and played “street organs in aid of the cause”.
The picture frame shows a portrait of suffragette Isa Lawler alongside a copy of a poem written by her husband Hector. The opening letter of each line of the poem spells out Isa’s full name – Louisa – and the content speaks about her work as a suffragette. It is likely that the poem was originally printed in a copy of the Irish Citizen.
This letter, owned by suffragette Isa Lawler, gives instructions to suffragette volunteers on what to do after their arrest following militant activity in Westminster. It is signed by the WSPU leader, Emmeline Pankhurst. Isa was a militant suffragette with the IWFL, and was imprisoned for breaking three panes of glass in a window of the GPO in Dublin in 1912. In the early stages of this period of the suffrage campaign, the IWFL suffragettes were in close contact with the WSPU, with some IWFL suffragettes participating in militant activities in England with the group.
Irish Womens Franchise League fundraising Suffrage Dance ticket. This advertised an event which would never have taken place due to its scheduling coinciding with the week of the Easter Rising in 1916.
In November 1912, Meg Connery and fellow suffragette Hanna Sheehy Skeffington were stationed at Lord Iveagh’s house in Stephen’s Green in an attempt to meet the politician Bonar Law, then leader of the British Conservative party. Law had refused to meet a group of suffrage delegates, and suffragists leafletted at all possible venues where he may have been in an attempt to doorstep him.
Meg seized the moment to confront the men and attempted to pass them a leaflet as they posed for press photographers. She was removed by the policeman seen on the right hand side of the photograph. Out of shot is Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, who was seized by a police sergeant, who shook her like “a terrier shaking a kitten”, before arresting her and charging her with assault.
The daffodil was the official flower of the IWFL, who held a national “Daffodil Day” Fete in April 1914. The IWFL Daffodil Fete, known as Daffodil Day, brought participants and attendants from several nationalist and suffrage organisations. The highlight of the day was a pageant celebrating great women from history, which included a “Tableau Vivant” entitled the “Feminist Tableau”. The pageant included four presentations of Joan of Arc, which were deemed the most successful of the tableaux.
Two of these portrayals were played by the nationalist revolutionary Constance Markievicz. Joan of Arc was an international republican heroine, as well as a feminist and suffrage role model, and was well suited for use as part of the symbolism for Irish female nationalists. Markievicz played the role in a home-made suit of armour, made from either linoleum or cardboard which was “washed over with silver paint and on stage it looked just like a suit of armour”. These images above were popular fund-raising souvenirs (distributed in postcard form) sold by the suffrage campaign, and became a broader popular feminist image for the period.