Suffrage and the Arts re-establishes the central role that artistic women and men—from jewellers, portrait painters, embroiderers, through to retailers of ‘artistic’ products—played in the suffrage campaign in Britain. As political individuals, they were foot soldiers who helped sustain the momentum of the movement and as designers, makers and sellers they spread the message of the campaign to new local, national and international audiences, mediating how suffrage activism was understood by society at large. Published to coincide with the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which granted the vote to women over the age of thirty meeting a property qualification, this edited collection offers a range of new perspectives and readings of the outpouring of creative responses to the campaign.
Contributors, who include historians, art historians, curators, museum professionals and suffrage experts, call upon the historiographical developments of the last thirty years, alongside new archival discoveries, to showcase the vibrancy of ongoing research in this area. Throughout, chapters investigate the wider socio-cultural backdrop to suffrage and the women’s movement, the difficult choices that were made between professional, artistic aspirations and political commitment, and how institutional and informal networks influenced creative expression and participation in feminist politics. From shining light on the use of portraiture to bolster the cultural cachet of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, uncovering the links between Victorian interior design, enterprise and suffrage, through to questioning the supposed conservativism of women’s art institutions during the campaign and in the inter-war era, Suffrage and the Arts is a timely and important collection which will contribute to a number of scholarly fields.