HerStories campaign launched to mark 100 years of women’s suffrage

  • New campaign will highlight the places that witnessed the fight for women’s suffrage 100 years ago
  • Historic England has commissioned London College of Fashion and artist Lucy Orta to work with the last residents of Holloway Prison to make a banner for PROCESSIONS, a mass participation art event marking the centenary
  • Banners are part of Holloway’s history: Embroiderer Ann Macbeth made the Holloway Hunger Strike Banner in the form of a friendship quilt in 1910

Today Historic England launches HerStories, a new campaign to mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave the first British women the right to vote.

Image of a suffragette being arrested in 1914
A suffragette being arrested in 1914

As part of a programme of activities throughout 2018, on 10th June Historic England will be taking part in PROCESSIONS- a mass participation artwork which will invite women and girls to come together on the streets of London, Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh to mark the centenary in a living, moving portrait of women in the 21st century.

PROCESSIONS is produced by Artichoke, the UK’s largest producer of art in the public realm, as part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s official arts programme for the First World War centenary.

One hundred women artists are being commissioned to work with groups and communities across the UK to create banners for PROCESSIONS. Historic England has commissioned artist Lucy Orta and the London College of Fashion, UAL, to work with former inmates of Holloway prison, now at HMP Downview, to produce one of these banners.

Banner with the wording 'HAMMERSMITH DEEDS NOT WORDS'
Hammersmith suffrage banner c.1910 Source Museum of London

Holloway Prison

Holloway was one of the most notorious sites associated with the Suffrage movement in London. It became a women’s prison in 1902 and remained the largest of its kind in Europe until its closure in 2016. Over 1,000 suffragettes were imprisoned there, including Emmeline and Christabel Pankurst.

Suffragettes were initially incarcerated at Holloway as criminal, rather than political prisoners, leading many to go on hunger strike in protest of the government’s refusal to acknowledge their crimes as political acts. Force-feeding, which was regularly administered at Holloway, was invasive, abusive and extremely painful. It is now acknowledged as a form of torture.

Banners are part of Holloway’s history. Embroiderer Ann Macbeth made the Holloway Hunger Strike Banner (now at the Museum of London) in the form of a friendship quilt in 1910. The quilt contains the stitched signatures of eighty Suffragette hunger-strikers and was carried in the From Prison to Citizenship procession of June 1910.

Image of Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst
Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst

Celia Richardson, Director of Communications at Historic England said:
“We’re so happy to be celebrating this amazing arc of history in a way that will have a real impact on women and their communities across the nation. The story of the struggle for women’s suffrage belongs to all of us and still resonates today.

We are working with the London College of Fashion, Lucy Orta and the women from Making for Change, some of whom were the last residents of Holloway Prison, to create a banner for the march. During the struggle, hunger striking prisoners created the Holloway Prison banner, and we are proud to be a part of carrying on their legacy.

HerStories

Holloway is an important part of suffragette history but there are many other places which have a story to tell.

Suffragettes waged destructive campaigns upon public property across the country to protest women’s lack of rights. They burned train stations and tea houses, destroyed shop windows, cut telegraph and telephone wires and vandalised pillar boxes.

The Suffrage struggle can be traced through our city streets and buildings but there are few tangible markers left. Through HerStories we will be working with partners to enrich the list, highlighting the places that witnessed the hard fought Suffrage campaign.

Next Steps

Learn more about the HerStories campaign

Read about the struggle for suffrage

Learn some suffrage facts

Learn more about PROCESSIONS

Image of Holloway Prison from the air
Holloway Prison from the air
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