Inside History: Protest. Revolt & Reform

For our next issue we take a closer look at the theme of Protest from the events of Peterloo to the fall of the Berlin. Inside we cover a whole range of historical protests and the individuals who led the charge for change. This issues includes: John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, The Suffragettes, Billie Holiday and the role music has played in protests, The Civil Rights Movement, Protest and Sport, We are the People: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Bloody Sunday at Trafalgar Square, and much much more.

For our next issue we take a closer look at the theme of Protest from the events of Peterloo to the fall of the Berlin. Inside we cover a whole range of historical protests and the individuals who led the charge for change. This issues includes:

John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, The Suffragettes, Billie Holiday and the role music has played in protests, The Civil Rights Movement, Protest and Sport, We are the People: The Fall of the Berlin Wall, Bloody Sunday at Trafalgar Square, and much much more.

  • No tags were found...

You also want an ePaper? Increase the reach of your titles

YUMPU automatically turns print PDFs into web optimized ePapers that Google loves.





UK £6.95

US $9.20

EU: 7.70






















Deeds, not words





This issue of Inside History could have been a lot larger. Perhaps the

theme of Protest, Revolt & Reform was too ambitious to be

condensed into a single magazine. For this reason, this issue begins

with the events at Peterloo in 1819 and its attempts to create a fairer

society and a increased suffrage to the working masses. What

happened that day at Peterloo evoked many to want change and yet,

those who held onto the structures of power would fail to listen fully.

Two-hundred years later things have certainly improved and yet we

find ourselves still prepared to take to the streets in order to protest

to make a fairer society. It is this conflict between the masses and

those in power that is running theme throughout this issue.

From those wishing to make their voices heard at the ballot box, those

who wanted to end the concept of slavery and those who fought for

the rights of workers welfare and pay, this issue has it all covered.

We also look at the methods of protest. From violence, to poetry and

music, and using your influence in order to speak on behalf of the

oppressed. All methods may be questioned in terms of their

effectiveness yet all played their part in helping to change things.

There is, of course, a lot more that could have been added. This

reminds us that the history of protest is a complicated one. A history

that effects us all, and more importantly, a history that is too

important to ignore. Our right to protest currently finds itself under

threat. I hope that this issue reminds us all of its importance and why

we have to hold it so dearly to our hearts. Two hundred years ago,

those at St Peter’s Field wanted a say in how their country was

governed...lets make sure that we never forget them.
















Helen Antrobus

Alycia Asai

Tom Daly

James Hobson

Nick Kevern

Claire Miles

Rachel Lee Perez

Professor Robert Poole

Hannah Pringle

Ben Purdie

Olivia Richardson

Olivia Smith



Colorgraph Co

Library of Congress






Wellcome Collection

Wikimedia Commons









Peterloo: How women’s bravery helped change

British politics forever

Professor Robert Poole


If There Is A Will, There Is A Way: THE


Olivia Smith







The rebecca riots: PROTEST & PETTICOATS

Claire Miles

john brown's raid on harpers ferry

Nick Kevern


James Hobson


Alycia Asai


Olivia Richardson

Annie Kenney: The overlooked suffragette

Tom Daly









Helen Antrobus


Inside History

Where words fail...music speaks

Ben Purdie

Protest & Sport: SHUT UP AND DRIBBLE?

Rachel Lee Perez

The March on Washington

Hannah Pringle

WIR SIND DAS VOLK! We are the people!

Nick Kevern




A coloured print of the Peterloo Massacre published by Richard Carlile (Public Domain/ Manchester Libraries)


How women’s

bravery helped

change British

politics forever

Professor Robert Poole

University of Central Lancashire

St. Peter’s Fields in Manchester: the year is

1819, and a crowd of around 60,000

peaceful pro-democracy and antipoverty

protesters have gathered to hear radical

speaker Henry Hunt call for parliamentary

reform. What should have been a peaceful

appeal, ends with an estimated 18 dead

and hundreds injured.

This was a time in Britain’s history when

most people didn’t have the vote and

many regarded the parliamentary system

– which was based on property ownership

and heavily weighted towards the south of

England – as unrepresentative and unfair.

Factory workers had very few rights and

most of them worked in appalling


As Hunt began his speech, the order was

given for him to be arrested. After he had

given himself up and again urged the

crowd to order, the volunteer Manchester

Yeomanry Cavalry attacked the platform,

the flags, and those around with sabres,

while special constables weighed in with

truncheons. A charge into the panicking

crowd by the 15th Hussars completed the


As well as an attack on the working

classes, Peterloo was also an episode of

violence against women. According to the

historian Michael Bush, women formed

perhaps one in eight of the crowd, but

more than a quarter of those injured.

They were not only twice as likely as men

to be injured, but also more likely to be

injured by truncheons and sabres.

This was no accident, for female

reformers formed part of the guard for

the flags and banners on the platform,

which were attacked and seized by the

Manchester Yeomanry cavalry as soon as

Henry Hunt had been arrested. But how

did the women come to be in such an

exposed position and why were they

attacked without quarter?

The female reform societies of

Lancashire were a novelty, formed in the

summer of 1819 in the weeks before the

great Manchester meeting of August 16.

They were not asking for votes for

women, but they were claiming the vote

for families, and a say in how that vote

was cast. In an address which was to

have been presented on the platform at

Peterloo, The Manchester Female

Reformers declared that “as wives,

mothers, daughters, in their social,

domestic, moral capacities, they come

forward in support of the sacred cause of


They were there supporting their

husbands, fathers and sons in the

struggle for a radical reform of

parliament. They took care to be

feminine, but not what we would call

feminists, yet they stretched the

boundaries of femininity to breaking

point and, in the eyes of government

loyalists, renounced their right to

special treatment.

More provocative still, parties of female

reformers on reforming platforms

presented flags and caps of liberty to

the male reform leaders. The cap of

liberty had been the symbol of

revolution in France, but on the

Manchester Reformers’ flag it was

carried by the figure of Britannia, as

shown on English coinage until the


This ceremony took the patriotic ritual

of women presenting colours to

military regiments and adapted it to

radical ends. The Manchester Female

Reformers planned to proclaim:

May our flag never

be unfurled but in

the cause of peace

and reform, and

then may a female’s

curse pursue the

coward who deserts

the standard.



At previous meetings, the authorities had been unable to

capture the radical colours and had suffered some

humiliating rebuffs. The volunteer Yeomanry at

Manchester were determined to reverse these defeats.

When he heard the women would be on the platform

again at Manchester, the Bolton magistrate and spymaster

Colonel Fletcher wrote privately that such meetings “ought

to be suppressed, even though in such suppression, a

vigour beyond the strict letter of the law may be used in so

doing”. With Fletcher looking on, this was exactly what

happened at Peterloo.

‘Women beaten to the

ground by truncheons’

Mary Fildes, president of the Manchester Female

Reformers, is depicted in prints waving a radical flag from

the front of the platform as the troops attack. She guarded

her flag until the last minute, then jumped from the

platform, catching her white dress on a nail and being cut

by a sabre as she struggled to get free.

As she ran, she was beaten to the ground by a special

constable who seized her embroidered handkerchief-flag,

and then dodged another sabre blow and escaped into

hiding for the next fortnight – although badly wounded she

survived and continued to campaign for the vote.

Others were arrested in her stead and detained for days

without trial in wretched conditions. One of them,

Elizabeth Gaunt, suffered a miscarriage afterwards – her

unborn child is listed as one of the victims of Peterloo on

the new memorial in Manchester.

George Cruikshank’s famous graphic images of troops

attacking defenceless women and children formed the

enduring image of Peterloo in the public mind. After this

propaganda disaster, next time round, in 1832, the

government dared not risk sending in troops against

unarmed crowds of reformers gathered in cities such as

Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. The House of Lords

backed down at the third time of asking and the Great

Reform Act was passed.

Behind Britain’s famous long history of gradual reform lay

the shock of Peterloo. And behind the granting of the

franchise to more men lay the bravery of women.

Visit The Conversation for more great historical and

political articles at www.theconversation.com/uk

Caricature by George Cruikshank depicting the charge upon the rally



A print published on 27 August 1819 depicting Hunt's arrest by the constables

(Public Domain)






Words: Claire Miles

Intelligence gathering and the use of sex has been around for longer

than you might have thought. It was even a tactic used in the 16th

Century as Catherine De Medici proved. But what and who were her

now famous "Flying Squadron"? Melissa Barndon explains more about

this seductive squadron of spies.


When studying the role of protest in British history, people

invariably look to the 19th Century, to the Luddites and the

Chartists, to Peterloo and the Tolpuddle Martyrs. But at the

same time in rural Wales there was a very different type of

protest going on.

It was the summer of 1839 when three tollgates were

attacked at Efailwen near Saint Clears in Carmarthenshire.

These attacks were carried out by gangs of men dressed in

women’s clothing with blackened faces, who came to be

known as Rebecca and her daughters, or Merched Beca in

the native Welsh language.

This moniker was probably a reference to the chapter of

Genesis in the Bible – ‘And they blessed Rebekah and said

unto her, Let thy seed possess the gates of those that hate

thee’ – however, some theorise a much more practical reason

for this name. Local lore says the leader of these initial riots, a

farm labourer called Twm Carnabwth, was so well built he

could only borrow petticoats from one particularly large lady

in the area, and her name happened to be Rebecca.

But why had the inhabitants of South West Wales started

protesting in such a fashion? For the large part, they were

protesting for the same reasons as the Chartists. From 1837

onwards, Britain experienced an economic depression.

Unemployment was high, as were food prices, and wages

were low. In West Wales the situation was exacerbated by

dramatic population increases in some local areas, which in

turn increased competition for land and jobs. The Whig

Government fell in 1841, partly due to their failure to handle

the serious economic situation, and it was no coincidence

that the activity of the Rebecca Riots peaked only a year later.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was also a significant

motivator to both Rebecca and the Chartists alike. As well as

the resulting rise in poor law rates in rural areas, the new law

meant that the able-bodied poor would be forced to live in

the dreaded workhouse with its harsh conditions. In

Carmarthen this hatred of the dreaded institution eventually

crystallised in June 1843 when a crowd of 2000 people

destroyed the local workhouse.

Turning to more localised factors, tolls were a big expense for

small farmers in rural Wales. They had to travel distances to

take their goods to market, but also to collect lime, which was

essential for improving the quality of the soil in


The vast majority of roads came under the control of various

turnpike companies, leading to a fragmented road network

with multiple tollhouses. There were twelve turnpike trusts

and over 100 toll gates in Carmarthenshire alone. Many

unscrupulous people took advantage of the loophole that,

while tolls were limited by statute, there was no legal limit to

the number of tollgates that could be set up. It did not help

that many trusts chose not to spend their income on

maintaining the roads, and the state of the road network was

generally deemed as abysmal.

Combined with a succession of bad harvests and a poor

agricultural market, it soon became one toll too many for the

local farmers. Hatred of the tollgates meant they became the

focus of the attacks. They were a convenient and tangible

symbol of the many grievances of the suffering working class,

and there were plenty of them around for farmers to get their

hands on.

These attacks and the Rebecca Riots must be considered in

the context of the ceffyl pren (wooden horse) tradition, which

was commonplace in rural Wales at the time. This was a

ritual-heavy communal method of enforcement and policing,

where someone who had offended the community’s values

was frightened or punished by ‘the mob’. For the protestors,

the riots were simply an extension of their self-policing


After a gap of a few years, attacks restarted in October 1842,

again in the St Clears area. Activity soon spread throughout

the county of Carmarthenshire and into other parts of rural

Wales. The attacks generally seemed leaderless, which

frustrated authorities in their attempts to stop the

movement. As well as the geographical coverage of the riots

increasing, the scope of the attacks increased too. In Mid

Wales at Rhayader, where there were seven roads and nine

gates, Rebecca made regular appearances, and illegitimate

children known to belong to prominent men in the

community found themselves returned to their fathers.

Rebecca and her daughters also targeted Anglican clergyman,

in protest at a predominately Non-Conformist population

having to pay tithes to the Church – another grievance that

was quite distinct to Wales.

By the summer of 1843, the riots were getting out of control,

and after repeated requests the military was dispatched to

West Wales. On the 7th of September the young female

keeper of the tollgate at Hendy near Pontarddulais was killed,

and the following month three rioters were exiled to Van

Diemen’s Land. Local enthusiasm for the attacks started to

peter out, and the last events associated with Rebecca were

probably those in the Rhayader area on September 13th


As well as deploying troops, the government was seen by

many as acting constructively. In October 1843 a commission

to inquire into the causes of the Rebecca Riots was

established. The report of the commission, published in

March 1844, led to The Turnpike Act (also known as Lord

Cawdor’s Act) which received royal assent in August of the

same year. The act established boards in each of the

counties of South Wales to oversee the management of the

turnpike roads, and the situation greatly improved.

With the passing of the Act Rebecca and her daughters had

won an important victory, but historians still debate how

much impact this victory had on the everyday lives of people,

as the tollhouses were just one part of a much larger

problem for the ordinary man. Even though the Rebecca

Riots were not borne of politics, if you view it through a

political lens it becomes a story about a leaderless uprising of

a much-put-upon working class that fought to obtain justice –

and won. It is for that reason that the riots have become an

important event in Welsh history, one that still pervades our

popular culture to this day, and Merched Beca is still a term

synonymous with protest in the Land Of My Fathers.


To some, John Brown was a revolutionary

hero fighting a worthy crusade against

slavery. To others, he was a traitor and a

terrorist. Yet, his failed raid on Harpers Ferry

ignited the flame that would eventually see

the United states of America at war with








“I have been whipped, as the saying goes, but I am sure I can recover all the

lost capital occasioned by that disaster by only hanging a few minutes by

the neck. And I feel quite determined to make the utmost possible out of my


A letter by John Brown to his wife whilst in

Charles Town Prison, 1859.

John Brown was a complicated man. A man who saw his

actions as a just cause in the biblical sense of an "eye for an

eye". That was the kind of justice that Brown held onto

deeply. His life before Harpers Ferry was one of frustration

and limited success. He tried twenty different business

ventures of one kind or another. All ended in failure, several

of which ended in lawsuits and bankruptcies with one even

seeing John Brown serving in a debtor’s prison. In many

respects, he was a failure waiting for an opportunity to

shine brightly in the horizon. In joining the fight for the

abolition of slavery, Brown hoped to achieve that but would

fail once more as his doomed raid at Harpers Ferry would

see him hang. Yet, his name and legacy would live on.

In December 1858, John Brown and small band of men

entered Missouri. They attacked three small plantations

seizing 11 slaves and killing one owner. He then engaged in

an 82 day, 1000 mile trek in order to get the freed slaves

over to Canada. It was possibly the greatest

accomplishment of his life. This time, he actually made a

difference. It would become more personal for Brown as

during the journey one of the freed slaves gave birth to a

boy, he was named John Brown Daniel.

Brown was no stranger to violence when it came to the

cause of slavery. The passing of the Fugitive Slave Act of

1850 imposed severe penalties on those who aided

runaway slaves. As a response to this Brown founded the

militant group, The League of Gileadites. The League were

determined to help the runaway slaves by any means


News would reach Brown that the state of Kansas was in

danger of becoming a slave state. The Kansas-Nebraska Act

allowed the state to make its own choice on whether or not

to accept the use of slavery. With both pro and anti slavery

factions moving into the state, it would soon become a

powder keg waiting for a spark. On May 24, 1856, armed

with rifles, knives and broadswords, Brown and his men

stormed into the pro-slavery settlement of Pottawatomie

Creek, dragged the settlers out of their homes and hacked

them to pieces, killing five and severely wounding several


Daguerreotype of the abolitionist, John Brown, taken by African-American photographer Augustus Washington. Brown

is holding the hand-colored flag of Subterranean Pass Way, his militant counterpart to the Underground Railroad.

(Left to Right) Osborne Perry Anderson, Lewis Sheridan Leary, Dangerfield Newby,

John Anthony Copeland Jr, Shields Green


For Brown, the continued talk of the abolitionist movement

was getting the cause nowhere. What was needed in his

view, was action. Blood would needed to be shed in order

to free the enslaved. In many respects, Brown would be

proven correct as only a couple of years after his actions at

Harpers Ferry, the United States of America would turn

against each other leading to a bloody Civil War where the

concept of Slavery was high on the agenda.

Not everyone agreed with John Brown’s plan to start an

insurrection against slave owners in 1859. Frederick

Douglass, the former slave turned abolitionist, might have

not have agreed with Brown’s methods but he certainly

admired his passion. Yet, he feared for his friend’s brave

plan to raid the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in order to

arm a slave rebellion against their oppressors. In Douglass

eyes, Brown and his small band of rebels were "going into a

perfect steel trap" warning Brown that he "would never get

out alive". Douglass, like many others declined the invitation

to join the raid at Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry as a target made perfect sense to John

Brown. Inside the federal arsenal were 100,000 rifles and

muskets. Within the six countries of Harpers Ferry there

were approximately 18,000 slaves. If they joined him, it

would be enough to form an army. Twenty-one men would

join Brown for the raid on Harpers Ferry. Five of those men

were freed and fugitive slaves. The plan was simple. To

attack Harpers Ferry, secure the arsenal, hope others join

the insurrection and then flee into the blue ridge

mountains of Virginia using guerrilla tactics to attack

plantations and in doing so, grow his army before taking on


Despite his success the previous year, failure would once

again haunt Brown. Upon entering Harpers Ferry, a train

was approaching. The rebels stopped the train but within a

few hours, Brown let the train go. At the next town, the

conductor contacted Washington saying that “One Man and

Two hundred men are attacking Harpers Ferry!” President

Buchanan immediately ordered Robert E Lee to take care of

the situation and crush the insurrection. Despite the stand

off, Brown would be captured in the engine house along

with five others. Twelve of his men would die at Harpers

Ferry whilst four escaped.

John Brown would face three charges during his trial.

Treason, Murder and inciting slave insurrection. All were

punishable by death. His trial would begin on the 27th

October 1859 and would last only three and half days. It

would take the jury only 45 minutes to find him guilty of all

charges. His execution date was set as December 2, 1859.

For the other men who were captured the charge of

treason was dropped but they would still be found guilty of

the other charges. Shields Green, John Copeland Jr, John

Edwin Cook and Edwin Coppock would all face the

hangman’s noose. Green sent word to Brown that he was

glad to have fought with him, and awaited his death


General Robert E. Lee

During his time in prison awaiting execution, the coverage

of John Brown’s raid intensified. From jail, he wrote

approximately 100 letters to newspaper editors around the

country as well as his family. In doing so, he aimed to

establish his own case and begin the process of writing his

own history. Opinions about John Brown and the actions of

his rebels began to take hold on the national conscience. To

those who supported anti-slavery he was seen as a Martyr

yet to others who opposed his actions, he was a traitor. In

polarising the opinions of the country, Brown had

unwittingly succeeded in bringing the question about

slavery to the limelight.

Following his execution, white abolitionist's who had

supported Brown with money and support in order to

bankroll the raid had fled north to Canada. Frederick

Douglass would join them given his close connections to

Brown. A Federal Marshall arrived at Douglass’s home one

day after he fled. It was a narrow escape.

In the aftermath of the raid on Harpers Ferry and Brown’s

execution many have fought for his reputation. American

philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson would call Brown: “The

rarest of heroes, a pure idealist with no by-ends.”

Even today, John Brown and his actions at Harper Ferry

leads historians, educators and even the general public to

ask questions. Was he a revolutional hero? Was he a

terrorist? Were his actions so morally just that it justified

the ends? Was he a fanatical madman who put his own

vanity and glory ahead of what was actually achievable? In

truth, John Brown is all of those things. A complicated

failure that ultimately succeeded through the actions that

were his preferred method of negotiations. That being,

violence, war and brother fighting brother in what would

become the American Civil War. It was only through that

bloodshed that slavery would finally end. A bloodshed that

began at Harpers Ferry.






"Hundreds of thousands of slaves attempted to escape and

over 100,000 actually succeed. Why don’t we talk about


Mark Amin, the writer and Director of Emperor was making

a very good point. It's not as if Hollywood hasn't made

movies about slavery before. Yet for his new movie, he has

decided to tell a story about a man who not only escaped

from his enslavers, but would go on to participate in the

Raid on Harpers Ferry where the aim was start a slave

revolt against their enslavers and the system of slavery.

Amin continued by saying: "I thought it would be really

interesting to make a movie about the slave who fought

back. That was when we started to look around for those

who did that. We looked at many stories and when we

came across Shields Green, suddenly I thought, oh my god,

this guy has connected all the dots. He was only 23, he had

a five year old son, he ran away and made it to freedom, he

met John Brown, he met Frederick Douglass, he took part in

Harpers Ferry and Harpers Ferry was taken back by Robert

E Lee. These are three of the most prominent figures in

American History. Shields Green crossed paths with all of

these people."

Yet the story of Shield Green is a largely untold one. In

terms of historical evidence, his is a history that is sparse in

details. It is an issue that makes the telling of his story

somewhat problematic yet completely compelling and

necessary. Turning someone who has been but a footnote

in American history into the central focal point of a movie

He could have gone to Canada and

lived happily ever after but instead

Shields Green chose to fight knowing

that this could be a suicide mission.

was an issue as Amin freely admits:

Mark Amin, Writer/Director

"Nobody really knows about his journey when he escaped

the plantation. We did a lot of research and found nothing.

We even looked for descendants of him but we couldn’t

find any. We tried to stay as faithful as we could to his

character and the major events. His meeting with John

Brown and Frederick Douglass. The dialogue for that is

accurate from the historical records that we have."

Film makers, when dealing with historical figures, are often

accused of taking liberties with the real lives that they aim

to portray. In telling the story of Shields Green, Amin

focuses on what is already known with enough creative

license available to him to form a character that we really

should be celebrating as a man of defiance alongside the

abolitionist, John Brown.

"He could have gone to Canada and lived happily ever after

but instead Shields Green chose to fight knowing that this

could be a suicide mission. To me that was so unique and

showed what a heroic character he was and yet, we don’t

really know that story."


Bringing Shields Green to life is Dayo Okeniyi who delivers a

performance that is both powerful and emotive. When

asked what about his reasoning for taking on the role,

Okeniyi had nothing but admiration for Green, despite first

hearing about him through the script:

"When the script arrived I thought , why don’t I know about

this story? Why isn’t this a bigger story. A story about

rebellion, about a man in the 1800’s that took agency of his

own life. He had the chance to be free but chose to go back

and to fight for freedom for all men. I was moved by that

and moved by the idea that no one knows the story and I

wanted be a part of the people who told this story. We

ignorantly think that we know so much about this era yet

we find out there are heroes that fell through the cracks.

Their stories deserve to be told. They were a domino effect

that eventually led to the Civil War that led to the

Emancipation Proclamation and the reconstruction era, Jim

Crow and then the civil rights movement. It's American

History and those stories deserve to be told."

Researching Green for the role, Okeniyi hit the similar

stumbling blocks as the writer.

"Shields Green is the first character I’ve played who was a

real person. Because he is not well known I could take

some creative liberties in the way he walked, the way he

talked. There’s little about him so you reverse engineer who

you think this man was. I studied traits that people who

were enslaved would have. What is the physiological

trauma of someone who has been in a situation like that?

How much self realisation do they have? How aware of

themselves as a person are they? Is there any kind of vanity

at all?"

Some fragments of the life of Shields Green were available

in the form of The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. It was

the key text studied by Okeniyi: "I started with Frederick

Douglass’s autobiography where Shields is mentioned very

briefly but it paints such an amazing gesture portrait of him.

He was described as man not to shrink away from a


Perhaps it is fitting that both Amin and Okeniyi are similar

to Shields Green themselves. In making a movie about a

man where there is little historical evidence they have still

chosen to bring to life his story. They have done so because

they believe in him so much. They believe in Green's

courage and admire him greatly. In describing Green,

Douglass told us of a man who did didn't shrink away from

a challenge and neither have Amin and Okeniyi. In doing so,

the name of Shields Green and his partcipation alongside

John Brown at Harpers Ferry will continue to live on.

He had the chance to be free but

chose to go back and to fight for

freedom for all men. I was moved

by that and moved by the idea

that no one knows the story

Dayo Okeniyi on why he took on

the role of Shields Green

Emperor is available to digitally

stream and out now on DVD from

all good retailers and Amazon.

Many thanks to Mark Amin, Dayo

Okeniyi, and Kaleidoscope



19th Century





Words: James Hobson

In the autumn of 1887, William Morris

was convinced that the revolution was

imminent. All the signs were there. The

capitalist system that he and other

socialists loathed seemed to be dying.

The mid Victorian boom was over and

the 1880s were a time of rising

unemployment –indeed the word was

first used in this decade. The discontent

was now physically evidenced by the

occupation of Trafalgar Square by the

homeless, desperate and starving. There

were speeches and agitation by socialists,

anarchists and Irish nationalists; the

tricolour, the red flag and the black flag

of anarchy were flying in a space

designed to celebrate Britain’s martial


There were regular meetings and

demonstrations by the unemployed and

about five hundred people sleeping in

the square overnight in defiance of police

orders. The unseasonably dry weather

had been lovely for Queen Victoria’s

Golden Jubilee but had led to agricultural

depression and migration into the

capital; the docks and the sugar

refineries were idle and there seemed no

prospect of improvement. The

Conservative government had chosen

coercion in Ireland, and famine and

evictions had raised tensions both in

Ireland and amongst the Irish working

class in East London and other British

cities. Here, according to Morris and

many others, was the raw material that

revolution could be fashioned from. As

one of the members of the new

Socialist movement Morris was

convinced that the revolution was nigh

and that large masses of protesters

would be a catalyst for bringing down

the system he despised so much.

He had another reason to be hopeful.

The masses meeting in Trafalgar Square

had intimidated the authorities a year

earlier, in 1886. A relatively peaceful

mass meeting of the unemployed was

turned into a riot by the desperation of

the poor and the deliberate incitement

of two of Morris’s fellow socialists, Henry

Hyndman and John Burns. They were

part of the Social Democrat Federation,

Britain’s first Marxist political party

(Morris and others had split and

formed the Socialist League). The

meeting had been called by another

organisation, the Fair trade League, who

advocated protectionism as a solution

to mass unemployment; either way, the

economic situation was being exploited

by political agitators.

A tense meeting was turned violent by

this political activism and afterwards

5,000 marched down Pall Mall. ‘To the

clubs’ was the cry, which was not

surprising considering the way that

Burns (and to a lesser extent Hyndman)

had spoken to the crowd. Burns had

allegedly said that hanging was too

good for some people, as it would spoil

the rope, and in a more fatal version of

the eighteenth century cry of ‘bread or

blood’, called for ‘bread or lead’. The

Carlton Club was attacked and shops

raided, and they insulted gentlewomen

openly in the street. It ended up with a

baton charge in Oxford Street which

finally dispersed the demonstrators.

Before the police attack, the shops had

been looted. These became known as

the West End Riots, which was a fair

description of events, but none of it

would have been possible without the

large, flat, unfenced Trafalgar Square as

a focal point.

In the days after the riot there was a

rush on behalf of the rich to help the

poor. Up to now, the Lord Mayor’s

Mansion House Relief Fund had

languished, amounting to less than

£3000 on the day of the riot; two days

later it was £75,000. Hyndman was


cynical about their motives. Their ‘swift-born pity’ was

‘quite undistinguishable from craven fear’, he gloated.

The message was clear- mass politics was effective; it

extracted concessions and reduced the confidence of

the authorities. The victims of the Conservative policiesthe

poor, the homeless and the oppressed Irish- could

be used as weapons. Surely one more mass mobilisation

of the poor organised by radicals and socialists would

bring the whole rotten edifice down?

The new London Commissioner of Police, Sir Charles

Warren, looked on with concern as well. He saw a

rootless, desperate mob that was prone to the

influence of revolutionary forces. He envisaged an

obvious threat to property and the bastions of the

establishment that lay close to the square, which was

very much what Morris, Hyndman and Burns saw as well.

Sir Charles was appointed in March 1886 as a direct

result of the events of February 8. He was very much a

military man; not somebody who was willing to negotiate

with agitators and his appointment was very much hailed

for that reason. It was going to be all iron fist and no

velvet glove.

The location of the square was part of the problem.

Before it was built, the area was a transport hub for the

royal family, precisely because it gave easy access to

everywhere that mattered. That was still the case when

the square was constructed in the 1840s. It was at a

crucial juncture in London- where the poor of the East

End met the West End, and within striking distance of the

Palace of Westminster and the clubs of St James, which

was just about tolerable as long as it remained a figure of

speech. It was built as a commemoration of imperial

power not as a democratic space, and crowds were

actively discouraged by the steps, bronze lions and the

sold plinths of military heroes. The famous fountains

were placed there in 1845 to deflect the heat of the sun

but also there to make congregating and moving about


By the autumn of 1887, the situation was critical again.

The fountains were full of the poor washing themselves

as they camped, homeless in the square, and this

reached a height in the summer of 1887. These were

mainly the destitute rather than the politically active; but

the activists were everywhere, and the square was being

used as a base to challenge the authorities. On 12

October the unemployed marched to Bow Street

Magistrates and demanded material help. The chief

police magistrate Sir James Ingram (‘he has £1800 a year

and no interruption of employment’, sniffed the radical

Reynolds Newspaper) offered them places in the casual

ward in a local workhouse instead. When the protestors

said they would rather rob a baker’s shop and go to jail,

Ingham called them ‘impertinent’, but the threat was real.

On 16 October, a Sunday, the protestors paraded at

Westminster Abbey under the leadership of agitators

with red and black flags. When they arrived to attend

divine service, they were told that it was full and they

Sir Charles Warren, London Commissioner of Police (Public


were too late. They backed off, but what might happen

next time?



newspapers, in a panic; but it was never true. Both the

law and brute force were being used, successfully, and in

retrospect it seems odd that so many radical and

socialist groups thought the mobilisation of these

desperate people could leverage political change.

Three days after the ‘Bow Street impertinence’, the police

attacked a meeting of the unemployed, trampling them

down with horses and clubbing people. The homeless

were offered places at the casual ward of the Endell

Street workhouse. The workhouses themselves, like all

workhouses in London, were full; some who took up the

offer ran away when they saw the conditions there, and

preferred to freeze in the Square. Warren and the

newspapers asked people not to provide them with food

and drink, as it would only encourage more people into

idleness. Many newspapers referred to them in speech

marks as the ‘unemployed’.

Most people were driven out on 19 October but the

whole process was problematic. It was soaking up police

resources- 2000 officers every weekend- and nothing

was being achieved apart from highlighting the

precariousness of the system. The authorities needed to

regain control of crucial space; and the anxious

newspapers were egging them on.

Among those arrested and charged on 26 October with

‘wandering abroad without any visible means of

subsistence’ was Mary Ann Nichols. She had been

dismissed from a job as a servant in May 1887 and

preferred tramping and living outdoors to the

workhouse. She and others had refused the casual ward


19th Century

of the workhouse and Nichols was described as the

‘worst women in the Square and very disorderly at the

station’; in August 1888 she was the first victim of Jack

the Ripper.

A few days earlier there had been another Sunday visit to

Westminster Abbey; this time starting at the radical hub

of Clerkenwell and finishing in Trafalgar Square, filling it

up with protest again. In between the mob/ protestors

managed to gain access to the Abbey this time; some

posed on pedestals; others smoked tobacco, smirked

and called out randomly; most refused to remove their

hats and spat on the floor. Canon George Prothero

(Harrow and Oxford) produced a finely balanced sermon

where he called for both punishments for the sinful and

state intervention to help the poor.

Sir Charles Warren had had enough. On November 8 he

requested/ insisted that the Conservative Home

Secretary, Herbert Matthews, banned all public meeting

and speeches from being held in Trafalgar Square, thus

adding another level of protest- it now became an issue

of free speech and assembly. His legal case was that it

was Crown property. This was a little dubious and led to

an immediate call for a demonstration on Sunday 13

November, with the dual purpose of protesting about

the treatment of Irish Nationalist MP William O’ Brien and

establishing the right to hold a meeting at Trafalgar


A demonstration was called for 4pm with speeches from

Hyndman, Burns and another radical leader Robert

Cunninghame Graham, probably the first socialist to be

elected to the Commons. It’s hard to see how they

expected to be successful. It was an attempt to occupy a

space already controlled by a well armed police force

with military back-up. The authorities would also know

exactly the routes the protesters would use. These

marches to the Square were also banned, which gave

the police a pretext to use violence on those in transit.

As Morris said- ‘so we walked into the net’. Victorian

radicals Annie Besant, Eleanor Marx, George Bernard

Shaw walked with Morris from Clerkenwell. They were

viciously attacked by a police baton charge at Holborn.

They made a rational decision and ran away; Shaw called

it ‘the most abjectly disgraceful defeat ever suffered by a

band of heroes’. William Morris also witnessed the

violence. He wrote that he ‘was astounded at the rapidity

of the thing and the ease with which military organisation

got its victory’

The Pall Mall Gazette reported that the Clerkenwell

contingent had no weapons, not even sticks. Even if they

were armed, and there was some retaliation by the

crowd later in the day, it would not have mattered. All

those radicals, nationalists and socialists who were

present received an object lesson in the power of a

confident, prosperous state with a monopoly on

violence. Hyndman, the hero (in his own mind) of the

West End riots was lost in the crowd and became an

anonymous victim, and John Burns was assaulted, and

arrested. Cunninghame Graham, like Burns, made it to

the Square but was assaulted by the police and beaten


Those protestors- at least 10,000- who reached the

square suffered even worst treatment. At around 4pm

they were set upon by the police; cloaks covered the

numbers on their shoulders even if they could have been

identified in the chaos. Behind the police were mounted

cavalry, who broke into the mostly stationary lines of

protesters and then the police baton-charged them. It

was indiscriminate; even those who were running away

were followed and attacked. Some were crushed against

shop shutters in the Strand when they had nowhere else

to run. There was no attempt to engage, persuade or

offer routes to escape.

Many of those standing around were victims. Two

hundred people at least were injured, with many others

refusing to go to hospitals because of possible reprisals.

At least two people died as an indirect result of injuries

sustained. Swords were not drawn and the soldiers were

not told to open fire; so there were no deaths on the

day. However, the Life Guards did attack with fixed

bayonets. The day did not quite turn into Peterloo, but it

deserved its name, quickly acquired, of ‘Bloody Sunday’.

The next day the legal system rolled into action; 70

individuals were in front of the same Sir James Ingram

who had offered the unemployed nothing but the

workhouse. Later the same week, 20,000 special

constables were sworn in. Burns and Cunninghame

Graham served six weeks in Pentonville.

Most of the newspapers supported the police. Apart

from radical voices like the Pall Mall Gazette and


Bloody Sunday, 1887. This engraving from The Illustrated London News depicts a

policeman being clubbed by a demonstrator as he wrests a banner from a female protester. (Public Domain)

Reynolds’s Newspaper, they blamed the protesters. They

had defied the law and paid the price; the idea that

unarmed protestors and spectators had been attacked

mercilessly was never mentioned. The Times reported

that the mob had tried and failed to turn placid English

Sunday into a carnival of blood. The police did not come

out of events completely unscathed; some radicals

openly condemned them as agents of the ruling class,

but it was these same radicals whose voice had been

dampened down. Sir Charles Warren did not know it yet,

but he and his force were to come under more criticism

in 1888 when they failed to find the Whitechapel


Bloody Sunday did not stop demonstrations in and

around the Square. The Sunday afterwards, there was a

protest against police violence and a bystander was

crushed under a police horse; but radicals and socialists

had learnt a hard lesson. Monster meetings on their own

were not going to provoke a social revolution. The state

was far too strong and far too popular, and could

frighten people that their property was in danger.

The radicals and socialists took different paths. Burns,

who waved the Red Flag in 1887, was a liberal MP by

1893 and later a cabinet minister. Many socialists (and

Bloody Sunday created more of them) worked for

working class representation in parliament. Hyndman

decided that the time was not yet ripe, and that more

revolutionary agitation was needed. Others became

Trade Union organisers and were involved in the Match

Girls Strike and the Great Dock Strike of 1888. Bernard

Shaw relied on words to make his arguments.

Cunninghame Graham, despairing of Tory policies in

England, became an early Scottish Nationalist.

Protests in Trafalgar Square continue to this day, and

some, like the Poll Tax riots of 1990, have been politically

significant. Yet the key question of 1887 remains

unresolved today; what are the rights and

responsibilities of angry protesters who wish to meet in

public places? How much free speech and free assembly

is healthy, and who makes that decision?

James Hobson has taught and written about

history for twenty-five years. His previous books

include The Dark Days of Georgian Britain and

Charles I's Executioners: Civil War, Regicide and

the Republic. His latest book, Passengers: Life in

Britain during the Stagecoach Era is out now.


20th Century








20th Century

In 1909, Clara Lemlich raised her voice about safety concerns at the Triangle

Factory in New York City. She was not alone as many textile workers would

strike with the same concerns. Whilst some factories would change their

practices, others held strong against the workers demands. Tragically, the

workers would be proven right as Alycia Asai explains more about The New

York Garment Strike of 1909.

She sat in the back of the union hall,

listening to one speaker after another

voice support for their cause, but remain

silent on a solution. She hoped the next

order of business would be to vote on a

call to strike. But the speeches kept

coming; frustrated, she quickly raised her

hand and requested to speak to the large

crowd. Making her way up the aisle, the

Ukrainian immigrant, who had a

reputation for being a troublemaker

and who was still nursing some broken

ribs thanks to strikebreakers stepped to

the microphone. In her native Yiddish,

she told the crowd, “I have no further

patience for talk as I am one of those

who feels and suffers from the things

pictured. I move that we go on a general

strike...now!” Her name was Clara Lemlich

and she is known as the voice to the

uprising of the twenty thousand, the first

general strike of the New York garment

district, and one of the largest strikes by

women in history. The strike of 1909 was

successful in many of its efforts, however

it failed to garner one key concession

from shop owners, ultimately leading to

one of the most devastating workplace

disasters in history.

At the turn of the century, New York was

a hot spot for the newly popular

shirtwaists. Memorialised by the Gibson

Girl, the shirtwaist - or blouse - was a hot

commodity rapidly spreading in

popularity across the country’s women.

Over six hundred shops employing nearly

thirty-two thousand workers were sewing

and piecing together upwards of fifty

million dollars-worth of merchandise

annually. To meet this high demand,

shop owners mandated workers show up

six days a week and toil long hours -

often requiring overtime during the busy

months, without increased pay incentive.

The workforce, made up largely of

immigrant women, labored up to sixty

hours a week and were paid $6 per

week, about $174 when adjusted for


The women of the Triangle Shirtwaist

Factory had been advocating for

increased pay, safer conditions, and

wanted the ability to form a union.

Frustrated with the deafening silence by

owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris,

the women walked off the job on

October 4, 1909. Tired of the deplorable

working conditions, fourteen-hour

workdays, and meager pay, the women

refused to return to work until Blanck

and Harris were ready to hear their

demands. The owners, however, would

hear nothing. Instead, they worked to

break the women; they hired prostitutes

to start fights and paid off thugs to

intimidate and physically assault the

striking workers. The women held firm,

picketing daily for six weeks.

Inspired by those fighting the Triangle

Factory, the International Ladies

Garment Workers called a meeting on

November 22 to determine the best

course of action. Would they continue

to labor in decrepit and unsafe working

conditions, or would they band together

and collectively demand better

treatment? Held at Cooper Union,

thousands of workers showed up to

debate their fate and vote for action.

Inspired by Lemlich’s speech, the

members present at the hall voted in

favor of a general strike, and the

following day, fifteen thousand workers

walked off the job in New York’s

Garment District. Their demands were

simple: better pay, lower hours, the

ability to organize, and safe working

conditions. The union organized picket

lines for the factories, culminating in

nearly twenty thousand workers from

five hundred shops refusing to work in

the largest industry-wide strike to date.

The Garment District was suddenly at a


While nearly one hundred smaller

factories caved to many of the strikers'

demands within forty-eight hours, the

larger firms - led by the owners of

Triangle - were determined to break the

strike by any means necessary.

Employing tactics that would make

headlines today, the factory magnates

hired replacement workers, violent

strikebreakers, and paid off police to

make arrests for anyone who picketed

their shops. The physical mistreatment

of the picketers gained the attention of

the affluent women pushing for suffrage

who saw an opportunity to galvanize

the push for the rights to vote with the

plight of the immigrants demanding

better working conditions.

As women were arrested and given

exorbitant bails, Alva Belmont, wife of

Willliam Vanderbilt, started showing up

to court to pay their fines. Having the

backing of the wealthy and connected,

the press started to write pieces in

support of the strike and the factory

owners began losing the war of public

opinion. By December, word of the

strike reached Philadelphia, prompting

the city’s garment workers to also walk

off the job to demand better conditions.

A month into the strike, many of the

larger factories were tired of seeing

their profits diminish and prepared

themselves for negotiations, offering

tentative agreements to their

employees. The strikers were also

growing weary; fighting the battle alone

without government support and

lacking secure financial backing, they

had a choice to make; they could go

back with the guaranteed concessions,


Portrait of Clara Lemlich (March 28, 1886 – July 25, 1982), leader of the

Shirtwaist Strike of 1909-1910 in New York. (Public Domain)

A January 1910 photograph of a group of women who

participated in the shirtwaist strike of 1909. (Public Domain)


or risk a hard cold winter without any steady income. By

February 1910, thousands of strikers returned to work

satisfied with better pay, reduced hours, and a tepid

recognition of unions - although this recognition proved to

be in name only. But Blanck and Harris remained steadfast;

their original offer from December was the only one they

were willing to accept. The offer was for better pay and

shorter hours, but nothing addressing safety or recognizing

unions. As one of the last standing holdouts, the workers

accepted the terms.

The decision to go back with better pay but without

guaranteed safer working conditions in the spring of 1910

provided immediate financial relief to the strikers, but

ultimately sealed their fate and claimed the lives of over

one hundred workers. Just a year later on March 25, 1911,

a small fire broke out on the eighth floor of the Asch

Building, a twelve-story warehouse where Triangle

maintained operations. Likely sparked by a discarded

cigarette in a heap of scrap material, the fire quickly spread,

devouring the highly flammable cotton in mere minutes.

Unequipped with modern conveniences such as fire alarms

Bodies of the victims being placed in coffins on the sidewalk. (Public


windows. One by one, bystanders and firemen watched

helplessly as the bodies of these young immigrant laborers

hit the concrete. In a fire that lasted less than thirty

minutes, 146 individuals lost their lives, 123 of them


In the aftermath of the blaze, more than 350,000 people

took to the streets of Manhattan in a funeral procession to

honor the dead. Public outcry demanded action to

prevent such a disaster from occurring again. Within

months, New York created the Factory Investigating

Commission, which looked into almost two thousand

factories in various industries. Spurred by labour rights

activists like Frances Perkins, New York quickly passed a

series of laws aimed at protecting worker’s safety and

improving working conditions. This series of legislation

spread throughout the country and culminated with the

passage of the New Deal, where activist Perkins, the first

female member of the cabinet, instituted federal mandates

for worker protections. This included the Department of

Labor and the National Labor Relations Act, which codified

a worker’s right to organize and use collective bargaining in

the workplace.

and sprinklers, the inferno destroyed the production line

on the eighth floor while the workers above were oblivious

to the dangers below their feet.

By the time the upper floors learned of the blaze and

attempted to flee, options were limited. In an effort to

prevent material theft, the owners kept one stairwell exit

locked at all times, providing only one viable avenue for

workers to seek refuge. Some were able to get to safety via

the building's elevator, but as the inferno intensified, the

elevator was grounded. Scrambling for options, some

sought safety via the fire escape. As more women climbed

atop the rickety metal structure, the frame buckled, sending

them plummeting to their death. Suddenly, faced with the

choice of burning alive or taking their fates into their hands,

women began to leap from the ninth and tenth-floor

The women of Triangle helped galvanize a movement for

their fellow laborers in 1909 and shed light on the

horrendous conditions faced by those in the garment

industry. By igniting the largest industry wide strike and

attaining change through collective bargaining, laborers all

over the country began to see the power of using one voice

to force change. However, without the support of those in

power, they faced a difficult choice; they could take some

concessions or find a new job. Ultimately, it took the

largest workplace disaster to date and the death of over

one hundred individuals to call out in stark detail the need

for labor protections and unions. The women of 1909

started the fight, but the fire of 1911 proved to be the

catalyst for change.

Alycia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History and believes the

study of history can be fun and exciting. She tries to bring

history to the masses in bite sized pieces through her

weekly history podcast, Civics and Coffee. You can reach

her through her website at www.civicsandcoffee.com



Deeds, not words



To some Christabel Pankhurst is seen as a heroine who dedicated her life

to the right for women to have their vote. To others, she is seen as a

symbol of terror that caused mayhem in her violent pursuit of women's

rights. The truth however lays somewhere in between as Olivia

Richardson explains.

Christabel Pankhurst was born on September 22, 1880,

in Manchester. She was the daughter of leading

suffrage activist Emmeline Pankhurst and the sister of

Sylvia Pankhurst. Christabel followed in her mother’s

footsteps in campaigning for women’s rights to vote.

She became a co-founder of the Women’s Social and

Political Union (WSPU) with her mother from 1903

to 1918. Christabel, labelled as the ‘Queen of the Mob,’

was known for pioneering the use of the WSPU’s

militant strategies in achieving women’s suffrage.

With an interest in politics and inspired by her father’s

career as a barrister, Christabel studied law at the

University of Manchester, graduating with a first-class

degree in 1906. However, she was unable to become a

lawyer because women were not permitted to enter

the legal profession. Despite this, Christabel used her

education to her advantage and her legal knowledge

became an asset towards her fight for women’s

suffrage. She acquired the skills to persuasively convey

her views about gender inequality through her public

speeches and pamphlets.

Under Christabel’s leadership, the WSPU developed the

use of militant tactics enforced by its motto of “Deeds

Not Words.” Women had campaigned for the right to

vote since the 1880s; however, Christabel believed

something had to change. Organisations such as the

National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS)

led by Millicent Fawcett had tried to peacefully

persuade politicians to grant women the right to vote

by writing letters, creating petitions and holding public

meetings. For Christabel, peaceful protest was no

longer enough to secure democratic rights for women.

Christabel favoured a confrontational approach,

arguing that previous protestors had been far too

submissive. In a speech, she highlighted inequality

between men and women regarding protest,

stating: “Men got the vote, not by persuading but by

alarming the legislators. Similar vigorous measures

must be adopted by women.”

The slogan of “Deeds Not Words” was put into

action by Christabel on October 13, 1905, when she

and her friend Annie Kenney disrupted a Liberal

Party meeting held in the Free Trade Hall in

Manchester. They demanded answers from MPs

regarding women’s rights to vote, waving a banner

declaring "Votes for Women". Police forcibly

removed them from the meeting, resulting in

Christabel spitting at an officer. The women were

arrested and charged with assault after refusing to

pay fines. The event attracted media attention and

became a vital moment in highlighting the use of

civil disobedience from women fighting to achieve

the vote. The newspaper coverage of the protest

was an accomplishment in raising awareness

of the WSPU and its militant campaign. Christabel

later wrote: “Where peaceful means had failed, one

act of militancy succeeded and never again was the

cause by that or any other newspaper.”

After obtaining her degree in 1906, Christabel

moved to the WSPU’s headquarters in London

to start her role as the organising secretary of the

group. In 1908, Christabel along with her mother

and WSPU member Flora Drummond organised a

‘rush’ on the House of Commons by issuing

pamphlets to members of the public asking for

support. Days later, they held a rally in Trafalgar


“Remember the

dignity of your

womanhood. Do

not appeal, do not

beg, do not grovel.

Take courage, join

hands, stand

besides us, fight

with us.”

Square where Christabel addressed a large

crowd of protestors. The three women were

later arrested and Christabel received a tenweek

prison sentence.

By 1909, pressure was building on the

government as it faced increasingly dangerous

tactics from the WSPU. Its strategies became

more extreme, with members going on hunger

strikes in prison and throwing stones at the

windows of government buildings. Therefore,

during his election campaign in January 1910,

Prime Minister H.H. Asquith intended to pass a

Conciliation Bill which would grant one million

women who owned property over the value

of £10 the vote. Indeed, this was a limited

amount of women, but it was a hopeful

development according to Christabel, who

decided to call a ‘truce’ by ceasing all militant

activity. However, this was short-lived and

hopes were brought to an end in June 1910,

when Asquith refused to allocate further

parliamentary time to the bill and dissolved

Parliament in November to hold a general

election. After this, the bill was never passed as


With Christabel and Emmeline feeling betrayed

and tensions building, 300 members of the

WSPU stormed Parliament on November 18,

1910. Annie Kenney described the event as a

huge turning point, writing: “All the clouds that

had been gathering for weeks suddenly broke,

and the downpour was terrific. There was not

We are here to claim our

right as women, not only

to be free, but to fight for

freedom. That it is our

right as well as our duty.

Votes for Women 31 March 1911


Meeting of Women's Social

& Political Union (WSPU)

leaders, c.1906 - c.1907

Flora Drummond,

Christabel Pankhurst,

Annie Kenny, Emmeline

Pankhurst, Charlotte

Despard with two others,

working round a kitchen

table. (PICRYL)

one of us who would not have gone to our death at that

moment, had Christabel so willed it.” The event soon became

known as ‘Black Friday,’ because the WSPU were met with

police brutality, facing violent beatings and sexual assault.

The events of ‘Black Friday’ provoked the WSPU’s sudden

escalating use of militancy. From 1912 to 1914, new violent

tactics were implemented, such as vandalism, arson and

bombings. The suffragettes would smash up windows of

banks and post offices, cut telephone wires and even

attacked paintings in art galleries. Attempts were made to

burn down the houses of two members of the government

who opposed the suffrage movement. Despite this, both

Christabel and Emmeline emphasised that there should not

be any danger to human life. Nonetheless, this seems

contradictory as the extremities of the vandalism and

violence definitely posed a great risk to the safety of both

members of the public and the suffragettes.

Christabel did not participate in these more extreme

protests because in 1912, she moved to Paris to avoid being

imprisoned, and therefore directed the militancy from the

sidelines. During her time in Paris, Christabel founded and

edited The Suffragette newspaper. The Daily Mail had first

created the nickname ‘suffragette’ in 1906 in an article

mocking the militant group of suffragettes. However,

Christabel only used this to her advantage, deciding to adopt

the term for her newspaper in which she encouraged the use

of militant tactics, documenting the many acts of arson and

vandalism. Other newspapers began to report weekly on the

attacks, expressing outrage and disapproval. By starting her

own newspaper, Christabel showed her strong ability as a

resilient leader to portray the WSPU and its aims in her own

words to members of the public.

Although members of the WSPU supported Christabel in her

militant approach to protest, she also faced criticism. For

instance, WSPU member Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence spoke

out against the violent campaigns, believing that they would

undermine the aims of the suffragettes and reduce

support. Christabel was not slow to take action and

arranged for Emmeline to be removed from the group.

Furthermore, Christabel’s extreme campaigns even

created a divide within her own family. The increasing

use of vandalism evoked conflict between Christabel

and her sister, Sylvia. Sylvia also disagreed with

Christabel’s decision to distance the WSPU from leftist

politics and instead, attract upper and middle class

women to the group. Christabel believed the cause

should be dedicated to women’s suffrage, and that

other issues concerning working-class women would

be solved once women were granted the vote. Sylvia

was consequently expelled from the WSPU in 1914 for

enforcing the idea that working-class women should

be involved in the movement, before setting up the

East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS)

group. Christabel’s controversial views towards

working-class women made members of the group

question if the WSPU was really fighting on behalf of all

women, or rather the privileged few.

With the outbreak of World War One in 1914, the

WSPU halted all militant activity after the government

agreed to release the suffragettes from prison. The

WSPU’s focus changed to supporting the war effort,

with Christabel even changing the name of her

newspaper to the patriotic Britannia. As time went on,

the WSPU faded from public attention and was

dissolved in 1917. A year later, the Representation of

the People Bill was passed, allowing women over the


(Above) Christabel Pankhurst, Flora Drummond and

Emmeline Pankhurst in court, 1908 (PICRYL)

(Right) Studio portrait of Christabel Pankhurst in academic

dress in 1905 (PICRYL)

age of 30 and men over the age of 21 to vote. It would

be another 10 years until women over the age of 21

could finally vote in 1928.

The militancy of the WSPU was not entirely successful

in achieving votes for women. However, there is no

denying that Christabel’s enforcement of militant

action added a new dimension to women’s protests for

equality. The use of violence and destruction

challenged the idea of how women were expected to

behave and proved how far women were willing to

go in order to achieve what they wanted. Furthermore,

Christabel was an excellent public speaker with the

ability to confidently voice women’s issues. More

importantly, she knew how to contrive new ways of

catching the attention of the media and the British

public to raise awareness of the suffragettes and

political inequality. Christabel was a strong and

powerful woman who was not afraid to eradicate any

obstacles that were in her way, even if it meant

dismissing members of her own family. Although

Christabel’s controversial leadership tactics were not

popular with everyone, she was still an extremely

influential figure within the women’s suffrage


Olivia Richardson is a History and

History of Art graduate from the

University of York. She has a keen

interest in writing about the lives

of forgotten women in history,

with a particular focus on female




Annie Kenney




If you were asked to name a suffragette, the chances are that a member

of the Pankhurst family would be mentioned. Yet, the movement relied

heavily on the passion and leadership of others. Tom Daly from The

Ministry of History, takes a closer look at Annie Kenney who was also

essential to the cause.

Annie Kenney (1879–1953)

(Public Domain Library of Congress)

Friday, 13th October 1905 was a dreary autumn day

in Manchester, but there was excitement in the

air. In the city’s trade hall, the Liberal party, at this

time the only other major political party in Britain

along with the Conservatives, were holding a

meeting as they tried to gather momentum for the

general election the following year. During the

meeting a certain Winston Churchill, a young local

MP and one of the most radical members of the

Liberal leadership, took to the stage, but was

interrupted during his speech by a question from a

soft-looking, blue-eyed woman in her 20s. ‘If you

are elected, will you do your best to make women’s

suffrage a government measure?’ she asked.

Churchill was hesitant, and appeared

uncharacteristically lost for words. Receiving no

reply, the woman and her friend unfurled a banner

that had the slogan ‘votes for women’, and they were

swiftly thrown out of the meeting and arrested.

Of the two women arrested that day in Manchester,

one was suffragette royalty. She was Christabel

Pankhurst, daughter of the famous campaigner

Emeline Pankhurst and sister of Sylvia Pankhurst.

Together, the Pankhurst women would go on to

become the public face of the struggle to win

women the right to vote. The other woman, who

asked the question of Winston Churchill, is less well

remembered but sacrificed just as much for the

same cause. She had met Pankhurst only a few


months previously and been utterly inspired, and her

arrest that day was the first of 13 arrests she would rack

up during her time as a campaigner. Her name was

Annie Kenney, and she was not only a fierce campaigner

for women’s suffrage but also a committed socialist. Her

soft features disguised a steel inside her that led her to

strike fear in the heart of the British establishment.

A childhood in poverty

Ann ‘Annie’ Kenney was born on 13th September 1879

in Springhead, which is now part of Greater Manchester,

the fifth of eleven children born to Nelson Horatio

Kenney and Anne Wood. The Kenney family were poor

and none of the children received much formal

education, although their mother taught all of them to

read and write. Annie would later recall that her mother

was an outgoing woman who encouraged all of her

children to think openly and express themselves, while

her father was a something of an introvert who ‘had

very little confidence in himself.’ Like all of her siblings,

Annie was forced to work from an early age to

supplement the family income. She started work at a

local cotton mill at the age of ten, losing one of her

fingers to an accident soon after. She worked long

hours and was expected to help with housework when

she returned home, an expectation that made her

develop a sense of solidarity with her mother, sisters

and other women around her. This gender solidarity

was complemented by her sense of class solidarity with

the working-class people she grew up with, as she

worked at the mill for a further 15 years and became

involved in Labour and Trade Union politics.

Introduction to the Women’s

suffrage movement

It was her involvement in Labour politics that led to her

meeting with Christabel Pankhurst in early 1905.

Pankhurst gave a speech on women’s voting rights at a

Labour party meeting that Annie attended with two of

her sisters, Jenny and Jessie. Annie was inspired by the

charismatic Pankhurst and immediately joined the

Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which

Pankhurst had recently formed with her mother and

sister, and within months the two new friends found

themselves interrupting Winston Churchill’s speech and

being arrested after a policeman claimed Pankhurst

spat on him as he tried to eject them from the meeting.

They were given the option of paying a fine or going to

prison, and they chose prison, knowing the publicity

would rally more women to their cause. Sure enough,

when Kenney was released after her short sentence she

was greeted outside the prison by a crowd of


After her release, though Kenney had been scarred by

the harshness of life in an Edwardian prison, she

declared that there was no woman in the WSPU who

would not gladly go to prison ‘to win freedom for her

sisters.’ She began working for the organisation full time,

moving to London to lead the WSPU branch in the city’s

east end and developing a reputation as a passionate

and charismatic speaker. She was also known for her

publicity stunts. In 1906, after the Liberal party won a

landslide victory in the election, Kenney led a group of

women to the home of the Chancellor of the Exchequer

(and future Prime Minister) Herbert Asquith. She

knocked on the door incessantly and refused to leave,

securing herself another short prison sentence. On

another occasion, she unfurled a banner with the slogan

‘votes for women’ at the Royal Albert Hall.

In 1907, Kenney was sent to Bristol to run the WSPU in

the west of England. It is interesting to note at this point

that although she was fully committed to the

organisation and felt a sense of gender solidarity with

the Pankhursts and others, Kenney was one of the only

working-class women who were given leadership roles in

what was a very middle-class organisation. Kenney was a

feminist but also a socialist, sympathetic to the plight of

working-class men – many of whom also did not have

the right to vote – and carefully supportive of the truly

radical economic reforms the Liberal government

started to implement in 1906-1914.


"We have got to

hold meetings,

but the only

thing you have

got to be is

militant! Militant!

And more


Annie Kenney quoted by a Special Branch report on a suffragette meeting at Essex Hall, The Strand,

London, 31 January 1913 (Catalogue ref: HO 45/10695/231366) National Archives

Left: Suffragette poster urging people to vote against the Liberal government who passed the Cat and

Mouse Act (Picryl)

Still, the government was not paying attention to calls

for women’s suffrage, so more drastic action needed to

be taken. Kenney was heavily involved in theincreasingly

militant tactics of the WSPU, which included vandalism,

arson and chaining themselves to railings. In one

instance, a bomb was exploded outside the summer

home of the new Chancellor of the Exchequer (and

another future Prime Minister) David Lloyd George. The

WSPU were always careful to ensure there was no

violence inflicted on people – Lloyd George and his

family were nowhere near the home when the bomb

went off – but the destruction of property was enough

to provoke a reaction from the government, and scores

of suffragettes were marched off to prison during this


The WSPU then directed their members to go on

hunger strike in prison, which meant they would refuse

to eat and let themselves become seriously ill. It was

certainly an outlandish idea but there was a degree of

genius to it – the government could not afford to let the

women die in their prisons, if for no other reason than it

would be a PR disaster. Kenney herself fully understood

the power of PR and imagery, going on hunger strike

herself and ensuring that upon her release from prison

she was seen at meetings, carried on a stretcher, too ill

to stand up. To make oneself so dangerously sick takes

phenomenal courage and commitment, qualities which

Kenney had in spades.

Events appeared to be reaching a climax. In 1913, the

government introduced the Cat and Mouse Act, which

would allow for women on hunger strike to be released

from prison and then thrown back in once they had

recovered from illness. The previous year, Christabel

Pankhurst had fled to Paris to avoid arrest and left

Kenney in charge of the whole organisation. Unrelenting

as ever, she denounced the Cat and Mouse Act and

decided that the WSPU had no intention of letting up

their militant campaigns or hunger strikes. In June 1913,

Emily Davison was killed as she tried to attach a

suffragette slogan to the King’s horse during a race in

Epsom. It is doubtful whether Davison intended to kill

herself – she had purchased a return train ticket – but

Kenney ensured she was treated as a martyr. Slowly but

surely, votes for women was edging closer. The new

Labour party were likely going to insist that all their

candidates for Parliament at the next election support

women’s suffrage, and Sylvia Pankhurst was in secret

talks with David Lloyd George.

But then, suddenly, Europe was plunged into war. The

suffragette movement was split, between those who

wanted to carry on the fight against a distracted

government and those who wanted to pause the fight

and throw their weight behind the war effort, out of a

sense of patriotism and a sense that it would be good

for their public image. Annie Kenney was in the latter

camp. Together with the Pankhurst women she toured

the country speaking in support of the war and

encouraging women to support the national effort. The


WSPU’s newspaper, Suffragette, was discontinued

briefly but returned in the middle of the war with a new

name, Britannia, and launched vicious attacks on

people deemed not to be supporting the war effort


In 1915 Kenney started working with David Lloyd

George, now Minister for Munitions, to call on women to

work in British factories. Millions of women heeded the

call, stepping up to replace the men in manufacturing

and agriculture. Kenney was now something of an

insider, speaking regularly with Lloyd George and

leading public anti-communist demonstrations, a

seemingly odd turn of events for a woman who had

been a socialist in her youth.

Though votes for women was probably assured without

the war, it was the war that persuaded any lingering

doubters that there was no justifiable reason for

denying women the vote. Kenney and her comrades

had supported the war out of a genuine sense of

patriotic duty, but there is also no doubt that they knew

their support for the war would be a tremendous help

for their cause.

Before the war was even over, the government passed

the Representation of the People Act. This gave women

over 30 the right to vote, providing they or their

husband owned some property. It is limited by modern

standards but it gave the vote to two thirds of British

women, which was a start that was much more

promising than most suffragettes had originally hoped

for. In any case, all men and women over the age of 21,

regardless of property ownership, were given the right

to vote in 1928.

Kenney effectively retired from public life after the war,

marrying James Taylor in 1920 and giving birth to their

son, Warwick, in 1921. The family settled in

Hertfordshire, where Kenney wrote her memoirs,

Memories of a Militant, in 1924. She continued to write

to Christabel Pankhurst and agreed to occasional

interviews during her retirement, but her campaigning

days were behind her.

Annie Kenney died on 9th July 1953, at the age of 73,

after a gradual decline in her health. James Taylor was

certain that the hunger strikes had contributed to her

death. Annie Kenney is not as well known as the

Pankhursts or some other suffragette figures, perhaps

because she was a working-class girl working in an

organisation dominated by women from respectable

middle-class families. Yet her work was every bit as

important as that of her more famous comrades. A

plaque in her honour was unveiled in 1999 at the mill

she used to work at, and in 2018 a statue in her honour

was unveiled in Oldham, Greater Manchester.



If There Is A Will,

There Is A Way




Defiance is often associated with the Suffragette movement. However, as

Olivia Smith explains, there was one in particular who stood out from the

others. Confined to a wheelchair, Rosa May Billinghurst, would never let

her disability prevent her from joining the cause.

“If women don’t count, neither shall they be

counted”. Calls for a boycott from the Suffragettes

the night before the 1911 census, which resulted in

a demonstration in Parliament Square. In the midst

of this demonstration of stone throwing, street lamp

breaking and an attempt to get into the House of

Parliament , one suffragette was doing all she could

to defy the authorities. Carefully placing crutches on

the sides of her tricycle, “again and again drove her

hand-tricycle” at the police. Hanging on the back of

her tricycle, in the Suffragette green, white and

purple, was a banner reading ‘Votes for Women’.

Arrested for these actions, and sent for five days

imprisonment, this didn’t come close to stopping

her. This is Rosa May Billinghurst, the defiant

disabled Suffragette.

Rosa ‘May’ Billinghurst (although she preferred to be

called May), was a London girl through and through

being born in Lewisham in 1875. As a child Rosa

contracted polio, which subsequently left her unable

to walk, unless when wearing leg-irons, using

crutches or wheeling around on her modified

tricycle. This left her branded ‘the cripple suffragette’

by the press and peers. Rosa was fortunate to come

from a middle class family that provided her with a

governess, as her disability limited her opportunities

to attend school or university.


The drive behind Rosa’s fight was the innate belief that

working class women deserved the vote. In her early

adult years, Rosa worked with the poor at Greenwich

Workhouse, teaching at a Sunday School. This ignited

Rosa into thinking that women’s inferior position in

society was impeding its progress, so if women had the

vote, they would use it to end poverty.

Originally Rosa was an active member of a Women’s

Liberal Association, and when in 1903 the Women’s

Social and Political Union (WSPU) was formed, Rosa

eventually joined the WSPU in 1907. As early as 1910,

she founded the Greenwich Branch of the WSPU.

From the off Rosa was an active member and didn’t let

her disability hold her back from the fun. In 1908 she

took part in the march to Albert Hall. It is said that

13,000 Suffragettes and Suffragists were led in

procession by Millicent Fawcett from Embankment to

the Royal Albert Hall. The women were carrying

decorative banners, colourful works of art, bearing the

names of campaigners, famous female figures and most

importantly showcasing their achievements. In July, she

worked for the WPSU at the Haggerston by-election.

This included teaching local children suffragist songs.

Notably, the by election was on the same day, 24

suffragettes were released from Holloway Prison. A

timely event, as they began canvassing to ‘keep the

Liberal out’. This certainly was one of the more peaceful

protests performed by the Suffragettes, but the tides

soon changed.

It was in 1909 that this rebellious suffragettes behaviour

started to trickle in. Someone had observed two

suffragettes -one in a wheelchair- who were tormenting

police as one woman distracted an officer on a horse

and then another tipped the officer off the horse. If this

were Rosa, then we can say this was the first of her

encounters with the police. In 1910 Rosa took part in

the suffragette demonstration which became

known as Black Friday. It was named Black Friday

because of the violent treatment of women by

police. The suffragettes were outside government

buildings demanding to speak with Liberal Minister

H. Asquith, when he refused they tried to storm the

building. This is when the police got involved. Rosa

found herself thrown out of her tricycle and arrested.

In an account presented to the Parliamentary

Conciliation Committee for Women’s Suffrage, Rosa

recalled the events:

“At first, the police threw me out of the machine onto

the ground in a very brutal manner. Secondly, when

on the machine again, they tried to push me along

with my arms twisted behind me in a very painful

position, with one of my fingers bent right back,

which caused me great agony. Thirdly, they took me

down a side road and left me in the middle of a

hooligan crowd, first taking all the valves out of the

wheels and pocketing them, so that I could not

move the machine, and left me to the crowd of

roughs, who, luckily, proved my friends.”

Despite this trauma, Rosa knew the publicity obtained

from the event was worth every second for the

suffragette cause. Her first series of arrests came in

1911, when she rammed her crutches and tricycle into

the police at a demonstration in parliament square. For

some reason this arrest did not make it into the Home

Office’s index of suffragettes arrested. So, Rosa’s first

official arrest was made in 1912. Between 1910 and

1912 Parliament considered various bills to give some

women the vote, but ultimately none of them passed. In

"They took me

down a side road

and left me in the

middle of a

hooligan crowd,

first taking all the

valves out of the

wheels and

pocketing them, so

that I could not

move the machine,

and left me to the

crowd of roughs,

who, luckily,

proved my


response, the WSPU organised a window smashing

campaign in March 1912, leading to 220 arrests. Rosa

apparently hid bricks under a blanket in her tricycle. As

a result of smashing a window on Henrietta Street,

rather ironically this disabled suffragette was sentenced

to ‘one month’s hard labour’ in Holloway Prison. The

prison authorities didn’t give her any labour. Alice Ker,

another suffragette in prison with Rosa recounted in a

letter to her daughter: “Miss Billinghurst is here with her

tricycle, she has irons on each leg, and can only walk

with crutches, her tricycle works with handles. She

drives it round the yard at exercise time”.

You would think that after a month in prison this would

tame Rosa, how wrong we all are. A mere seven months

later, Rosa was arrested again. This time for an eight

month sentencing. Using her conveniently covered

tricycle again, Rosa placed bottles of black sticky

substance under a blanket, to pour in London pillar

boxes. The intention was to destroy all the post

inside. It was a widespread movement with the

government claiming over 5000 letters had been


damaged. In mid December, Rosa and another

suffragette were spotted by a bystander who saw them

pouring the black sticky content into a box. In a

response to this sentencing, Rosa went on hunger

strike. It was her treatment when force fed that led to

Rosa’s early release two weeks later. It was said the

people that force-fed her ripped her nostril and broke a

tooth. This was reported in newspapers and after

appeals, Rosa was released and had been given a

Hunger Strike Medal 'Valour'.

Yet again, this treatment did not deter her. 1913 proved

to be another defining year in the fight for women’s

rights. Rosa’s first action in raising awareness was

chaining herself to the gates of Buckingham Palace. It

was here The Suffragette reported that police had

attacked Rosa yet again. It comes to no surprise they

went for her weakness, by tipping her out of her


and assisting Christabel Pankhurst’s election campaign

in Smethwick in 1918. 1918 not only brought the end of

the First World War, but it saw the British government

introduce the Representation of the Peoples Act (1918)

which gave the vote to women over 30 - yet this was

defined to women who owned property with a value

greater than £5. It was at this moment Rosa retired

from the militant suffragette campaigning.

She attended Mrs. Pankhurst's funeral and the unveiling

of her statue, located just behind the House of

Commons, in 1930. In 1939 she moved to Weybridge,

Surrey where she lived until her death on September

4th, 1953. A suffragette colleague, Lilian Lenton wrote

an obituary containing the following thought: “Despite

A procession of Suffragettes, dressed in white and bearing wreaths and a banner reading "Fight on and God will give the victory"

during the funeral proccesion of Emily Davison in Morpeth, Northumberland, 13 June 1913. Crowds line the street to watch.

© Crown Copyright: IWM

tricycle. With one report even stating they had

destroyed her tricycle. Despite this event, Rosa took

part in a suffragette demonstration which was a result

of a dark moment in the fight for women’s right to vote.

All 6000 suffragettes were dressed in white, as Rosa

wheeled herself in the procession of Emily Wilding

Davison’s memorial service. On the 4th of June, Emily

Wilding Davison stepped in front of King George V’s

horse at the Epsom Derby, passing away four days later.

In 1914 Emmeline Pankhurst decided for the

suffragettes they would prioritise their efforts to

the war over the campaign for women’s rights. Rosa

supported this, although she was still active in joining

the Women’s Freedom League, the Suffragette

Fellowship, supporting Jill Cragie’s Equal Pay Film Fund


her frustrating affliction I have known her always as full

of life and courage, not to mention jollity, not bitter as

she might have been, sustained, I think, by her belief in

reincarnation. She thought of this life as but one of

many. She hoped for and expected better luck next

time, and this, I trust, will be hers.”

Olivia Smith is a public historian working

across a number of different medias

including, T.V, Podcasting and was also

previously an intern with the CWGC

(Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

Twitter: @OliviaSmithHist



Photo: Rokeby Venus, c. 1647–51. 122 × 177 cm (48in × 49.7in). National Gallery, London.










"I know you will sentence me, but it will not make much

difference…I am really a happy and grateful woman

because I have been able to live in a century in which Mrs

Pankhurst was, and in some slight measure I have tried to

carry out what I believe in. It matters not what becomes of

me in the future."

Mary Richardson, Manchester Courier and Lancashire

General Advertiser – Friday 13 March 1914

In October 1903, at a table in an

unassuming parlour in the house of a

middle-class widow from Manchester,

the Women’s Social and Political Union

(WSPU) was formed. ‘How long you

women have been trying for the vote,’

Christabel Pankhurst had said to her

mother Emmeline, ‘For my part, I mean to

get it.’ Christabel, along with Oldham

suffragette Annie Kenney, instigated the

first act of disruption in 1905 at the Free

Trade Hall in Manchester, thus launching

a militant campaign that would send a

battle cry across the nation, for women

to rise up, and fight back. The eyes of

Britain homed in on the movements of

Emmeline Pankhurst, the general at the

helm of the army, but as her recurring

arrests repeatedly made headlines, the

women who acted in her name were too

great in number to be suppressed.

It is little wonder that the militancy of the

WSPU did, and indeed, has continued to,

captivate audiences and take a place in

public memory. The violence employed

by the WSPU, alongside the almost

mythologised status of leader Emmeline

Pankhurst, was at the heart of the 2015

film Suffragette, and for the most part,

the 2018 centenary celebrations marking

100 years since the Representation of

the People Act was passed, and some

women were finally afforded the vote.

Acts of arson and bombings escalated

between 1912 and 1914; prior to this,

attacks on government ministers and

acts of disruption were much more

common. The more the government

resisted giving women the vote, and the

more hopes were lifted then dejected by

the cycle of Conciliation and Franchise

Bills that were brought into Westminster

before being voted down, the harder the

WSPU intensified their actions. Growing

in scale and impact, arson attacks were

directed towards public spaces such as

the refreshment pavilion at Kew

Gardens, which was burned to the

ground in February 1913, at the hands of

Olive Wharry and Lilian Lenton (perhaps

the slipperiest and most evasive

suffragette known to the police). Later in

1913, Kitty Marion’s explosive work in

Liverpool left £30,000 worth of damage

at Seafield House. The bomb she had left

in Sefton Park’s palm house did not

detonate, but a similar attack in

Manchester’s Alexandra Park reduced

the glass house there to rubble.

It is easy to imagine why public spaces

like the elegant pavilions and glass

houses attracted the WSPU. Whilst

interrupting public meetings and

attacking individuals had proven

affective, the window smashing

campaign of 1912 had provided them

with an allegory that held more agency,

and prompted more genuine public fear,

than their previous campaigns. The idea

that broken windows should be more

defended than the rights of women

resonated far beyond the targeted area

of London’s West End. Destruction of

property – whilst easily reversable in

many instances – was a

physical representation of the suffering

that women were consistently put

through, a symbol of their constant

political struggle – the bills thrown out of

parliament – something built up only to

be destroyed. In this war, there were

casualties, and for once the casualties

were on the opposing side, and not

simply with the force-fed or hunger

striking suffragettes imprisoned over

enemy lines.

As a curator who has worked in

museums and historic houses for most

of my career, the attacks on public

cultural spaces and paintings are

something of interest to me. Today,

museums and galleries embrace the

different functions and contexts it holds

for different audience members and

seeks to converse more openly and

create a back and forth with its visitors

and communities around it. In 1913,

however, the role of public spaces, like

the glass house at Sefton Park, and

indeed as we will soon arrive at,

Manchester Art Gallery, functioned in an

entirely different way. Whilst public

gardens and parks had changed how

working and middle-class people were

able to spend their leisure time and (in

urban areas) enjoy green space,

museums and galleries drew in less

diverse audiences in comparison to

outdoor spaces. Still, as public art

became more accessible, it too became

a target for the WSPU.

There are some considerations to make

here on the public spaces – and more

significantly, cultural property - that the

WSPU would target in their campaigns

of retaliation and destruction. Some

paintings, like the infamous Rokeby

Venus, were bought by public funds and

donations are therefore

representations of public property, just

as much as the glass houses of

Liverpool and Manchester were, and so

the very real fear of attacking precious

paintings on display in public galleries

caused great concern.

After the bombing of the Kew Gardens

Pavilion, other cultural spots, such as

the State Apartments at Windsor,

closed entirely or put in extra measures

to prevent attacks, causing more

disruption by creating more economic

losses. Certain objects – such as muffs,


"I broke the

glass of the

pictures as a

protest against

the wicked

sentence passed

upon Mrs


sticks and umbrellas – were banned

from public museums and galleries,

whilst plain-clothes detectives trailed

after any suspicious-looking woman who

might enter. By 1914, planned closures

at times of heightened suffrage activity

took place, causing further disturbance

for disgruntled visitors and agitated

gallery staff.

Unlike the window smashing campaign,

smashing paintings was not a formulated

moment involving hundreds of women at

one time. The most famous attacks on

paintings were isolated incidents,

undertaken by individuals or a very small

group, and the choice of painting was

often selected because of their subject;

Mary Wood deliberately chose to slash

the portrait of Henry James by Sargent at

the Royal Academy in 1914, because she

knew (and given women were still not

admitted to the RA): ‘…if a woman had

painted it, it would not have been worth

so much.’

But as we look to the national museums

to understand how these campaigns

impacted public space, closures, and

visitor restrictions, we must recognise

where the first painting smashing took

place in 1913 - in the city where

Pankhurst had, ten years previously,

founded the militant campaign.

On the evening of Thursday 3rd April

1913, at around quarter to nine, three

women stood in room No.5 of

Manchester Art Gallery. According to the

statement of the guard, he heard a loud

smashing noise, rushing in to find the

women holding ‘a small confectionary

hammer and another instrument’. The

other instrument proved to be a screw

wrench hidden behind a statue. The

hammers bore notes featuring messages

that read: ‘Votes for Women’, ‘stop

forcible-feeding’ and ‘Parliament for

dishonourable men; imprisonment for

honourable women.’

Throughout the Gallery, thirteen

paintings were smashed, causing over

£100 worth of damage. Lillian Forrester,

Annie Briggs and Evelyn Manesta were all

arrested; upon her detainment, Forrester

and Manesta declared, as if rehearsed: ‘I

broke the glass of the pictures as a

protest against the wicked sentence

passed upon Mrs Pankhurst.’ Annie

Briggs remained silent.

The attack on Manchester Art Gallery had

been planned by Lillian Forrester, but

across the city, and indeed, across the

nation, women were protesting the

sentencing of Emmeline Pankhurst, who

had been arrested for inciting the

bombing of David Lloyd-George’s halfbuilt

country house. In a rousing

speech in court, and recorded in her

autobiography My Own Story,

Pankhurst declared that militant

action would only come to an end when

the vote was won, saying: ‘We are

women, rightly or wrongly, convinced

that this is the only way in which we can

win power to alter what for us are

intolerable conditions, absolutely

intolerable….[T]here is only one way to

put a stop to this agitation; there is only

one way to break down this agitation. It

is not by deporting us, it is not by

locking us up in gaol; it is by doing us

justice.’ Women in the courtroom sang

out for their leader, whilst others, like

Forrester, planned their retribution.

Perhaps the most famous attack on

public art came from Mary Richardson,

who after Emmeline Pankhurst’s arrest

in 1914, calmly walked into the National

Gallery and slashed Velázquez’s Rokeby

Venus with a meat cleaver. In a zealous

statement, Richardson claimed:

‘I have tried to destroy the picture of the

most beautiful woman in mythological

history as a protest against the

Government for destroying Mrs

Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful

character in modern history… if there is

Lillian Forrester wearing a fresh rose. Taken at Eagle

House in Batheaston (Public Domain)


sticks and umbrellas – were banned

from public museums and galleries,

whilst plain clothes detectives trailed

after any suspicious-looking woman who

might enter. By 1914, planned closures

at times of heightened suffrage activity

took place, causing further disturbance

for disgruntled visitors and agitated

gallery staff.

Unlike the window smashing campaign,

smashing paintings was not a formulated

moment involving hundreds of women at

one time. The most famous attacks on

paintings were isolated incidents,

undertaken by individuals or a very small

group, and the choice of painting was

often selected because of their subject;

Mary Wood deliberately chose to slash

the portrait of Henry James by Sargent at

the Royal Academy in 1914, because she

knew (and given women were still not

admitted to the RA): ‘…if a woman had

painted it, it would not have been worth

so much.’

But as we look to the national museums

to understand how these campaigns

impacted public space, closures, and

visitor restrictions, we must recognise

where the first painting smashing took

place in 1913 - in the city where

Pankhurst had, ten years previously,

founded the militant campaign.

women holding ‘a small confectionary

hammer and another instrument’. The

other instrument proved to be a screw

wrench hidden behind a statue. The

hammers bore notes featuring messages

that read: ‘Votes for Women’ ‘stop

forcible-feeding’ and ‘Parliament for

dishonourable men; imprisonment for

honourable women.’

Throughout the Gallery, thirteen

paintings were smashed, causing over

£100 worth of damage. Lillian Forrester,

Annie Briggs and Evelyn Manesta were all

arrested; upon her detainment, Forrester

and Manesta declared, as if rehearsed: ‘I

broke the glass of the pictures as a

protest against the wicked sentence

passed upon Mrs Pankhurst.’ Annie

Briggs remained silent.

The attack on Manchester Art Gallery had

been planned by Lillian Forrester, but

across the city, and indeed, across the

nation, women were protesting the

sentencing of Emmeline Pankhurst, who

On the evening of Thursday 3rd April

1913, at around quarter to nine, three

women stood in room No.5 of

Manchester Art Gallery. According to the

statement of the guard, he heard a loud

smashing noise, rushing in to find the

Militant Suffragettes as secretly identified by the Criminal Record Office. (Public Domain)


an outcry against my deed, let everyone

remember that such an outcry is

an hypocrisy so long as they allow the

destruction of Mrs Pankhurst and other

beautiful living women, and that until the

public cease to countenance human

destruction the stones cast against me

for the destruction of this picture are

each an evidence against them of artistic

as well as moral and political humbug

and hypocrisy.’

Almost fifty years later, Richardson

recalled visiting the gallery for

reconnaissance, and feeling enraged

over the men who ogled and ‘gaped’ at

the painting, only grew in her

determination to destroy it. This could

have been the incentive for another

attack in the same year, when George

Clauden’s nude Primavera was slashed

by Mary Spencer at the Royal Academy,

alongside four other paintings.

Unlike Richardson, the Manchester Art

Gallery attackers did not publicly declare

their reasoning for choosing the

paintings that they damaged. The

selection of paintings was primarily

made up of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite

works, including Astarte Syriaca by Dante

Gabriel Rossetti and Sybilla Delphica by

Edward Burne-Jones. Whilst it is more

likely that they were chosen simply for

their accessibility, the attack on The

Syrinx by Arthur Hacker, perhaps predates

Richardson’s and Wood’s attack on

the nude as an act of challenging the

male gaze. The Syrinx was the first nude

painting to be purchased by Manchester

" I have tried to

destroy the picture of

the most beautiful

woman in

mythological history

as a protest against

the Government for

destroying Mrs

Pankhurst, who is the

most beautiful

character in modern



Art Gallery, and shows the nymph Syrinx

transforming into a reed to escape being

raped by the god Pan. Despite the

uncomfortable subject matter, there is a

dichotomy within the painting, of a

woman both escaping male violence

whilst also being displayed fully nude for

the viewer. It is perhaps fair to assume

that Forrester and Manesta held similar

motivations Richardson and Spencer.

Richardson’s passionate statement may

be more decorated than any given in the

Manchester Art Gallery trial, but with the

exception being Annie Briggs, who was

acquitted, all the women were

sentenced to gaol. Richardson was

forcibly fed, whilst surveillance images of

Evelyn Manesta shows a warden

clamping her arm around her neck,

forcing her to face the camera. Manesta

pulls a face to the camera despite the

force, a common tactic of suffragettes

to ensure that, even if their image was

circulated to police stations (and of

course galleries and museums) they

would not be recognised.

We will never know the real reason

behind the choice of paintings. Was it,

as in Wood’s case, and to a degree

Richardson’s, about value? Or, in the

case of Manchester Art Gallery,

accessibility? Whatever the motivations,

the attack on The Syrinx, the Rokeby

Venus, and Primavera open an early

dialogue about depictions of women,

how militancy gave the suffragettes

agency to challenge these depictions,

whilst causing wide set fear amongst

national and city museums and

galleries. Today, as museums and

galleries use their space to challenge

neutrality, encourage opinion, and

foster change, it is vital to remember

those early radical acts within the

gallery space, and the part those

courageous women played in placing

public pressure on those with the

power to grant universal suffrage.

Helen Antrobus is the coauthor

of First to the Fight:

20 Women Who Made

Manchester which is

available from our






Images: William P. Gottlieb/Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Fund Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.


Holiday doesn’t sing songs,

she transforms them.

William Dufty (co-author)

Lady Sings the Blues

Abel Meeropol had never witnessed

a lynching before. Like many in New

York City during the 1930’s, the

barbarous horror occurring in the

southern states of the USA arrived

to him in the form of a photograph

featured in a magazine. It would be

an image that would stay with him

forever. In 1971 he would later say:

“I hate lynching, and I hate injustice,

and I hate the people who

perpetuate it.”

His day job would be as a teacher

yet he would also write poetry. One

of his poems was published in a

Teacher’s Union magazine. His

poetry spoke about Southern trees

bearing the strange fruit as African

American swayed in the breeze. He

called his poem “Bitter Fruit.”

Meeropol might not have known it

at the time, but soon his poem

would go on to become a song sung

by Billie Holiday that was later

named the song of the century by

Time magazine. That song is

“Strange Fruit”.

Holiday was not the first to have

sang Strange Fruit. Setting his

poetry to music, the song would be

performed by Laura Duncan.

Robert Gordon was in attendance

as Duncan brought Meeropol’s

lyrics to life. He knew exactly who

the song would be perfect for. Soon

the teacher from New York would

play his song for Billie Holiday.

“Holiday doesn’t sing songs”,

William Dufty once said, “she

transforms them.” Holiday wanted

people not only to remember the

song but also take in every word. It

was for this reason that certain

conditions had to be met at venues

where she performed Strange

Fruit. It would the last song on her

setlist, the lights in the venue

would be dimmed with the

exception of a spotlight on her

face, there would be silence and

there would be no bar service during

the performance of the song. Every

performance of Strange Fruit was no

longer a normal song in her set. It

was designed not only to make

people hear, but listen attentively.

Barney Josephson, the founder of

Cafe Society perhaps described it

best by saying that. “People had to

remember Strange Fruit, get their

insides burned with it.”

The power of the song created a

differing set of reactions. For some,

it brought them to tears yet to

others, it provoked walkouts and

heckling. Executives at Holiday’s

record company Columbia, didn’t

want anything to do with the song.

Undeterred, Holiday went elsewhere

taking the song to the small

independent label, Commodore

Records. Strange Fruit, despite not

being released by a major label,

would still reach number 16 in the

U.S charts in 1939.



It wouldn’t take long for those involved with

the song to begin facing the authorities.

There was concern that the song and the

power that it held could incite hostilities.

Strange Fruit had put Holiday and Meeropol

on the government’s radar. For Meeropol, he

was called to testify before the committee

investigating communism where he was

asked if the US Communist Party had paid

him to write the song. Club promotors hiring

Holiday would be strongly urged not to allow

Holiday to sing her now famous song. For

Holiday, the repercussions would be more


Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau

of Narcotics, had made Holiday his Public

Enemy number one. He knew exactly how to

silence her in what would become an

obsessive and long campaign against

Holiday. Rumours about Holiday’s drug use

were circling. All Anslinger needed was the

proof. Realising that his own white agents

couldn’t infiltrate Holiday’s circle, Anslinger

sent Jimmy Fletcher, one of the FBI’s few

Black agents at the time, to follow Holiday to

gather the evidence. It worked and Holiday

was later arrested for the possession of

Narcotics in 1947. She would later face

prison despite pleading guilty and asking to

be sent to hospital. The drug possession

conviction also caused her to lose her New

York City Cabaret Card meaning that she

could not perform anywhere that sold


Holiday’s career would continue after her

time in prison even selling out Carnegie Hall

soon after her release but Anslinger would

continue his campaign against her until her

death in 1959 at the age of 44.

Strange Fruit may have been a song from

1939 but it continued to make its mark as

the racial tensions in America grew

throughout the 1950’s. Ahmet Ertegun, who

would later co-found Atlantic Records called

the song: “a declaration of war...the

beginning of the civil rights movement.” It

was a song that stirred emotions, highlighted

the tensions, and in attempting to silence

Holiday, proved that once a song hits the

public’s imagination so fiercely, no

government prevent its power.

Ahmet Ertegun, who would later co-found

Atlantic Records, called the song:

“a declaration of


beginning of the

civil rights



Southern trees bear a strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,

Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,

Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,

And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.


WORDS: Ben Purdie





As music grew in

popularity among the

politically aware youth,

so too did the way it

was used by artists to

get anti-war messages

across. During the

Vietnam War, artists

such as Bob Dylan, The

Rolling Stones,

Creedence Clearwater

Revival and The

Animals used their

popularity to spread a

message and in doing

so, a new protest

movement was

established using the

power of music.



When the war in Vietnam began, many Americans believed

that defending South Vietnam from Communist

encroachment was vital, and the “domino theory”

introduced by President Eisenhower must be stopped, to

prevent the spread of Communism in Asia. However, as the

protracted, counter-insurgency war persisted, many

American views started to adjust, as “winning the hearts

and minds of the Vietnamese people” appeared

preposterous. With 16,899 Americans dying from the war in

1968 alone, coupled with the introduction of the draft in

December 1969, protests were becoming rife and took a

vast number of forms.

portrayed in the song. ‘I Feel Like I'm Fixin to Die Rag’,

written by Country Joe MacDonald a few years after he was

discharged from the Navy, featured the bitter lyrics "you

can be the first one on your block to have your boy come

home in a box" were played again and again at rallies and

demonstrations.The power of the protest within this music

was poignant for many reasons, but most significantly for

the impact it had on people. It encouraged people to voice

their concerns and stand up for themselves and their core

beliefs, as well as the simple fact that it gave these people a

sense of belonging and eradicated their feeling of being

alone with these issues. With household names like John

Lennon protesting the war through the medium of music, it

gathered swathes of media coverage

and made the American government

aware of the deep resentment towards

the war of their people, and put intense

pressure on them to act, or face losing

any last drops of popularity they had


The birth of the ‘hippy culture’ was also

very influential in protesting the

Vietnam war and inspiring many

protesting tracks. Hippies saw

mainstream authority as the origin of

all societies ills and they were bitterly

opposed to the Vietnam War and the

draft introduced by the government.

Although often not linked, the Rolling

Stones’ opening track in their album Let

It Bleed, “Gimme Shelter” was a hippy

inspired song that called for peace and

for America to stop the war in Vietnam.

One key form of protest which ignited even more

discontent and passionate outrage towards the war in

Vietnam and the American government was music. Sending

thousands of young men, the average age of the American

soldier famously being 19, to a world of horror and pain

that would live with them forever, caused protest music and

cries for peace through lyrics. John Lennon; Creedence

Clearwater Revival; Bob Dylan;Springsteen and Barry

McGuire amongst countless more, all clearly demonstrated

their disillusion and outrage with the war in ‘nam and their

powerful lyrics captivated millions of people around the

globe. These icons brought the resentment of the Vietnam

War to the forefront of the media as well as people’s minds.

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s most famous track,

Fortunate Son, references rich people who orchestrate

wars and then draft the poor to fight in them within its

lyrics and has quickly became an anti-war anthem,

resonating with many people, who as a result came

together to showcase their indignation at the exploitation

of the lower classes. Over two and a half million sales of

Fortunate Son show the extent to which the American

people could relate to the meaningful and strong message

Above left: Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1968. From left to right:

Tom Fogerty, Doug Clifford, Stu Cook and John Fogerty. (Public


Above right: John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Nationaal Archief, the

Dutch National Archives (Public Domain)


Mick Jagger in concert 1976. Creative Commons Attribution-Share

Alike 3.0 Unported (Nationaal Archief)

It isn’t a traditional Rolling Stones song, but it has gone on

to be one of their greatest hits, and upon its release,

protesters sang the song peacefully at rallies against the

war, which was their preferred protest method. The

background vocals were sung by Merry Clayton. Clayton

sings the haunting verses, “War, children; it’s just a shot

away; it’s just a shot away” and “Rape, murder; it’s just a

shot away; it’s just a shot away.” These lyrics, full of emotion,

show just how monumental the toll the Vietnam war was

having on Americans at the time and music was one of the

main ways they found of expressing this deep-rooted

emotion. Another major song in the anti-Vietnam War era

was “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” by the Animals (1965).

This song was immensely popular with American GI’s and

has become an iconic piece of music, especially in its

relation to the Vietnam War. During 2006 two University of

Wisconsin-Madison employees, one being a Vietnam

veteran, began an in-depth survey of hundreds of Vietnam

veterans. They found "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" had

resonated the strongest among all the music popular then:



it’s just a


away; it’s

just a



"We had absolute

unanimity is this song

being the touchstone.

This was the Vietnam

anthem. Every bad

band that ever played

in an armed forces

club had to play this


This demonstrates how the power of music helped protest

against the Vietnam War and helped the soldiers endure all

their suffering and trauma in its own way. As Hans Christian

Andersen famously said: “where words fail, music speaks”

and this is very much applicable to the Vietnam War

protests, as it allowed people to express their emotion in

such a passionate fashion to get their message across.

Protest was clearly widespread in opposition to the war

that was intended to “win the hearts and minds of the

Veitnamese people'' that, instead, resulted in

disillusionment and outrage from the people of America.

From Muhammed Alli, to John Lennon, many influential

characters protested the Vietnam war and this kindled

media attention which only led to more protest. When the

fall of Saigon arrived on 30th April 1975, the war was

effectively over, but the suffering and trauma would go on

to affect the nation and its people for far, far longer. In total

around 60,000 American soldiers were killed in the war,

30% of them being draftees, but the mental trauma and

guilt of the survivors would never disappear. The power of

protest during the Vietnam War was rather unlike anything

seen before, especially in the fact that it gave birth to a

whole new culture of ‘hippies’ and a generation of music

and arts.








By Rachel Lee Perez

Images: Nationaal Archief, Flickr, Creative Commons

It was October 16, 1968. Two American

athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos,

had just won gold and bronze medals in

the 200-meter sprint at the Summer

Olympics in Mexico City. Both athletes,

with black gloves on their hands, lifted

their fists up into the air as the United

States National Anthem played over the

grand speakers. This act of protest on

behalf of human rights would lead to the

expulsion of both athletes involved. This

demonstration would become but one in

a series of demonstrations by athletes

throughout the ages to bring awareness

to racial and social injustice.

The Summer Olympics of 1968 took place

only months after the assassination of civil

rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In

addition to heightened racial tension,

there were also regular protests

throughout the United States stemming

from differing opinions in regard to the

Vietnam War.

Leading up to the Olympics, Smith and

Carlos became part of an organization

called the Olympic Project for Human

Rights (OPHR) which protested against

racial segregation in sports, calling for

equal treatment of Black athletes and the

employment of more Black coaches. At a

time when Black athletes like Jackie

Robinson were breaking through the

white barrier in professional sports, the

OPHR sought to remind Americans that

these accomplishments did not mean that

racial inequality no longer existed within

sports. Initially, the OPHR intended to

boycott the Olympics altogether but Black

athletes like Smith and Carlos chose

instead to compete in the Games and to

use their platform as a way to further

push the project’s objectives.

On October 16, 1968, Smith won the

200-meter sprint and set a world record

of 19.38 seconds. Following shortly

behind him at 20.06 seconds came

Australian athlete, Peter Norman. And

finally, in third place at 20.10 seconds

came Carlos. As the three athletes waited

to take the podium, they talked among

themselves about how they would use

their platform to bring awareness to the

human rights cause. Smith and Carlos

removed their shoes to represent Black

poverty, wore beads around their necks

to represent lynching, and donned a

black glove on one hand to represent

their solidarity with oppressed Black

people around the world. The men had

each initially planned to wear black

gloves on both hands but Carlos realized

before taking the podium that he had left

his pair back at the Olympic Village.

Norman, the white Australian athlete that

had taken second place, suggested that

Carlos wear one of Smith’s gloves. This is

why, when you see the iconic picture of

Smith and Carlos with their gloved fists in

the air, Smith is seen raising his right

hand and Carlos is seen raising his left.

Although Norman did not raise his fist

along with his fellow athletes, he did don

a badge for the OPHR. Similar to the

United States, Australia was also in the

midst of their own awakening regarding

racial discrimination. With policies

beginning in 1901 and some running all

the way through 1973, Australia was

under the legislation of White Australia

Policy which essentially halted all non-

European immigration into the country

and further limited the rights of nonwhite

people. In demonstration of his

protest of racism within his own country,

Norman stood in solidarity with his fellow


When they took the podium and the

Star Spangled Banner began, the

American athletes turned toward the

United States flag, bowed their heads,

and lifted their gloved fists. This image

would go down in History and would

become one of the most iconic and

most influential incidents in sports

History. In response to this

demonstration, the audience booed

and hissed.

The men were rushed from the

stadium with Olympic officials hot on

their heels. Shortly after what Olympic

officials deemed to be too much of a

political statement for a setting that is

generally intended to be apolitical, the

President of the International Olympic

Committee, Avery Brundage, ordered

for the suspension of Smith and Carlos.

Interestingly, Brundage had served as

the President of the United States (US)

Olympic Committee during the 1936

Games and had not raised objections

to the Nazi salutes used there. While

the US Olympic Committee ignored the

demands of suspension, they did

eventually expel both Smith and Carlos

from the Games.

When Smith and Carlos returned to the

United States, they faced backlash and

even death threats. But while Smith

and Carlos would eventually return to

sports, both playing for the National

Football League (NFL) and Carlos even

eventually working with the 1984

Summer Olympics Organizing

Committee, Australian Silver Medalist

Peter Norman would not have a similar

fate. For his part in the demonstration,

Norman was nearly entirely ostracized

from the sporting community. He was

vilified in the media and was rejected



from the 1972 Summer Olympics despite qualifying

numerous times. Even when the Summer Olympics were

hosted in Sydney, Australia in 2000, Norman was not

invited to participate.

The 1968 Summer Olympics demonstration served as only

one of many efforts in the professional sporting arena to

illuminate human rights and inequality. Only a year prior to

this iconic event, the world of sports was shaken up by yet

another iconic event.

On April 28, 1967, world-renowned boxing champion

Muhammad Ali refused to join the U.S. Army in America’s

war against Vietnam. The eventual three-time world

champion and former Olympic gold medalist would be

convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to five years in

prison, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for three

years for his refusal to serve in the military. In the words of

Ali, he said:

“My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or

some darker people, or some poor hungry people in

the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them

for what?...They never lynched me, they didn’t put

no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality,

rape and kill my mother and father. Shoot them for

what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take

me to jail."

Ali would return to boxing a few years later and would

prove that he was still the best heavyweight boxer in the

world. Other athletes that made similar political

statements would not achieve similar fates.

Muhammad Ali, 1966. Image from the Nationaal Archief, the Dutch

National Archives. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0


In August of 2016, former quarterback for the San

Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick was caught on camera

sitting during the National Anthem. In response to this

image going viral online and on television, Kaepernick


“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag or

a country that oppresses Black people and people of

color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would

be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

Later that year and into the next, Kaepernick - along with

other teammates - continued to kneel during the National

Anthem as a peaceful, silent protest against racial

inequality. This would systematically lead to Kaepernick’s

removal from the game. In a statement made by the NFL’s

former Vice President of Communications, Joe Lockhart, he

said Kaepernick was “bad for business”. No team would

sign Kaerpernick, many of them fearing a significant

decrease in ticket sales by their more conservative fans. In

a continuation of Lockhart’s statements regarding

Kaepernick, he said, “As bad of an image problem it

presented for the league and the game, no owner was

willing to put the business at risk over this issue.” By March

Flickr: Colin Kaepernick, (Mike Morbeck)


“Keep the political

comments to

yourselves. Shut up

and dribble.”

Fox News host

Laura Ingraham

2017, Kaepernick was a free agent and would never again

play on a professional football field.

We see the same themes continued in more recent years.

Following the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd, an

unarmed Black man, the National Basketball Association

(NBA) - in particular - took a stand of solidarity against

racial discrimination and inequality. Professional athletes

boycotted games and the NBA eventually postponed all

three of its playoff games on August 26, 2020, leading

other professional sports leagues, like Major League

Baseball and Major League Soccer, to call off their own

games. Similar to Kaepernick in years prior, many NBA

athletes continue to kneel during the National Anthem on

a court. that now displays the words “Black Lives Matter”

across it.

Just as Americans responded in 1967 when Muhammad Ali

refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army, just as Americans

responded in 1968 when Tommie Smith and John Carlos

raised their fists in the air at the Olympic Games, and just

as Americans responded in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick

knelt on the football field, many Americans responded

negatively to the 2020 demonstrations of U.S. athletes.

One of the most jarring responses came from Fox News

host Laura Ingraham when she responded to NBA

superstar Lebron James speaking out against racial

disparity by saying, “Keep the political comments to

yourselves. Shut up and dribble.” James responded:

“The best thing she did was help me create more

awareness. I get to sit up here and talk about social

injustice. We will definitely not shut up and dribble. I

mean too much to society, too much to the youth,

too much to so many kids who feel like they don’t

have a way out.”

Athletes have used their platform to create awareness for

racial and social injustice since the beginning of time. The

events of 1967 were not the first; and the events of 2020

will certainly not be the last.

LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018 (All-Pro Reels)

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Rachel Lee Perez is a two-time published

author, paralegal, ballet instructor, content

editor, and podcaster. As co-host of the

Hashtag History podcast, she releases weekly

episodes about History’s greatest stories of

controversy, conspiracy, and corruption.

Hashtag History can be found on all major

podcast platforms and on their website here:



Demonstrators marching in the street holding signs during the March on Washington, 1963.





Words: Hannah Pringle

Images: Colourised by Jordan J Lloyd (Unseen Histories/ColorGraph/Unsplash)

The March on Washington took place on

28 August 1963 and witnessed around

250,000 people gather at the Lincoln

Memorial in Washington DC. The march

was a part of a much bigger civil rights

movement that was gaining momentum in

the 1950s. It was a direct result of the

discrimination facing black Americans. The

march marked a century since President

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation,

which announced how “all persons held as

slaves…are, and henceforward shall be

free”. This idea of freedom is how we find

a connection between these two events.

Although people were no longer confined

to the borders of a property, they

remained trapped within American

society. The southern states replaced

slavery with segregation and the Jim Crow

laws caused irreparable damage.

The Jim Crow laws were implemented

shortly after the Emancipation

Proclamation and stated how facilities and

services must be “separate but equal”.

These laws were challenge in the case of

Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka,

1954. This ruling can be considered

a precedent for the March on Washington.

In abidance with the Jim Crow laws, Linda

Brown was required to attend a school for

‘colored’ children. This school not only

required her to travel for miles each day,

but also lacked the standard displayed by

the school for white children within her

neighbourhood. Twelve other families

came forward to file a class action

suit. The Supreme Court ruled in Brown’s

favour and deemed school segregation


The Montgomery Bus Boycott is another

great example to consider when

analysing the lead up to the March on

Washington. It was inspired by the arrest

of Rosa Parks, National Association for

the Advancement of Colored People

secretary, in 1955. Parks took a seat in

the designated ‘colored’ section of the

bus and was told to move alongside

others, to accommodate a white

individual. Parks refused to give up her

seat and was arrested by two police

officers. This event highlights how the Jim

Crow laws were interpreted and

exploited throughout America, and how

individuals such as Parks were standing

up for what little rights, Jim Crow allowed.

Rosa Parks stood trial on Monday 5

December 1955. When the trial took

place, Edgar Nixon and Martin Luther

King Jr. showed their support by

managing the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

They fought to topple the system of Jim

Crow and established the Montgomery

Improvement Association. The Supreme

Court ruled in Parks’ favour and

deemed bus segregation


A key figure in the march was Asa Philip

Randolph, President of the Brotherhood

of Sleeping Car Porters. Prior to 1963, he

organised a march which can be viewed

as a rehearsal for the March on

Washington. This march took place in

1957 and witnessed 25,000 people

accumulate at the Lincoln Memorial, to

recognise Brown vs. Board of Education.

He wanted to ensure that the rule,

alongside the civil rights movement,

remained at the forefront of people’s

minds – but how did 25,000 people

become 250,000 people six years later?

Rosa Parks at the "Poor Peoples March at Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial 1968, [Washington, D.C.]


“Let us not

seek to

satisfy our

thirst for

freedom by


from the cup

of bitterness

and hatred.”

Martin Luther

King Jr

Martin Luther King press conference / [MST]." Original black and white negative by Marion S. Trikosko. Taken August 26th, 1964



The conflicting attitudes hit a pinnacle with the Birmingham

campaign and riots of 1963. The Southern Christian

Leadership Conference organised a peaceful campaign to

challenge the racial divide within the city and it resulted in

an extremely violent outcome. In response to the campaign,

the Ku Klux Klan bombed the temporary residence of the

SCLC President, Martin Luther King Jr., and organisers of the


Martin Luther King Jr. understood that for races to coexist,

equally in America, there needed to be systematic change.

Change could not be achieved in the presence of the futile

attitudes that suffocated society. There needed to be a

move towards civil rights legislation, training programs for

the unemployed, the enforcement of the 14th Amendment,

and an end to school segregation. In turn, freedom for black


Following President John F. Kennedy’s civil rights address,

march organisers stepped into action to ensure the Civil

Rights Act would be pushed through. The March on

Washington gained an incredible amount of support and

was the largest protest to take place in American

history. The march was able to achieve so much support

due to the organisation of the Big Ten: Asa Philip Randolf,

Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Whitney

Young, John Lewis, Walter Reuther, Eugene Carson Blake,

Mathew Ahmann and Joachim Prinz. This march was the

first to welcome both black and white supporters, to create

a powerful, inspiring image that would spark change.

Although the organisers differed in their opinions regarding

the message of the march, they stood unified in their views

on the Civil Rights Act.

A variety of speakers took the stage, including Martin Luther

King Jr., Roy Wilkins, Daisy Bates and more. King’s iconic I

have a dream speech was the last one of the day and

outlined the many worries facing black Americans, alongside

their aspirations: “I have a dream that my four little children

will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by

the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The peaceful march was extremely significant in gaining

support for the Civil Rights Act and drawing attention to the

inequality present in American society. This peaceful

approach was not admired by all, and activists such as

Malcolm X exhibited an alternative take on the movement.

He openly mocked the march by titling it the ‘Farce on

Washington’. Malcolm X believed in a more confrontational

approach to the civil rights movement. To him, the march

symbolised order and restriction, which did not fit in to this

revolutionary way of thinking. He claimed the March on

Washington was simply “another example of how much this

country goes in for the surface glossing over”.

Despite the clear divisions within the movement, the march

achieved its objective as the Civil Rights Act was established

by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. The March on

Washington was incredibly successful, as it not only worked

to prohibit discrimination, but inspired people to consider

the racial attitudes exhibited within society. By making

people present in this fight for equality, they were able to

implement impactful change. This period of protest fuelled

the civil rights movement, and we are confronted with an

uncomfortable question: Would the March on Washington

have been successful, if it had taken place a decade earlier?

View of the huge crowd from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, during the March on Washington









Monday demonstration in Leipzig, 16 October 1989

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1990-0922-002 / Friedrich Gahlbeck / CC-BY-SA 3.0.

As the International guests and delegates drank their

champagne in the Palace of the Republic to celebrate

the 40th anniversary of the GDR, there was something

more serious stirring in the country. The voices of

reform were getting louder as the Soviet Union was

tittering on the edge. In Hungary, the government had

began to dismantle its border fence with Austria. The

first gap in the Iron Curtain had opened and with it

came a desire for more freedoms. Czechoslovakia

would soon follow. Those gaps within the curtain

would encourage many from the GDR to travel to

those regions in the hope of finally getting to the west.

Change was happening and yet in eyes of the GDR

officials, it was simply ignored. They had controlled so

much of people’s lives during their 40 years that, in

their minds, that this was simply just another political

game. Small concessions were of course being made

in an attempt to appease the restlessness but what

GDR officials miscalculated was that their numbers

had swelled.

The champagne that flowed that day within those

walls could not wash down what was really

happening. Those within the Palace might have been

We are here to claim our

right as women, not only

to be free, but to fight for

freedom. That it is our

right as well as our duty.

treated to the finer facades that comes to those in

positions of power but in reality, the GDR was

crumbling beneath them. Little did they know just

over a month later, the socialist dream that they had

concocted over their 40 years in power would soon

come tumbling down. They may have not have


Peaceful protesters gather in Alexanderplatz, Berlin

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1104-008 / CC-BY-SA 3.0



those who

come too


Mikhail Gorbachev to Erich Honecker

(October 1989)

known it at the time but this was far from a

birthday celebration but more like a pre-emptive


Whilst those in the Palace of the Republic

celebrated, others were protesting. Outside the

Gethsemane Church in East Berlin, 1,500

protesters had gathered for a candlelight

demonstration. The apparatus of power dealt

with the protest in the same way that they

always had done before. Round up the

ringleaders and the others involved in order to

remind society who was in charge. It was a tactic

that worked throughout the countries existence.

Imprisonment, monitoring, surveillance and a fist

of fury were common practice for those involved

in any form of protest and the events at

Gethsemane Church were no different as police

crushed the protest arresting around 500


Mikhail Gorbachev was in attendance at the 40th

anniversary celebrations. The leader of the

Soviet Union, whose Glasnost policy opened the

door for more openness and transparency

within government institutions, had urged the

GDR’s leader, Erich Honecker, to implement

reforms. Gorbachev told Honecker that “life

punishes those who come too late".

Actors Johanna Schall and Ulrich Mühe speaking at the rally.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1104-034 / CC-BY-SA

With Gorbachev’s words ringing in his ears,

Honecker decided to react. Yet, his reaction was

nothing to what Gorbachev actually meant.

Instead of implementing Glasnost as Gorbachev

was eluding to, Honecker opted to force the

status quo by ordering the head of the Stasi,

Erich Mielke, to initiate “Day X”. Day X was no

ordinary order. It had been planned in case of an

emergency and had been slowly building in its

apparatus since 1979. 23 “isolation and


internment camps” including Ranis Castle, were prepared to

house the 85,939 individuals who were currently being

monitored by the Stasi. Under codename: “Shield”, the

arrest orders were sent to all of the 211 local Stasi

precincts. To Mielke’s dismay, they were ignored as local

Stasi operatives opted to barricade themselves within their

offices for fear of reprisals.

Prior to the 9th October, most protests within the GDR

were often of the size of that at Gethsemane Church. There

was of course a good reason for this. The fear implemented

by the SED and the Stasi had over their citizens. Calling for

civil rights was a dangerous game yet despite this, one of

the largest protests in GDR history was being prepared.

Unknown to the citizens of Leipzig at the time was just how

far their protest and courage would set in motion not just

the fall of the Berlin Wall but also of a country.

Approximately 70,000 people would gather in the streets of

Leipzig. Fear of reprisals were no doubt at the back of

everyone’s minds. The protesters in Leipzig chanted “No

violence!” in order to avoid giving the authorities an excuse

to attack. Whilst the national GDR media mentioned little

about the events in Leipzig, the protestors knew that the

story would be big news in the West. Undercover footage

and interviews soon found their way on Western news


The events in Leipzig had turned the tables. Now they faced

the Stasi offices with defiance as the shadow men cowered

behind their desks. It also probably explains why the local

Stasi authorities did little when instructed to initiate “Day X”.

The countries so called “Sword and Shield” were now

looking blunt and damaged.

Protests continued throughout the country. In order to

appease the voice of the people, the SED forced Erich

Honecker from office. For Honecker, the words of

Gorbachev had come to fruition. However, the damage was

now done. The hope that this would change the mood

would soon be quashed as the protests continued.

In Alexanderplatz, East Berlin, on the 4th November, the

biggest demonstration against the government occurred. It

is estimated that anywhere between half a million to a

million protesters filled the area that day. Unlike like some

of the other protests, this one was permitted that place by

the authorities. Televised live on East German TV, people

from all over the GDR were able to witness for themselves

what was happening. Speeches came from all parts of the

spectrum. From actors, artists and civil rights campaigners

to members of the ruling authorities such as Markus Wolf

(former head of the East German foreign intelligence

service) and Politburo members.

The reception for the likes of Markus Wolf were particularly

uncomfortable for the authorities. Bärbel Bohley would

later say this of Markus Wolf’s time at the microphone:

“When I saw that his hands were trembling because the

people were booing I said to Jens Reich: We can go now,


having not

read the

memo fully,

simply stated:

“As far as I



now it is all over. The revolution is irreversible."

The revolution may have started yet no one foresaw what

would happen next.

One of the Poltiburo speakers in the 4th November was

Günter Schabowski. Like Markus Wolf, he had received a frosty

reception complete with boos and jeers. Just five days after the

Alexanderplatz demonstration it would be Schabowski’s press

conference that would lead to the fall of the Berlin wall.

The cabinet had passed a decree on travel regulations allowing

for more freedom. Schabowski was meant to announce it at

the conference in full but didn’t completely read the memo.

There was meant to be an embargo until the next day at 4am

when the radio announcers were supposed to read out the

decree to the nation. After reading out the decree live on

television, Schabowski was asked:

“When will that happen?”

Schabowski, having not read the memo fully, simply stated: “As

far as I know...immediately.”

Recalling the event, Schabowski later said that “Hundreds,

thousands of people flocked to the boarded checkpoints,

where they were blocked by the guards, who didn’t know any

of this". Overwhelmed, the guards desperate for any official

orders, opened the barriers and let the people though.

The GDR, only one month after celebrating its 40th birthday,

had fallen without the firing of a gun but instead, a peaceful

revolution despite the desperate attempts of Honecker and

Mielke to hold onto power. Instead of Day X, there was a new

dawn in Germany.


Photo: Sue Ream, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

sticks and umbrellas – were banned

from public museums and galleries,

whilst plain clothes detectives trailed

after any suspicious-looking woman who

might enter. By 1914, planned closures

at times of heightened suffrage activity

took place, causing further disturbance

for disgruntled visitors and agitated

gallery staff.

Unlike the window smashing campaign,

smashing paintings was not a formulated

moment involving hundreds of women at

one time. The most famous attacks on

paintings were isolated incidents,

undertaken by individuals or a very small

group, and the choice of painting was

often selected because of their subject;

Mary Wood deliberately chose to slash

the portrait of Henry James by Sargent at

the Royal Academy in 1914, because she

knew (and given women were still not

admitted to the RA): ‘…if a woman had

painted it, it would not have been worth

so much.’

But as we look to the national museums

to understand how these campaigns

impacted public space, closures, and

visitor restrictions, we must recognise

where the first painting smashing took

place in 1913 - in the city where

Pankhurst had, ten years previously,

founded the militant campaign.

women holding ‘a small confectionary

hammer and another instrument’. The

other instrument proved to be a screw

wrench hidden behind a statue. The

hammers bore notes featuring messages

that read: ‘Votes for Women’ ‘stop

forcible-feeding’ and ‘Parliament for

dishonourable men; imprisonment for

honourable women.’

Throughout the Gallery, thirteen

paintings were smashed, causing over

£100 worth of damage. Lillian Forrester,

Annie Briggs and Evelyn Manesta were all

arrested; upon her detainment, Forrester

and Manesta declared, as if rehearsed: ‘I

broke the glass of the pictures as a

protest against the wicked sentence

passed upon Mrs Pankhurst.’ Annie

Briggs remained silent.

The attack on Manchester Art Gallery had

been planned by Lillian Forrester, but

across the city, and indeed, across the

nation, women were protesting the

sentencing of Emmeline Pankhurst, who

On the evening of Thursday 3rd April

1913, at around quarter to nine, three

women stood in room No.5 of

Manchester Art Gallery. According to the

statement of the guard, he heard a loud

smashing noise, rushing in to find the

Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!