Performing Suffrage: Theatre, actresses and activism at Smallhythe Place

Christabel Pankhurst in a suffragette procession, 1911

This event took place in 2018 as part of the Trust's Women and Power programme, and our Triumphant Women exhibition and has now finished. The Actresses’ Franchise League was formed in 1908 by a group of theatre professionals who wanted to support the Votes for Women campaign through their work.

The League produced a huge variety of entertainments, contributing to the performative propaganda of the suffrage movement and embracing new forms, new spaces, new ideas and new audiences. In this talk Dr Naomi Paxton will explore the work and legacy of the suffragist performers in the Actresses’ Franchise League, and the part that theatre and performance played in the campaign.

About Naomi

Dr Naomi Paxton is a performer, writer and researcher. She trained at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). Her doctoral research at the University of Manchester explored the work of the Actresses' Franchise League and the contribution of theatre professionals to the suffrage campaign. Her edited collection, ‘The Methuen Drama Book of Suffrage Plays’was published by Bloomsbury in 2013, and launched at a Platform event at the National Theatre entitled Suffragettes on Stage. Her book ‘Stage Rights! The Actresses' Franchise League, Activism and Politics 1908-1958' is out shortly.

A confident, engaging and creative public speaker, Naomi was one of the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers for 2014-15. She has spoken regularly on BBC Radio 3's ‘Free Thinking’ programme, and on BBC Radio 4's ‘Making HistoryScience Stories and Woman's Hour’, and was interviewed on panels at the National Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, the Arts Theatre and Latitude Festival. She has also made a short film for BBC Arts about suffrage newspaper sellers.

Naomi is an Associate Fellow of the School of Advanced Study, University of London, an Associate Artist of feminist production hub ‘Scary Little Girls’, and is currently working at Parliament with the Vote100 team on a project entitled ‘What Difference Did the War Make? World War One and Votes for Women’

Research, writings and publications

Naomi's many works and publications reflect her passion as she explores topics from the performative presentations of feminism and political activism, to the involvement of theatre professionals' in the suffrage movement and the networks of suffragist and feminist activists in the first half of the twentieth century.

For more information about Naomi, take a look at her website:

This is a free event, but please reserve your tickets online. 

Smallhythe Place garden and wildlife

Our events for 2019 have now finished as we are now closed for the winter from 27th October until 4th March. We've got lots planned for 2020 so keep an eye out to see what's coming up next year. All details will be released in January.