'Votes for Women' - The Suffragette Banners at Smallhythe Place

Banner, white woven cotton ground, bearing the motto 'VOTES FOR WOMEN'

2018 is an important commemorative centenary year for the Suffragette movement, celebrating the fact that in February 1918, some women achieved the right to vote. Colourful banners with powerful slogans were an integral part of the organisation and a highly visual rallying point on many a street at the turn of the last century.

One of the most prolific designers of these banners was stained glass artist Mary Lowndes who produced dozens of iconic watercolour designs, many of which were adopted by the various women’s groups across the country, particularly for the large London rallies of 1908. Using a variety of fabrics with appliqued letters, stencilling, painted motifs and the most skilful embroidery they created some extraordinary artefacts that remain in numerous historic art collections today. Many of these original designs will be exhibited in major cities throughout this anniversary year.

"Suffrage is the pivotal right" - Susan B. Anthony
A commissioned banner in the making, part of the Triumphant Women exhibition at Smallhythe Place
"Suffrage is the pivotal right" - Susan B. Anthony

Smallhythe Place has commissioned the Theatre and Scenic designer Dave Brind to produce a small number of banners to be displayed outside the Ellen Terry Barn Theatre. These will be part of our 2018 ‘Triumphant Woman’ exhibition, displays and suffrage-themed events that commemorate this centenary, part of the National Trust’s Women and Power programme.

Behind the method

The approach to these banners will be very scenic as though for a stage production. Painted and stencilled on recycled linen and canvas, Dave has used a method that the artist Clare Atwood and Edy Craig would have appreciated, a theatrical hand’s on style and ability to utilise materials on low budgets.

As an active suffragette herself, Edy had proposed a design for a banner for the Catholic Women’s Suffrage Society using Joan of Arc as a potent symbol. As a founder member of the Actresses’ Franchise League and director of the Pioneer Players Smallhythe Place chose to recreate banners representing this theatrical branch formed in 1908.

The Banners will be on dispaly from 5 April 2018.