Education: Women's History Gets Lottery Vote A University's Collection of Artefacts from Centuries of Feminist Struggle Is Getting a Proper Home. by Judith Judd
Judd, Judith, The Independent (London, England)
Did the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison mean to die when she flung herself in front of the King's horse on Derby Day, 1913? Her secrets and those of her fellow campaigners lie hidden in cardboard boxes in a cramped and damp basement in the East End of London. The tiny purse she was carrying when she was trampled under the horse's hooves and the return ticket to Victoria which suggests that she had no intention of committing suicide are part of the Fawcett Library's collection of treasures at London Guildhall University.
At present, there is nowhere to display them but, yesterday, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced a grant of pounds 4.2m for a new National Library of Women. It will be built behind the facade of Victorian wash houses just across the road from the site of the existing collection - a reminder of the many 19th-century women who took in washing to earn enough to feed their children. The new four- storey centre will enable both schoolchildren and the public to view both the story of Emily Davison and of centuries of women's history.
The fight for votes for women is at the heart of the library. There are 53 banners, which campaigners carried on demonstrations, some 6ft by 6ft, others small hand-banners, with slogans such as "No vote, no tax". There are posters which they hung in their shops: "Convicts and Lunatics have no vote for parliament, should women be classed with these?" There are badges for a host of groups that supported their cause, the Actresses' Franchise League and the Men's League for Women's Suffrage. And anyone who thought that marketing souvenirs for a cause was a modern phenomenon should prepare for a surprise. The Women's Social and Political Union, to which the most militant campaigners belonged, raised funds through merchandise with all the determination of a Nineties pressure group. There were postcards of their leaders, such as Emmeline Pankhurst, soap in their colours of purple, white and green, and even whole tea-sets decorated with the initials WSPU. …