Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Suffragette connections Part 1 - The American

Harriot Blatch c. 1905

The starting point for examining the suffragette connections to the Peasant Arts movement is the 1901 census.  Here we see a notable suffragette visitor at Greenbushes, Foundry Lane.  

Marion Hine was the head of the household, an elder sister of Ethel and Maude, being 16 years old than Ethel and 19 years older than Maude.  Marion was recorded as a type writer, and was involved in the Vineyard Press.  Marion is living with a boarder, Elsie Bridgewater, a manageress of wool weaving.  However what is quite extraordinary is that they have Harriot Staunton Blatch and her husband visiting.  

Harriot Blatch was a famous American suffragette and writer.  She was living in Basingstoke during the 1890s.  Harriot's ancestors the Brewsters were one of the founding fathers of America.  Harriot's parents were social activists.   In 1881, Harriot worked with her mother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony on the History of Woman Suffrage.  She contributed a major chapter to the second volume, in which she included the history of the American Woman Suffrage Association, a rival of Stanton and Anthony's National Woman Suffrage Association. This action would help to reconcile the two organizations (Wikipedia).

Harriot Blatch (at the wheel) with fellow suffragists Susan Walker Fitzgerald and Emma Bugbee c. 1910, Library of Congress

Harriot's mother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an American social activist, abolitionist, and leading figure of the early woman's movement. Her Declaration of Sentiments, presented at the first women's rights convention held in 1848 in Seneca Falls,New York, is often credited with initiating the first organized woman's rights and woman's suffrage movements in the United States (Wikipedia).  

Suffragette HQ, New York City, Blatch on far right(?)

Whilst in Basingstoke (between 1882-1902) Blatch was impressed by the popular basis of the Women’s Franchise League campaigns in the 1890s (the precursor of the Pankhursts Women’s Social and Politiical Union).  She became of member of the Fabian Society, a friend of Beatrice Webb and her husband Sidney (who co-founded the London School of Economics), George Bernard Shaw and Ramsay MacDonald.  
"Stump speaking", Blatch addressing a crowd in Wall Street, Library of Congress 

In 1898 Blatch was a member of the executive committee of the Union of Practical Suffragists.  In February 1902 she was a delegate from the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies at the International Conference on Women’s Suffrage held at Washington.  She was the founder and president of the Equality League of Self-Supporting women (later the Women’s Political Union) which adopted the purple, white and green colours of the Women’s Social and Political Union and supported the militant methods that the suffragettes used in Britain, although not necessarily advocating their use in the US.  In 1907 she organized meetings for Emmeline Pankhurst in New York (Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: a reference guide, 1866-1928, UCL Press, 1999).   
Suffragette leaders - movement march on Albany, c.1913: Eleanor Irving, Harriot Blatch, Senator Stillwell, Mrs Arthur Townsend and Mrs John Rogers Jnr

What was Harriot Blatch doing in Haslemere?
Perhaps Harriot had made contact with the Kings and Blounts in the 1890s when she was performing some research on rural working conditions, however it would appear that this work took place too early for the Peasant Arts movement.  Whilst in England, Harriot assisted Charles Booth, the statistician.   She collected information which formed part of his book, Village Life in England.  She used the facts collected to form the basis of her thesis, Conditions of Village Life in England, which she presented for her master's degree at Vassar College in 1894 (Uglow, The Northeastern dictionary of women's biography, Macmillan, 1982). 

Perhaps Blatch had met the Hine sisters whilst Blatch was in Germany (1880-1) tutoring young girls.  Certainly Maude and Ethel were both very proficient in German, having translated chapters in Forest Farm (1908) for example.
Leaders of the National Women's Party at conference, September 1920 (Harriot Blatch 3rd from left holding gloves)

There is no indication that the Hine sisters themselves were formally involved in the suffragette movement, Alla Myzelev refers to Ethel and Maude as 'quiet suffragettes' (Craft Revival in Haslemere: she who weaves, Women's History, Vol 18, Issue 4), however there are a number of links to the suffragette movement to the key members of the Peasants Arts movement.  Perhaps Blatch was merely observing the female working environment in the Peasant Arts workshops in Haslemere, seeing as she had an interest in recruiting working women to the suffrage movement.

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