A blog recording the Peasant Arts movement in Haslemere, Surrey, UK around the early 1900s, and it's founders Joseph King, Maude Egerton King, Godfrey Blount, Ethel Blount and Greville MacDonald. Arts and crafts, religion, literature, architecture, suffragettes, family trees, local locations and strong beliefs, this story has it all. Over a century later, their promotion of the pleasures of homemade craft is still relevant today.
Suffragette connections Part 5 - Godfrey Blount & Working Women
Blount, Arbor Vitae, 1899
There are connections between the movement to empower women and Godfrey Blount’s role in the Peasant Arts. Blount contributed to one of the first editions of The New Freewoman. The journal was launched in June 1913.Blount contributed “Towards Reconstruction” 1 July 1913. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate this journal copy (yet!).
The New Freewoman was published fortnightly, priced at 6d but readers were asked to pay £1 in advance for 18 months' copies. Dora Marsden wrote in the first edition: "The New Freewoman is not for the advancement of Women, but for the empowering of individuals - men and women.... Editorially, it will endeavour to lay bare the individual basis of all that is most significant in modern movements including feminism. It will continue The Freewoman's policy of ignoring in its discussion all existing taboos in the realms of morality and religion."
Blount, Arbor Vitae, 1899
The Freewoman that preceded this journal had closed in October 1912. It was a controversial publication, publishing articles on women's waged work, housework, motherhood, the suffrage movement, and literature, its notoriety and influence rested on its frank discussions of sexuality, morality, and marriage (Wikipedia).
Women played a key role in the Peasant Industries. A brochure for the Haslemere Weaving Industry states that “women and girls from the village, under the superintendence of a Lady Manager, are daily employed at hand-looms…”
Inside the Weaving House, Haslemere
Perhaps it is through these working women, that Harriot Blatch came to visit the Peasant Arts industries. Blatch was linked to the radical suffragist argument of the 1880s, where citizenship was seen as an economic approach to the suffragette cause, linking the need of working women to vote. Joannou & Purvis (The Women’s Suffragette Movement: new feminist perspective, Manchester University Press, 1998) sees Fabians such as Blatch as an important influence, Blatch is quoted as saying “women are the source of the race. It’s supreme smoulders. To do that work efficiently, they must be politically and economically independent beyond all call. Free they cannot be under capitalism: the capitalistic systems and feminism are at war”.
St Cross Hand-Loom Workers, Haslemere
Godfrey Blount advertised under the title of ‘St Cross School of Handicraft’ for “a few lady artists or craftswomen to carry out, under my direction, a new style of wood carving, based on a traditional Swiss pattern, and particularly applicable to furnishing and architectural purposes. The students will live together at cost price in my present house, which I am just leaving, and they will work for definite hours in a studio in the garden.” Advertizing for female wood carvers is indeed unusual. It is not clear where Blount was leaving St Cross to go to, or whether he is referring to his previous address of Foundry Cottage (where he was living with his wife Ethel in the 1901 census).
A leaflet produced sometime during World War One and signed by Godfrey Blount, Warden and Catherine A. Jones, Treasurer is headed the ‘New Crusade Toy Industry for Unemployed Educated Women, in connection with the Women’s Emergency Corps, Baker Street, W.’ It states that “The women we employ belong to that class of artists, actors, companions, governesses etc. who are unfitted by their temperaments and training to accept the majority of the situations vacated by men who have volunteered for service during the war: and the most appropriate work we have found for these women to do is to make a better class of toys than those grotesque and mechanical ones which we cannot believe are really popular with the public to-day.”