Artists Suffrage League and The Suffrage Atelier Jo
Mary Lowndes was a graphic designer who worked for a stained glass company in Britain during the first years of the 1900s. In 1907 she and several other professional artists, Emily Ford, and Cicely Hamilton formed the Artists Suffrage League. The Society was responsible for the design and production of posters, postcards, banners and pamphlets, teacups, badges and buckles, pennants, playing cards, stickers and cartoons for suffrage societies like the Union of Women’s Suffrage. These depicted the disenfranchisement of women in Britain and North America as suffragists demonstrated and supported each other for the fight for equal rights. This was viewed as propaganda by authorities.
A parallel society began in 1909, by founders Clemence and Laurence Housman (who was associated with the Artist’s Suffrage League). They were known as the Suffrage Atelier. This arts and craft society employed unknown and non-professional artists, men as well as women and a percentage of profits from their works were used to pay these artists. A school was also set up. Other members included Edith Craig and Catherine Courtauld.
As colour inks were too expensive, most banners were done in monochrome, paints and needlework. Suffrage societies were involved in many marches. For the big national marches of 1909, Mary Lowndes and the Artists Suffrage League was asked to choreograph the protest for maximum visual impact. The League deployed middle class women and church sewing circles to sew pieces for The Women’s Freedom League who produced the “Dare to Be Free” banner. Sylvia Pankhurst, one of the most talented artists within the Artists Suffrage League, produced many banners for marches and protests capturing the feeling and atmosphere of the world at that time.
These suffrage societies continued on in the fight for the right to vote and equality for women and other suffragists – men, children and entire families throughout the early 1900s.
AHDS Visual Arts – explore collections
New Statesman _ A stitch in time