The feminist movement is synonymous with the campaign undertaken by the suffrage movement in order to allow women the right to vote. The campaign brought into being the largest women’s movement and heightened expectations of gender reform.
In 1906 women’s social and political union (WSPU) militancy generated considerable publicity by using militant or violent tactics, which increased women’s support for suffrage. The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) refused to use such strategies to win the vote, opting to gain support through quiet activism, this led to a series of mass processions organised by NUWSS to demonstrate support for reform. “It has also been argued that the march gave the women’s suffrage movement a sense of respectability that the militant tactics of the WSPU did not.” (Awcock, 2017)
The first of these marches was on the 9th February 1907 and was nicknamed the “Mud March” due to the bad weather of the day, however despite the weather the demonstration made a considerable impact, with around 3000 women taking part from a range of social classes and occupations, the spectacle was considered a novelty at the time so gained great media attention due to the idea that women had a general aversion for “public display” in British society, this made participants appear even more dedicated to the campaign in the eyes of the spectators. Furthermore, Participating required a degree of courage as marchers risked their reputations their employment and ridicule from the crowd. (Smith, 2010) While the march failed to influence the immediate parliamentary process, it was considered successful due to increasing public awareness.
Philllipa Strachey Daughter of Lady Strachey organised the march while Millicent Fawcett leader of the NUWSS led the procession. The Artist Suffrage league designed posters and postcards advertising the march and designed and made around 80 embroidered banners (Awcock,2017) to take to the procession. The Artists Suffrage League was established in January 1907 in order to assist with preparations for the Mud March. The artists were responsible for suffrage propaganda in the form of craftivism. Craft was traditionally used to oppress women as it was seen as a domestic skill but by using craft as a creative outlet, it challenges and subverts patriarchal power structures, and uses stitch work as a tool for liberation. The suffrage movement was the first British campaign to use visual and public spectacle in a systematic way to challenge the dominant ideology.
Despite the Mud march being considered a success with mass media coverage, the month of February was not a good time for the procession due to the unpredictability of the weather. February was initially chosen to coincide with the opening of parliament. Organisers learned from this mistake and the next procession was due to be held in June were the weather would have been better.
ATKINSON, D. (2018). RISE UP WOMEN!. london: BLOOMSBURY Publishing.
Awcock, H. (2017). On This Day: The Mud March 9th February 1907. [online] Turbulent London. Available at: https://turbulentlondon.com/2017/02/09/on-this-day-the-mud-march-9th-february-1907/ [Accessed 18 Apr. 2019].
Bateman, J. (2017). Craft’s Long History In Radical Protest Movements. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/the-establishment/crafts-long-history-in-radical-protest-movements-8300f59a3e54 [Accessed 25 May 2019].
En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Mud March (suffragists). [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mud_March_(suffragists) [Accessed 23 Apr. 2019].
Pugh, M. (2004). The march of the women. Oxford [England]: Oxford University Press.
Smith, H. (2010). The British Women’s Suffrage Campaign 1866-1928. Florence: Taylor and Francis, p.23.