Tag Archives: 20th century

Cardiff Women’s Suffrage Society banner comes home

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Copyright: Local Studies, Cardiff Public Library


On Saturday 13 June 1908, the newly-formed Cardiff and District Women’s Suffrage Society were returning from a mass demonstration in London to demand equal voting rights. On the journey back to Cardiff, their coach was intercepted by police. The vehicle was searched, and all propaganda material was confiscated and set alight in a nearby field.

One item escaped the fire – a large canvas banner, featuring a hand-stitched red dragon motif and the Society’s name. One of the suffragists, Irene Protheroe, concealed the item from police in her clothing, and brought it back to Cardiff in one piece.


Special Collections and Archives was recently contacted by Irene’s granddaughter, now living in London. She told us that a women’s suffrage banner had been passed down through her family. She knew that it had been taken to London and back for a march, and saved from destruction, but had no more specific details. Seeking a safe home for its long-term preservation, Irene made a final London-to-Cardiff trip with the banner, and kindly agreed to donate this very special piece of Cardiff’s history to the archives.

Seeking further information on the march mentioned by the donor, we enlisted the help of Beth Jenkins, PhD candidate in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion. Her research examines women’s professional employment in 19th and 20th century Wales. She immediately recognised the banner from photographs of the 1908 march, which have been reproduced here with the kind permission of Local Studies, Cardiff Public Library. Below, Beth summarises her research on the details of the march and its wider context.

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In June 1908, over 10,000 women marched from Embankment to the Royal Albert Hall, where a large meeting took place. The procession was organised by the ‘constitutional’ wing of the women’s suffrage movement and led by Millicent Fawcett, leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. It included women from all classes, parties, and areas of Britain. Provincial detachments marched behind the leaders in alphabetical order. Each contingent carried a banner made for the march by local branch members, or designed by the Artists’ League for Women’s Suffrage. These banners used regional or national emblems: a leek for Llandudno and a dragon for Cardiff.

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Copyright: Local Studies, Cardiff Public Library

The years preceding the First World War were the pinnacle of activity in the struggle for women’s parliamentary franchise, and campaigners used both constitutional and militant means to promote their cause. Banners were an important element of the spectacle in the suffrage marches and helped to distinguish groups – even though contemporaries did not always do so. The participants of this march displayed their non-militancy in the colours they wore: the red, white and green of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, rather than the purple, white and green which would be used by the Women’s Social and Political Union in their Hyde Park rally the following week. Participants with degrees also wore their academic robes to demonstrate the respectability of their supporters and women’s suitability for citizenship.

Formed in June 1908, this march would have been one of the Cardiff and District Women’s Suffrage Society’s inaugural activities. The society began with a membership of 70, and rapidly grew until it became the largest branch outside of London in 1912-13. Its membership peaked at 1,200 on the outbreak of the First World War.

The branch’s co-founder was Millicent Mackenzie, Professor of Education at the University (formerly the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire). Mackenzie became the first female professor in Wales and the first female professor in the United Kingdom appointed to a fully chartered university in 1910. She also stood as the only female parliamentary candidate in Wales in 1918 – the first election in which women could vote, and be voted for.

Following the Representation of the People Act in 1918, the Cardiff and District Women’s Suffrage Society reconstituted itself as a Women Citizens’ Association, and continued to campaign for women’s franchise on the same terms as men. This was eventually achieved in 1928.

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Back in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Professor Bill Jones brought his Culture, Society and Identity in Wales 1847-1914 undergraduates into Special Collections to see the banner. The impact was palpable: following a stunned silence, the group broke out into discussion: how was it made, who would have carried it, what did they talk about while it was being sewn, how far through the sewing were they before they realised that the dragon was facing the wrong way…? Some questions will never be answered, but thanks to the University’s research community, we now know much more about the history of this important item.

Circle Press Artists’ Books by Ron King: an exhibition

posterRon King was born in Brazil in 1932. He entered the Chelsea School of Art in London in 1951. He launched his Circle Press in 1967 with his work, ‘The Prologue’ from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. An innovative artist, he was also an innovative entrepreneur, and made many trips to North America where there was a ready market for his artist books. After many international exhibitions, and working with over one hundred artists and writers in the intervening years, and producing well over one hundred pieces of work, Ron King retired from publishing in 2009. He kindly donated his personal collection of artists’ books to Cardiff University in 2014.

Ron King & Roy Fisher, Anansi Company. Circle Press, 1992.

Ron King & Roy Fisher, Anansi Company. Circle Press, 1992.

 

Ron King, Alphabeta concertina. Circle Press, 1983. (Two editions of 1,000 copies)

Ron King, Alphabeta concertina. Circle Press, 1983. (Two editions of 1,000 copies)

“The idea for my first book came from a visit to the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum. There, for the first time, I viewed the French beaux livres, Matisse’s ‘Jazz’, Miro’s ‘A Tout Epreuve’, and Derain’s illustrations for a book by Rabelais”.

— Book, Art, Object 2, Codex Foundation, 2013. (p. 77). Eds. D. Jury and P. Koch.

Ron King, The Song of Solomon (King James Bible text). Circle Press, 1968.

Ron King, The Song of Solomon (King James Bible text). Circle Press, 1968.

“In New York on a trip in the early seventies I bought a pop-up version of ‘Pinocchio’, published by Random House, ostensibly for my children. It was to set me off in an entirely new direction as far as the concept of the book was concerned”.

— Book, Art, Object 2, Codex Foundation, 2013. (p. 79). Eds. D. Jury and P. Koch.

Ron King & Roy Fisher, Left-handed Punch. Circle Press, 1986.

Ron King & Roy Fisher, Left-handed Punch. Circle Press, 1986.

“The [Circle] Press has been highly productive for over forty years and has had a profound effect, directly and indirectly, on other artists working with books, for it has provided a continuity and a context against which such activity can be measured”.

Circle Press website.

Ron King and Roy Fisher, Bluebeard’s castle (based on Bartok’s opera). Circle Press, 1972.

Ron King and Roy Fisher, Bluebeard’s castle (based on Bartok’s opera). Circle Press, 1972.

“Ron King is a maker. He is not just an artist – though that is his primary identity – he is a craftsman capable of turning his hand to the ready solution of practical problems … It is in this quality of inspired fabrication that his real genius resides”.

— Andrew Lambirth, Introduction, p. 13, Cooking the Books: Ron King and the Circle Press. Yale Centre for British Art, 2002.

Ron King, Hick, Hack, Hock (Scissors, paper, stone). Circle Press, 1996/97.

Ron King, Hick, Hack, Hock (Scissors, paper, stone). Circle Press, 1996/97.

“An artist’s book is a book produced under the direction of an artist. The word ‘artist’ is used broadly: the artist may be a visual artist or a text-based conceptual artist; he or she may normally work with other media or they may be an artist solely on the basis of their work as a ‘book artist’. An artist’s book may be produced by a fine press but also as easily by the artist or by an associated studio, gallery or collective”.

— British Library, ‘Fine Presses, Artists’ Books, and Book Arts’.

Ron King, Hollow log (log books). 1996.

Ron King, Hollow log (log books). 1996.

Cardiff is the only UK university to receive a donation of nearly all of the Circle Press works – Ron King’s other main collection is at Yale University in the USA, in the Yale Centre for British Arts. Cardiff University is also a leading UK centre for research in illustration studies for 19th century printing, and it is home to one of the largest arts and crafts Private Press book collections in the UK.

Ron King, Turn over darling. Circle Press, 1990.

Ron King, Turn over darling. Circle Press, 1990.

To order copies of Circle Press books please visit their website for further contact, availability, and ordering information.

Some methods used in image or illustration production in artists’ books –

  • Screen printing: pressing ink through a mesh, using stencils to block off unprinted areas.
  • Embossing: to shape an object which is pressed into paper to create raised areas.
  • Linocut: cutting into lino to create raised ‘relief’ images, which are either inked and pressed onto paper, or embossed into paper.
  • Engraving: the incision of a design or image into metal, using tools or acid. Ink is pushed into the incisions, and the surface of the metal is cleaned before pressing it onto paper.
  • Aquatint: applying a fine dust of particles to an indented metal plate prior to engraving, which gives texture to the metal and creates tonal effects in the final print.

Exhib

Items displayed in the exhibition include:

  • Ron King, The Song of Solomon (King James Bible text). Circle Press, 1968.
  • Ron King, The prologue – prints edition. Circle Press, 1978. (King, Crozier, Fisher, Please, Power).
  • Ron King & Richard Price, Gift horse. Circle Press, 1999.
  • Ron King, Echo book. Circle Press, 1994.
  • Ron King, Turn over darling. Circle Press, 1990.
  • Ron King & Roy Fisher, Left-handed Punch. Circle Press, 1986.
  • Ron King & Roy Fisher, Anansi Company. Circle Press, 1992.
  • Ron King and Roy Fisher, Bluebeard’s castle (based on Bartok’s opera). Circle Press, 1972.
  • Ron King, Hick, Hack, Hock (Scissors, paper, stone). Circle Press, 1996/97.
  • Ron King, Hollow log (log books). 1996.
  • Ron King, Alphabeta concertina. Circle Press, 1983. (Two editions of 1,000 copies)
  • Ron King, White alphabet. Circle Press, 1984. (150 signed copies).
  • Norman Ackroyd and Jeremy Hooker, Itchen water, Circle Press, 1982.
  • Ron King and George Szirtes, The burning of the books. Circle Press, 2008.
  • Willow Legge, An African folktale. Circle Press, 1979. (With blind and intaglio screen prints).

Special Collections and Archives wish to thank the Art and Design undergraduates from Cardiff Metropolitan University who helped create the Circle Press artist book exhibition, for their work in selecting, prioritising, and organising the works which were displayed; namely – Miriam Davies, Adam Wright, Daisy Burrell, Emma Harry, Sarah Thomas, Jemma Schiebe, Molly Lewis, Maya Holthuis, Naomi Morgan, Ruby Fox, and Beth Morris. Beth has written an excellent account of the experience on her blog.

An illuminated manuscript of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”

IMG_0926In addition to our many private press books and fine bindings, the Cardiff Rare Books Collection also holds a few modern illuminated manuscripts. This beautiful copy of Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard was written out and hand-illuminated by a man named Sidney Farnsworth in 1910. Mr Farnsworth was a painter, sculptor and illuminator, and also the author of a how-to guide for people wishing to learn the craft, Illumination and its Development in the Present Day (New York: George H. Doran, 1922).

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