Drawing for Suffrage

Origins: Art for Political Action

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Under NUWSS, suffragist Mary Lowndes founded Artists’ Suffrage League (ASL) in January 1907.

Artist Mary Lowndes advocated for the use of aesthetically-pleasing political art to align the movement with images of peace.

In preparation for the London Mud March of 1907, a coed group of professional artists gathered in studio space formerly reserved for men. ​​​​​​

"[T]o further the cause of Women’s Enfranchisement by the work and professional help of artists…by bringing in an attractive manner before the public eye the long continued demand for the vote.”

~Mission of Artists' Suffrage League, The Spectacle of Women, Lisa Tickner, 1980

ASL created thousands of postcards to advertise the Mud March in storefronts and newspapers. ​​​​​​​

Artists Suffrage League Advertisment for Mud March, London School of Economics Library, Flickr 

Artists' Suffrage League Advertisement for Mud March, The National Archive

Armed with 80 different banners embroidered by ASL, 3,000 women marched from Hyde Park to Exeter Hall, demanding enfranchisement. The banners provided a visual means to organize the protestors. The peaceful composure of the march earned the NUWSS respect in the public eye. ​​​​​​​

After the Mud March’s success, similar marches followed over the next 7 years.  ​​​​​​​

"The crowds to see us – the man in the street – the men in the Clubs, the people standing outside the Carlton – interested – surprised for the most part – not much joking at our expense and no roughness. The policemen were splendid and all the traffic was stopped our way. We were an imposing spectacle all with badges – each section under its own banners​​​​​​​"

~ Kate Frye​​​​​​​, The Diaries of Kate Frye, The Woman and Her Sphere

Mud March 1907, Turbulent London

A subset of WSPU members established the Suffrage Atelier (SA) in 1909 with the goal to use art to embolden suffrage demands.

"[T[o encourage Artists to forward the Women's movement, and particularly the Enfranchisement of Women, by means of pictorial publications."​​​​​​​

~Mission of Suffrage Atelier, The Spectacle of Women, Lisa Tickner 1980

                 The Common Cause Front Page, NUWSS, Spartacus Educational​​​​​​​                                                                      The Votes for Women Front Page, WSPU , National Archive

 Cartoons were posted in national newspapers and smaller scale domains including Votes for Women (founded by WSPU) and The Common Cause (ally to NUWSS). ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Forming CoalitionsThe Domestic Sphere