WCML and the People's History Museum/Labour History Archive (PHM) were successful as a partnership in getting a ‘Collecting Cultures’ grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This has given us five years of funding, from October 2014, for new acquisitions (and accompanying audience engagement work). Voting for Change - 150 years of radical movements, 1819 to 1969 builds upon the complementary strengths of both collections to acquire material related to movements and campaigns for the franchise, from the build-up to the Peterloo protest in 1819 to the lowering of the voting age in 1969.
Voting for Change aims to fill specific gaps within the collections of both organisations and to strengthen elements of collections development through targeted acquisitions. The acquisitions, alongside activities and events that highlight and contextualise them, sit inside existing collection development plans for both partners. The two organisations are focusing on campaigns to broaden the right to vote from the time of Peterloo to the Reform Acts of 1832, 1867, 1872, 1884, 1918 and 1928 and on up to the Representation of the People Act 1969, which lowered the voting age to 18.
Both organisations are also working jointly to make the most of the complementarity of our collections exploring the development of democracy and political ideas. We will develop thematic links between the two collections, involving visitors in finding new ways to highlight those links.
WCML collection areas to develop:
The Library has particularly strong holdings in respect of early radical history, leading up to the first Reform Act and Chartism, and in the development of the modern labour movement from the late nineteenth century. Proud as the Library is of these strengths, HLF-funded cataloguing work has highlighted gaps in the collections relating to the suffrage movement, parliamentary reforms etc which the project is allowing it to tackle.
December 2018 update
The Library blog has continued to feature objects acquired as part of our project, with Issues of The Chartist Circular from the 1830s/1840s, including a great quote about 'the charter of the rich man's feast and the poor man's fast'.
Our September Object of the Month focused on ‘The greatest poem of political protest ever written in English’, Shelley’s poem The Masque of Anarchy - 92 verses written in September 1819, immediately after he heard about the Peterloo Massacre which had taken place in Manchester on 16 August. We have been fortunate enough to have acquired a first edition as part of Voting for Change. This will be on display at the People's History Museum in the New Year, until it returns to form part of the Library's Peterloo bicentenary exhibition which will open in late May 2019.
We have marked the centenary of some women getting the vote with an exhibition, Votes for women...or votes for ladies?, featuring a wide range of Voting for Change purchases such as a Votes for Women sash and several beautiful badges. Accompanying events included students from St Ambrose Barlow in Swinton sharing creative reflections on the women’s suffrage movement in relation to contemporary female activism with their performance Forward, Sister Women!, and talks by Elizabeth Crawford, Jill Liddington and Alison Ronan. We also staged a very well-received day conference at the University of Salford, More than just the Pankhursts: the wider suffrage movement.
Other events have included our exhibition The power of unity: 150 years of the TUC, and an accompanying celebratory event with TUC NW Regional Secretary Lynn Collins, Clare Coatman from the TUC ‘reaching out to young workers’ project, and Kevan Nelson, Regional Secretary, Unison NW, talking about the future of unions.
Spring 2018 update
The Library blog continues to highlight items purchased with project money:
- Jus Suffragii - the Right of Suffrage. The story behind an International Woman Suffrage Alliance badge recently added to our collection;
- the exquisite children’s book Votes for Catharine Susan and Me, by author and illustrator Kathleen Ainslie;
- the 1910 Philip Gibbs novel Intellectual Mansions S.W., set in the context of other examples of contemporary fiction and satire both here and at PHM;
- a two-part blog post reflecting on Way stations, a collection of articles, essays and speeches by self-proclaimed militant suffragette, US-born actress, playwright and novelist Elizabeth Robins, 1913;
- marking the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, the amazing suffragette banner purchased by PHM seen alongside the Library's Minute Book of the Rochdale branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union;
- two volumes of cartoons by Francis Carruthers Gould, dealing with the General Elections of 1895 and 1900, when the two established Parties were having to adjust to the need to appeal to working class male voters as a result of the Reform Acts of 1867 and 1884.
Our Object of the Month for May 2018 was The Tool, a leaflet published to persuade and convince the working class women of Britain to support the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies campaign for the right to vote.
Associated 'Voting for Change' project events have included a creative writing workshop with poet Jackie Kay, an 'Animating the archives' afternoon with students from the University of Salford, a Chartism drop in day with a particular focus on Ernest Jones, a play about Sylvia Pankhurst to mark International Women's Day, and another day researching and editing Wikipedia entries. Sign up to our newsletter (see panel on right) to keep abreast of more.
Autumn 2017 update
The Library blog has highlighted various items purchased with project money:
- 1830s reports from the Birmingham Political Union, which was one of the principal organisations involved in the agitation for the reform of Parliament which culminated in the Representation of the People Act 1832, known as the first Reform Act or Great Reform Act;
- a caricature of George Odger, a significant labour leader and campaigner on suffrage issues;
- a broadside, clearly of a liberal reforming bent, chronicling the 1835 General Election in Manchester;
- an 1866 pamphlet in which the author is very exercised by the number of working class men who will potentially get the vote if a proposed Reform Bill goes through...;
- Reverend Charles Kingsley, Women and politics, a pamphlet from 1869 that is not as progressive as it first seems;
- Charles Anthony, The social and political dependence of women, one of the earliest British tracts supporting the concept of women’s right to vote;
- a pamphlet, The gulf of ruin, from 1795 - a little before the official start of our project, but it was too good an item to miss out on...;
- a small but seminal booklet by Barbara Leigh Smith, influential in the passing of an 1870 Act of Parliament which gave women the right to earn their own money and made them eligible to inherit rather than it going to their husbands;
- items relating to the Men's League for Opposing Woman Suffrage, which was founded in January 1909;
- an artistic autograph album with a Suffragette twist;
- a commemorative serviette from 1910 produced as a souvenir of a huge Votes for Women demonstration held in London in June that year.
Our Object of the Month for December 2016 was a fascinating item bought with project money - a single sheet showing the swearing in of a special constable in the run-up to the big Chartist gathering on Kennington Common in London in 1848, as the authorities got jittery about the potential for major civil unrest.
And August 2017's Object of the Month was a very pretty stamp from the International Woman Suffrage Congress, Budapest 1913, also bought with project money.
We also put on display in 2015 another purchase, a rare and most unusual archive of election material - from 1835. There is a pamphlet available describing this archive - let us know if you'd like one.
Associated 'Voting for Change' project events have included a Democracy Drop In reading day and a day researching and editing Wikipedia entries. Sign up to our newsletter (see panel on right) to keep abreast of more.