Learning about suffrage
Suffragette Stories visited Wroxham in September 2018. Our first workshop with adult members of the community at Wroxham library was so inspiring, we wished we could have recorded to play back!
Our second workshop was held at Broadland High Ormiston Academy, where we introduced students from year 8 and year 9 to the Kenney archive, the now-lost Suffragette plantation at Eagle House and the stories of some of the Suffragettes who planted trees there. The students took part in some creative writing activities which encouraged them to empathise with characters from the past, and were given the opportunity to look at and discuss materials from the Kenney archive. Students were particularly interested in Jessie Kenney’s autograph book- looking at the signatures of the plantation suffragettes and drawing inspiration from some of the messages suffragettes had written.
The students were also introduced to Suffragette Caprina Fahey, who lived in Hainford, only a few miles away from their school. We do not know much about Caprina, we do not even have an image of her, but thanks to a recent campaign by the Norfolk Museums Service, we know where she was born, and when and where she died. We discussed with the students the way that so many Suffragettes have been forgotten by society- like those who planted trees in Annie’s Arboretum, and like Caprina.
Our third workshop took place at Wroxham library, where year 9 students from Broadland High Ormiston Academy interviewed members of their local community about their experiences, and about the changes they have observed in women’s role in society during their lives.
Olga Pinches shared her experiences of growing up and working in a pub to support the family business, and feeling like a slave. She viewed marriage to her husband as being liberated from this slavery.
Work was a common theme in the interviews, with Jo Reed sharing of her career in the theatre and, latterly, supporting her husband’s career in the same industry. Noreen Webster shared her experience of travelling across the country, alone, aged 14, to begin work as a riveter in an aircraft factory. The students who interviewed Noreen reflected that this would not something they would feel equipped or able to do, despite being a similar age to Noreen when she did this.
Writing and Curation
During this workshop, students selected to participate in a creative writing workshop, or a curation workshop.
The creative writing session with MA students Victoria Proctor and Yin Lim was enthusiastic and productive, with students creating characters, plots, inciting incidents and critically the start of their stories. Vera Wentworth proved an inspirational suffragette! You can read some of their stories, including a collaboration between three students, in our on-line anthology.
The curation team selected memories to display in Wroxham Library alongside items from the Kenney archive. They noticed the recurring themes of Work and War. The group discussed the way that these themes were interconnected; the first and second world wars giving women opportunities in the workplace that they would not otherwise have had. During the session, we discussed the question of whether war might have had a greater impact on the role of women in society today than women being given the vote- after reading a comment made by David Ford, one of the adult workshop participants.
The students selected copies of the Kenney’s passports which were both dated from the First World War; Jessie Kenney accompanied Emmeline Pankhurst on diplomatic missions for the British government during the war, which is an opportunity that she would not have had if not for the war.
Suffragette Stories was on display in Wroxham during October 2018.