Pioneering Women

‘What a small gift it was’: Stella Benson and I Pose (1915)

Speaker: Dr Nicola Darwood, University of Bedfordshire

This paper draws extensively on Benson’s unpublished diaries and correspondence, exploring both Benson’s own engagement with the campaign for votes for women and her portrayal of that campaign in I Pose (1915). The novel’s protagonist, known simply as ‘the Suffragette’, an anonymous heroine, travels with a gardener (also unnamed) across the ocean, ‘exploring the adoption of new poses in a world where the old stereotypes no longer work’.

Benson actively involved with the suffrage movement following the death of Emily Wilding Davison at the Epsom Derby, taking part in the march from Bow to the House of Commons on 10th June 1914 organised by Sylvia Pankhurst, and later working in the office of the United Suffragists. In part, Benson’s fictitious account of the Suffragette’s life can be read as her own response to the concerns of women and the suffragette campaign. Arguably reflecting Benson’s own opinions, the Suffragette rehearses arguments about equality and about votes for women, ultimately stating that when women have the vote, ‘men will see what a small gift it was, and future generations will ask why it was grudged so bitterly’.

‘Theatre Archives and Family History: AHRC Searching for Theatrical Ancestors Project’

Speaker: Professor Katharine Cockin, University of Hull

The AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database provides an online database to search National Trust’s archive of the Victorian Shakespearean actor Ellen Terry (1847-1928) and her daughter, theatre director, suffragette, lesbian, Edith Craig (1869-1947).

The AHRC Searching For Theatrical Ancestor (2015-16) has improved access to this data for two principal groups of non-academic users, in the field of museum and heritage and in the field of family history researchers. This paper is envisaged as an example of research impact, exploring the rationale for the project, the aims and achievements, the obstacles and challenges.

Friday 7th July, 12.30