Votes for Women

One of the most popular additions to the WMODA collection is the Royal Doulton inkwell entitled Votes for Women. The virago also amused the late Diana, Princess of Wales, when she visited the Sir Henry Doulton Museum in 1984.

The grumpy old woman and her ugly baby date from 1908 when the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League was founded in Britain. Its aims were to oppose women being granted the vote during a resurgence of support for the suffragettes. The suffrage movement was spearheaded by the Women’s Social and Political Union, which founded its own newspaper entitled Votes for Women.

The humorous Lambeth stoneware inkwells lampooned two particularly unattractive females and put them to work! The harridan’s folded arms lean back to form a pen rest and reveal an inkwell in her skirts. Her baby has the same function. They were obviously popular and made in different color glazes, both with and without the Votes for Women slogan.

In the early 1900s, the suffragette’s battle lines were drawn with militant campaigns by determined women such as Emmeline Pankhurst attracting national attention. Their ‘Deeds, not Words’ protests included hunger strikes, smashing shop windows, and arson attacks against empty properties. However, during World War One, many of the suffragettes joined the war effort and the WSPU was dissolved. In 1918, women with property over the age of 30 were enfranchised and finally in 1928 women over the age of 21 got the vote on equal terms with men.