Updated: Jul 4, 2018
Procession 2018 and a Brighton Banner
‘Let us go then, and make banners as required, and let them all be beautiful.’
Mary Lowndes, Banner & Banner-Making 1909
Mary Lowndes (1856-1929) originally a very successful stained glass artist founded the Artists’ Suffrage League (ASL) to further the cause of women’s suffrage by enrolling the help of many accomplished artists, mostly women, to bring “in an attractive manner before the public eye the long continued demand for the vote”. The ASL worked with the constitutional National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) to produce eye-catching banners, posters, leaflets, calendars, cartoons, Christmas cards and postcards. The Women’s library at the LSE in London has a wonderful collection related to the women’s suffrage movement and a design book of banners created by Mary Lowndes for a major parade through the streets of London in June 1908.
Attempts had been made since 1832 to create legislation that gave women the vote, however, it was not until 1866 that the first Woman’s Suffrage Committee was formed by Barbara Bodichon (1827-91) and it was much later in 1907, with the creation of the ASL that campaign material shifted its reliance upon words to the power of the visual image.
Mary was commissioned by the NUWSS to design over 70 banners for the procession on the 13th June 1908. Organisers hoped that the demonstration, which culminated with 10,000 women at the Royal Albert Hall, would be a rally for all suffrage societies around the country. To that ends Mary created swatches to guide the makers and painted watercolour designs that captured the essence of a place, incorporating well known symbols with a modern flair and striking contrasts of colour.
Although Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence is credited with creating the ‘Votes for Women’ colour scheme (white for purity, green for hope and purple to represent dignity and loyalty) Mary Lowndes used her skills in stained glass to combine other bright colours such as orange, magenta and blue with the suffragette palette. Mary’s bold hues, perhaps also influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement made the stunning designs for the regional banners, local assemblies, professions and famous women of history really stand out.
The 2018 London Procession on June 10th which celebrated the centenary of the Women’s Vote had over 30,000 women from numerous groups walk from Hyde Park to Westminster; Brighton’s Network of International Women proudly carried a Brighton banner, recreated from Mary Lowndes’ 110 year old design held at the LSE library. As a group we sewed, appliqued and embroidered, working together with new and recycled textiles to carry a banner that recalled the brave and passionate suffragettes who marched before us, using old symbols with a new twist, just as Mary Lowndes and her fellow companions had done.
Included in the 'Illuminate' presentation to the council at Brighton library, on behalf of the Network of International Women, 23rd June 2018
Further information about Mary Lowndes' designs: https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/WgLSU4yA_bcqLA
The Women's Library Collection at the LSE, London:
Illuminate tapestry presentation on 23rd June 2018: