To Suffrage and beyond
On this cold February day, rather than being in the garden much I've been surfing the net and reading about the landmark law that was passed 100 years ago today when women (some) were given the right to vote. The brilliant thing about the internet is that it takes you from one linked story to another and so I'm making little connections to my wider profession and how my foremothers enabled me to do what I'm doing now.
It is humbling to read of the individual and collective endeavours of women and men who made huge sacrifices that brought further social equality and change not only for women but for men too. At that time, gardeners (of which there were only men living and working on country estates) were seen as non-householders and as such were also denyed the right to vote themselves until 1918. But still earlier than their female counterparts.
Not only was suffrage being championed for women at this time but The College for Lady Gardeners (great name), was established in 1901 by Frances Garnet Wolseley. The daughter of a Baron, Frances however rejected the conventions of her upper class background in favour of gardening education and the College helped to open up professional training and horticultural careers to women. Big Up FGW!
It is also said that the first-generation students at the college were often involved in suffragette politics, and you can understand why; a common cause, camaraderie and a seeking of opportunities so far denied to them.
One of the patrons of the College was Gertrude Jekyll, who embodied the concept of the gardener as artist; a phrase I love. She was a hugely influential artist and garden designer at that time. She published her first book, Wood and Garden, in 1899, and went on to write many more books and articles, while creating over 400 gardens in the UK, Europe and America.
Being such a pioneer it probably stands to reason that Jekyll also had an interest in the Women’s Suffrage movement and she designed one of the many iconic suffragette banners for the Godalming Branch of the Association of Women's Suffrage Societies.
In July, 1913, there was a Suffrage Pilgrimage, a great non-militant march from Portsmouth to London, stopping at Petersfield, Haslemere and Guildford on the way. A photograph of Jekyll's banner was captured during this march. The women wove the banners themselves and a motto on the Godalming banner reads 'Weaving fair and weaving free England's web of destiny'.
So big up the women and lady gardeners past, present and future.