STUDENT TRIP TO SEE THE MUSEUM OF LONDON SUFFRAGETTE ARCHIVE, January 2008
Part of the UK Heritage Lottery Funded project
'CELEBRATING SYLVIA PANKHURST'
Year 9 students from Woodbridge High School, Woodford, Essex, visited the Museum of London on 29 January 2008, for two workshops examining different aspects of the activities of the Women’s Social & Political Union. They were shown items from the Suffragette collection and given a talk by the Museum’s Curator of Social & Working History, Mrs Beverley Cook.
WHAT THEY LOOKED AT
Items from the Suffragette Collection, including original promotional material published by the Suffragettes themselves, contemporary press reports and popular graphic representations showing the supposed changing roles of women – humorous postcards, published cartoons and other items.
One workshop was to compare media representations of Suffragettes and their activities with the movement’s perceptions of itself. The other was to examine the methods used by the Suffragettes to achieve their aims – and to try and measure their success.
The students seemed engrossed and excited by Beverley Cook’s presentation. This was an entirely new subject to most of them. When they emerged from the Museum afterwards, they were unanimous in saying they had found the whole experience fascinating, and that they had learned a great deal from it.
KEY LEARNING EXPERIENCES AS IDENTIFIED BY THE STUDENTS
- Discovering that women had had to fight so hard for the right to vote, which was surprising to most of them
- Learning of the lengths to which women were prepared to go at that time, in order to achieve their aims
- Handling delicate archive material in a way that would not damage it, and understanding the need for its protection
- Seeing how corporate identity was achieved by the Women’s Social & Political Union (Sylvia Pankhurst herself being a notable graphic artist for the cause), and considering the benefits of it to their aims
- Seeing the power of graphic art in selling an idea – good or bad
WHAT THE STUDENTS MOST ENJOYED
- The short humorous historical film shown to illustrate men’s misgivings about the possible enfranchisement of women
- The opportunity to handle original material was exciting
- Comparing original historical reports about how a battle was fought, seen from different perspectives (the Suffragettes vs the Press)
- The challenge of trying to form conclusions from written material – after realising they themselves might have been influenced by the way in which things had been reported in the newspapers
- Being able to identify biased reportage
- The lively discussion at the end – arguing the different points of view regarding the rights or wrongs of the way in which an important campaign was fought
WHAT WAS MOST USEFUL TO THE STUDENTS
- Finding out about a new subject that linked to what they had already learned in history at school… an important issue that was affecting the whole country in a way they had not realised
- Seeing how this fitted in with other contemporary issues that they knew more about – and that they might see slightly differently now their awareness of this aspect of early 20th century society had increased
The 2008 Heritage Lottery Funded Project, Redbridge Museum Exhibition, 'Celebrating Sylvia Pankhurst', Book: Sylvia Pankhurst, a Classroom Companion, Museum of London Archive trip, LSE Archive Trip, 'Celebrating Sylvia' Drama Workshops, 'Celebrating Sylvia' Music Theatre Workshops, Talks about Sylvia Pankhurst