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The Women's Library: Suffrage Banners

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Shorthand Writers banner designed by Mary Lowndes, 1908

The Women's Library is a unique resource incorporating a research library, exhibition hall and educational facilities. It exists to document and explore women's lives in Britain, in the past, present and the future and houses Britain's oldest and most comprehensive collection of material recording women's lives and concerns.

The Library's collection of published material, archives, ephemera, photographs and objects cover a variety of topics including women's rights, suffrage, health, education, employment, reproductive rights, the family and the home. The emphasis is primarily on women in Britain, but some international material is also available. The Library was established in 1926 as the Library of the London Society for Women's Service, led by Millicent Fawcett, and in 1953 both the Society and the Library were renamed after her.

The Library was run by the Fawcett Society until 1977 when it moved to the London Guildhall University. The University secured a £4.2 million grant form the Heritage Lottery fund to build a new home for the collections: the new building opened in January 2002.

Suffrage Banner collection

Cumbrian suffragists demonstrating in Trafalgar Square, 9 July 1910

The Library houses an important collection of early twentieth century suffrage banners many designed and created by the artist based suffrage organisations the Artist's Suffrage League and the Suffrage Atelier.

Formed in 1907 by Mary Lowndes, a renowned stained glass maker, the Artists Suffrage League was one of the first suffrage associations to be organised by profession. As well as designing banners for the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, it also produced postcards and illustrated pamphlets promoting the campaign for women's enfranchisement in Britain and North America. Artists associated with the League include Emily Ford, Laurence Housman and Cicely Hamilton.

Banner in the colours of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies

The Suffrage Atelier was founded in 1909 by Clemence and Laurence Houseman as 'An Arts and Crafts Society Working for the Enfranchisement of Women'. Unlike the League, the Atelier encouraged non-professional artists to submit work and paid them a small percentage of any profits made from work sold. The Atelier is most closely with associated with the Women's Freedom League and the Women's Social and Political Union and its members included Catherine Courtauld and Edith Craig.

The Library's entire collection of suffrage banners, along with associated artwork, has now been digitised and is available for research on VADS' searchable database.

Copyright and Contact Details

Address: LSE Library
10 Portugal Street
WC2A 2HD Tel: 020 7955 7229

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