Suffragettes Forever! The Story of Women & Power was an excellent 3-part series presented by the ever impressive Professor Amanda Vickery. It’s a brief overview of women’s political efforts from the Duchess of Devonshire through Mary Wollstencraft, Hannah More to Mary Astor (great interview with her about male vanity in 1959). And finishes with Mrs Thatcher. It includes a section on the Suffragettes which is very good but it does miss an important piece of symbolism on Mrs Pankhurst’s statue outside the Houses of Parliament.
There’s a silly error at the start of episode one when Emily Davison is said to have made her protest at the 1914 Derby when it was 1913 but more interestingly it misses something significant in episode three when it showed us the statue of Mrs Pankhurst and mentions in passing that Mrs P is holding a monocle. Now bear with me through the pedantry of my next sentence. She’s actually holding a lorgnette, a pair of spectacles on a handle attached to one’s closing by a jet chain, which Mrs P often wore. Lorgnettes were worn more as a piece of adornment than to enhance vision. They were more Accessorize than Specsavers. But the important thing is that Mrs Pankhurst is holding the lorgnette out in such a way that when you look at the statue your eyes are drawn to it. And it’s not that accurate a depiction of a lorgnette. Why? Because the lorgnette is a bit of artistic license and symbolism. It’s not there as a lorgnette. It looks more like a key than a lorgnette. Mrs Pankhurst is holding a key. The key that lets her enter the Houses of Parliament. And is holding it out for us to see. Some women have been holding that key since 1918 and all women since 1928.