Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Suffragettes and Iconic Mini Series'

Suffragettes throwing flour at Asquith's auto.. from Pankhurst's bio.

I watched almost all of series two of the old Masterpiece Theatre series Upstairs Downstairs yesterday, it being a very rainy day (although I got my dahlias in, don't I sound like Mrs. Dalloway who lived in Belgravia, am I right?) Anyway, yes, it does appear that that iconic series got to the Tighsolas era before I did... :)

The last episode I watched was about the daughter Elizabeth and the Suffragettes. Now, I likely didn't see this episode in 72 (although I may have.) I was in CEGEP then, and not likely watching much tv. And, remember, in those days, families tended to have only one tv and the dad commandeered it at night.

My husband remembers the series, however. His Mom watched it and he took it in on some level.

Anyway, it's interesting for me to see that episode. Upstairs Downstairs did not have a huge budget .. that is obvious. So the producers and other artists had to be creative. The scenes with the suffragettes were stylized... Only a handful of women gather at Eaton Place and head out to break windows and vandalize a politician's home.

Rose tries to stop Elizabeth but can't, then follows her and gets put in prison.
And force fed..

There's a prostitute among the women, a noblewoman, a woman of the educated middle class etc and they are not particularly nice to each other in jail.

So the suffragettes are not portrayed too sympathetically here... although as per usual excellent research was done. (But had I seen these series I would have learned that the term suffragette refers to the militant brand.)

I did post, earlier on, an article about the British Suffragettes (Margaret Nicholson mentions them in a letter and I find the event she is talking about). The article does say the woman arrested represent all stratas of society.

...I got an email from someone commenting negatively on a post about a Maclean's article from 1910 about the negro. The person said I shouldn't quote things out of context. Hmm. This entire blog is about the context of 1910, and contains an awful lot about immigration policy, the eugenics and purity movement. My goal is to get into the head of Marion Nicolson, a prim and proper Presbyterian, who happens to get a job in a school that has black students. Her letters reflect little of her feelings about her students. I have to research the ideas of the time. The fact that so many of these ideas have been censored, or at least not repeated in history books for the masses, is important. Indeed, a commentator in the New York Times wrote a similar article but a few months ago.. he perused 1911 articles from the New York Times about immigration to explore era attitudes about race and ethnicity. He remarked on how the Powers that Be liked to stereotype different ethnic groups with respect to personality and character. In his mind, they did this is similar fashion to the way the American Kennel Club describes different dog breeds.

Upstairs Downstairs touches upon the racism in the era, but only lightly. Their purview is class prejudice.

Lady Bellamy is a nice enough woman and a clothes horse, but she is not much into social reform...as some wives of MPS were. Indeed, Mrs. Snowden, a suffragist Edith heard speak in 1913, was the wife of an MP, a Philip Snowden who went on to get a very key position . I can't recall, now, which one.. I read it in the book The Thirties: An intimate history..