‘Has the idea ever entered your head/ That “the People” are not only male?’: Representations of the Suffrage Campaign in Women’s Writing for Punch, 1909-1914

Type Paper
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2017
EventThe International Centre for Victorian Women Writers (ICVWW): Fourth International Conference: Reassessing Women's Writing of the 1900s and 1910s - Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Duration: 10 Jul 201711 Jul 2017


ConferenceThe International Centre for Victorian Women Writers (ICVWW): Fourth International Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Period10 Jul 201711 Jul 2017
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When Punch is mentioned in histories of the campaign for women’s suffrage it is often depicted as having been consistently hostile, with Punch’s contribution to debates about women’s suffrage being represented exclusively by caricatures of suffragettes as unattractive spinsters. On the other hand, the suffrage campaigner Millicent Garrett Fawcett, in her 1922 book The Women’s Victory and After, described the staff of Punch as having been ‘true and faithful friends’ of the women’s movement. The reality lies between these two extremes: Punch included a variety of different pieces, some of which expressed opposition to, or support for, women’s suffrage while the majority treated the campaign as a source of humour without declaring allegiance to either side. In this paper I will focus on the contributions of female writers to the debates about women’s suffrage that played out in the pages of Punch. I will examine pieces by regular Punch contributors including Jessie Pope, Ina Garvey and Jocelyn C. Lea, as well as a short story contributed by the prominent suffrage campaigner Evelyn Sharp, to explore the nature of female Punch contributors’ interventions in debates about women’s suffrage. I will examine these writers’ choice of Punch as a platform for their responses to the suffrage controversy in order to ask questions about the kind of political writing that was possible in Punch and the role of humour in representations of suffrage campaigners and their actions.