Complementing the release of Sarah Gavron’s ‘Suffragette’, this selection of silent films from the BFI National Archive shows how suffragettes were portrayed on the cinema screen while their battles were still been waged on the streets outside.
The Women’s Political Rights and Suffragettes Research Projects will be taking part in a Special Suffragette Day on 21 November 2015 at the Chichester New Park Cinema.
The ‘Make More Noise!’ film is part of ‘THE TIME IS NOW’, a UK-wide film project, launching Oct 15, celebrating women forcing change, curated and produced by Showroom Workstation and Film Hub North in partnership with Pathé and Twentieth Century Fox. THE TIME IS NOW is a BFI Film Audience Network initiative with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from The National Lottery.
A short reflection on the film by Dr Maureen Wright
The compilation of early films from the BFI National Archive featuring suffragettes in Silent Film, now showing at New Park Cinema, Chichester offers viewers various interpretations of the campaigns for women’s suffrage in Britain during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Documentary film evidence of constitutional (non-violent) demonstrations by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and, latterly, the militant Women’s Social and Political Union (the #suffragettes) is interspaced in this collection with some rather more light-hearted films showing ‘traditional’ cultural attitudes to ‘women’s rights’ that were patriarchal and subjective to women. At least this is the impression….
However, on closer scrutiny, the message offered in these caricatures of Edwardian culture showed a much more serious side to what was often seen as the ‘natural’ cultural perception of women – as wives, mothers, home-makers – while trying to convey ‘humour’. The viewer sees the ‘suffragette’ portrayed as masculine. She leave child-care to her hen-pecked spouse, dresses ‘rationally’ in mis-shapen tweeds and rides a bicycle, something completely against stereotypical femininity. While the Women’s Social and Political Union were themselves excellent propagandists, the Make More Noise! collection clearly demonstrates the strength of the forces of opposition.