The Suffragette Papers of Mrs Cameron-Head

Mrs Cameron-Head of Inverailort. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F24 Mrs Cameron-Head
Mrs Cameron-Head of Inverailort. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F24 Mrs Cameron-Head

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Within our extensive and much-consulted Cameron-Head of Inverailort collection, there exists a treasure trove for anyone interested in women’s suffrage, early 20th century politics and the art of pamphleteering, writes Rory Green, trainee archivist at the Lochaber Archive Centre.

Since starting at Lochaber Archive Centre, the suffragette papers of Mrs Cameron-Head, which date from 1912-1914, are amongst the most fascinating discoveries I have made, illustrating a burning desire for enfranchisement felt by women across the political spectrum.

Mrs Cameron-Head, for a short period at least, was herself a member of The Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association.

From this brief but seemingly busy time, there survives a great many pamphlets and
publications, printed on brightly-coloured paper and bearing such titles as ‘Man, Woman, and The Machine’ and ‘Women’s Suffrage and the Social Evil’.

The language is ardent, much of it fired in an internal battle within the Conservative Party, this being the party upholding more traditional values.

One conservative voice making the case for the enfranchisement of women is Scot John
Buchan, Unionist politician and author of The Thirty-Nine Steps, amongst other works.

A faded pink pamphlet, written by Buchan, is entitled ‘Women’s Suffrage: A Logical Outcome of the Conservative Faith’.

An example of a suffragette pamphlet, dated 1914-1918. Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F24 archive papers 01
An example of a suffragette pamphlet, dated 1914-1918. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre.
NO F24 archive papers 01

In response to the common ‘Conservative objection’ that women’s suffrage would make ‘public life more effeminate’, Buchan asks: ‘Are our politics today so very manly? Do we rely solely or mainly on sober reason? Do we never exhibit hysteria or vapid emotion?’

There are other items that reflect the idea of women’s suffrage as something beneficial to conservative politics and not just bound to more liberal or radical circles.

Titles include ‘Women’s Franchise: A Safeguard against Socialism’ and ‘The Imperial Aspect of Woman Suffrage’.

Some items are less serious. ‘The Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Review’ a quarterly publication costing two pence, is simultaneously a political and women’s fashion magazine.

There are adverts for London dressmakers, antiques dealers and needlework specialists. On the final page ‘A Guide to Good Shops’ directs Conservative Suffragettes to florists on Baker Street and bootmakers in Hyde Park.

An example of a suffragette pamphlet, dated 1914-1918. Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F24 archive papers 02
An example of a suffragette pamphlet, dated 1914-1918. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre.
NO F24 archive papers 02

Mrs Cameron-Head’s suffragette papers are a contemporaneous account of early 20th century politics, culture and of a moment in British history when the tides began to turn.

At the end of the decade, these items were distributed and collected and the House of Lords granted women over the age of 30 the right to vote in the UK.

Of course, things were still extremely exclusive. These women had to be householders, or the wives of householders, occupying a property with an annual rent of £5.

They were also required to have a university education. The 1918 Representation of the People Act was a start – but there was still a long way to go.

An example of a suffragette pamphlet, dated 1914-1918. Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F24 archive papers 03
An example of a suffragette pamphlet, dated 1914-1918. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre.
NO F24 archive papers 03

These papers and much more can be viewed in our searchroom at the Lochaber Archive
Centre every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

 

CAPTION:

Mrs Cameron-Head of Inverailort. Photograph: Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F24 Mrs Cameron-Head

 

Extra pics:

An example of a suffragette pamphlet, dated 1914-1918. Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F24 archive papers 01

An example of a suffragette pamphlet, dated 1914-1918. Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F24 archive papers 02

An example of a suffragette pamphlet, dated 1914-1918. Lochaber Archive Centre. NO F24 archive papers 03