A Selection of Elections: Votes, Suffrage and Reform

22 Aug 2018 13:08:31.513

The Rights of Women – or the Effects of Female Enfranchisement, by George Cruikshank, 1853. Fagan Collection of Political Prints, Pol P 57

PA 179/18

A new exhibition at Nottingham Lakeside Arts will step back in time and look at some memorable elections from the past 250 years to mark the centenary of the first UK general election in which some women were entitled to vote. 

 A Selection of Elections: Votes, Suffrage and Reform opens in the Weston Gallery at Nottingham Lakeside Arts on Friday 7 September and will run until Sunday 2 December. 

 The exhibition has been curated by staff from Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham.

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The exhibition will look at the suffragists and suffragettes who campaigned for equal voting rights in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the focus will be on women from Nottingham and the local region. There will also be examples of the views of some of the “anti-suffragists” who opposed votes for women at the time. The story goes forward to the 1918 general election, and the remarkable novelty of women voting for the first time.

Bribery and corruption

Before 1832, only a small minority of men were able to vote. The exhibition reveals the bribery and corruption, songs and fireworks of early nineteenth century elections. 

To reflect the exhibition’s location within the University’s Lakeside Arts pavilion, the display also includes a ballot box used by the Students Union, and photographs and items relating to elections for executive officers and the Students’ Union President. 

Using original archives and rare books from Manuscripts and Special Collections, A Selection of Elections will illuminate 250 years of political campaigning. 

Kathryn Summerwill, Archivist in the Collection Team and Curator of the exhibition, said: “In an era when elections and referendums can be controversial, curating this exhibition has been a wonderful opportunity to look back at the passion with which campaigners fought for the right to vote.”

Cynical and humorous

Items of particular interest: 

  • Lists of members of parliament who voted for or against the Reform Bill in 1831. The bill, which was passed the following year as the ‘Great Reform Act’ of 1832, was controversial at the time, but achieved only a small increase in the overall percentage of the population who were able to vote. 
  • A colourful cartoon published in 1853 by George Cruikshank, entitled The rights of women – or the effects of female enfranchisement. The cartoon provides a cynical and humorous view of the type of political candidate a woman might vote for, compared to a man. 
  • A suffragette postcard sent to DH Lawrence’s fiancée Louie Burrows by a friend who had been arrested for window-smashing in London in 1911. 
  • Photographs of ordinary people living in the Huntingdon Street area of central Nottingham in 1911, recording their extraordinary work in creating floral garlands in support of their local MP, James Morrison. 
  • Newspaper reports of an arson attack in Nottingham carried out by suffragettes in 1913. 
  • An extraordinary printed book by Sir Almroth E. Wright entitled The Unexpurgated Case Against Women Suffrage (1913). His arguments against giving women the vote seem misogynistic to modern readers. 
  • Pamphlets, posters and photographs collected by the Communist Party election candidate Fred Westacott during the course of his political career, 1946-1974. 

The exhibition is free to attend.  For more information visit the website.  

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More information is available from Manuscripts and Special Collections on +44 (0)115 951 4565 or at mss-library@nottingham.ac.uk


Charlotte Anscombe – Media Relations Manager (Arts and Social Sciences)

Email: charlotte.anscombe@nottingham.ac.uk  Phone:+44 (0)115 74 84 417 Location: University Park

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