Amongst all the celebrations of famous suffragettes, such as Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, it is important to remember that suffrage campaigners could be found all over the country.
In Aberdeen we have a unique collection of correspondence, held at the Art Gallery, to remind us that the Granite City had its own suffragists and suffragettes.
Caroline Phillips, a woman journalist at the Aberdeen Daily Journal, was also honorary secretary of Aberdeen’s WSPU branch. A Heritage Lottery Fund grant has enabled the production of an edition of her correspondence, enabling an in-depth analysis of one Scottish woman’s engagement with the suffrage movement.
Through her correspondence, we see Phillips wrestling with the demands of London headquarters for more militant action, being tempted to join the Women’s Freedom League, and finally being replaced by the Pankhursts because of her reluctance to become more militant. Because of her involvement in the suffrage movement Phillips found it difficult to gain entrance to some political events in the city, making it impossible to complete her work as a reporter, and was threatened with dismissal by her employer.
She was also torn between the demands for militant action of the WSPU leadership and her own instinct for a more conciliatory approach. Her correspondence reveals the emotional and personal costs of working for the cause in a city far away from the heart of the suffrage movement.
Professor Sarah Pedersen is currently undertaking a series of talks and engagement activities around the subject of Caroline Phillips and the Scottish suffragettes. In Aberdeen, the next two are scheduled for 7 February and 3 March.
Sarah Pedersen is a Professor of Communication and Media and the Director of Research in Communication, Marketing and Media