Giles Family at 75: Political and Social Commentary

This is the third in our series of blog posts celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Giles Family, drawing on the riches of the Carl Giles Archive, which has been part of the British Cartoon Archive since 2005. This series is in lieu of a physical exhibition in our Gallery space, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As mentioned in earlier blog posts, the 20th century saw huge changes to society on both politically and socially. Over the course of their 46 year existence, the one thing that didn’t change fundamentally was the Giles family: everyone remained the same age, with the same characteristics and the same roles within the group. This stasis allowed Giles to use the family to explore social, cultural and political changes in ways that other editorial cartoonists could not: the reader already has a shared knowledge of the people within the cartoons and how they will behave, much like in our own families. This blog post will explore some of the ways in which the Giles family reacted to key UK events in the second half of the 21st century. We could write an entire series of blogs on how Grandma et al discussed British society – so here are some of our highlights.

The Giles family and women

The 20th century saw great shifts to women’s roles in society – from getting the vote in 1918 to the development of the contraceptive pill in 1961, feminism and equal rights have constantly been fought for and their impacts discussed. The 1970s saw the growth of the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM), a group which demanded equal rights, equal education and careers, free contraception and abortion and free childcare. 1973 was a crucial year for feminists: the first WLM conference was attended by over 600 women, the UK Rape Crisis network established, and Brixton Black Women’s Group and Virago Press were formed. This discourse did not escape the Giles family – especially Grandma, who decided to stage her own protest:

"Is that the plumber? I think my Grandma has sprung a leak in her Think Tank." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 27 September 1973 (Image ref: 25147)

“Is that the plumber? I think my Grandma has sprung a leak in her Think Tank.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 27 September 1973 (Image ref: 25147)

Like many British families, gender roles are frequently discussed in the Giles family – but it’s clear who’s really in charge. This 1979 cartoon sees women attempting the Christmas shopping and discussing what to get their husbands; although not directly about the Giles family, Grandma can be seen causing mischief in the background:

"Her husband knows exactly what he wants - whatever she says he's going to get." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 14 August 1979 (Image ref: GAA344150A)

“Her husband knows exactly what he wants – whatever she says he’s going to get.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 14 August 1979 (Image ref: GAA344150A)

While Giles’ cartoons never ventured into the risqué, it would be impossible to ignore sexuality in all its many forms. In the top image, George Junior finds a world better than Santa; in the lower, Giles responds to a reader comment asking what women dislike about men – the answer is joyfully predictable:

"This beats all your Father Christmases." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 11 December 1956 (Image ref: GAN0166)

“This beats all your Father Christmases.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 11 December 1956 (Image ref: GAN0166)

"Yes - I think we can do something about that" - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 13 August 1974 (Image ref: 26618)

“Yes – I think we can do something about that” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 13 August 1974 (Image ref: 26618)

Women also played crucial roles during the Second World War and after. Alongside the Women’s Voluntary Services (formed in 1938), women also wanted to play an active part in defending their country. Although not initially permitted to join the Home Guard, the Women’s Home Defence was formed in 1941. Here, the Giles Family are debating about the long-term wisdom in this decision – but who wouldn’t be scared of Grandma having access to weapons?!

"Vera, that M.P. who said that women Home Guards were a 'glorious gift for comedians and cartoonists who are just about exhausting the subject of the Home Guard' was dead right" - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 29 November 1951 (Image ref: GA0686)

“Vera, that M.P. who said that women Home Guards were a ‘glorious gift for comedians and cartoonists who are just about exhausting the subject of the Home Guard’ was dead right” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 29 November 1951 (Image ref: GA0686)

The Giles family and War

Like many British families, Giles’ characters all interact with the aftermath of the Second World War in different ways. It is assumed that Father fought in the Second World War, but Giles never clarifies this: the only hint we get is in a cartoon from May 1950. Father is pictured reading a paper whilst his son George (also in army uniform) brings him tea. However, there’s an implication that (true to his nature) Father never actually does any work of importance whilst he’s on duty – the action is happening elsewhere:

"1939 - and here he is winning his second war." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 January 1950 (Image ref: GA5392)

“1939 – and here he is winning his second war.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 January 1950 (Image ref: GA5392)

Even when the War is over, its ramifications live on through the Giles family – much like it did for Giles himself, who noted that his political views had been forever shaken by what he saw at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in May 1945. As families readjusted to life after soldiers came home the Giles family echoed this divide as seen here in February 1946:

"So, I bring him to see the sea for the first time and he says he'd sooner see a good air raid any day" - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 21 February 1946 (Image ref: GA0089)

“So, I bring him to see the sea for the first time and he says he’d sooner see a good air raid any day” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 21 February 1946 (Image ref: GA0089)

Here we can see that some of the Giles family have taken a much-needed visit to the seaside (it’s never stated exactly where they live but we assume it’s in the suburbs around London). However Father is less than impressed with the views from the beach, as Mother notes – domestic life lacks the excitement and thrill of air raids experienced by parts of the country during the Blitz.

For many families the end of the war didn’t mean a complete shift back to everyday life – in Britain rationing continued in some forms until 1954, with certain goods becoming sparser after 1945. Rationing was a real concern for many families and of course the Giles family also struggled:

"Dad said he expects you and Auntie Minnie'll soon cane our extra ounce of marge for us." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 16 January 1948 (Image ref: GA0240)

“Dad said he expects you and Auntie Minnie’ll soon cane our extra ounce of marge for us.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 16 January 1948 (Image ref: GA0240)

 

Despite the war’s end being seen as a new start for many, some things never changed domestically and the Giles family reflected this. Much like New Year’s resolutions, some promises were just made to be broken:

'VE Day 1945: "Now it's over, I'll get some leave and repair that gutter and put a couple of boards in that fence." VE Day 1985' - Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 5 May 1985 (Image ref: GA4798)

‘VE Day 1945: “Now it’s over, I’ll get some leave and repair that gutter and put a couple of boards in that fence.” VE Day 1985’ – Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 5 May 1985 (Image ref: GA4798)

If you’re interested in how cartoonists explored the Second World War in particular check out our blog post about VE day through the British Cartoon Archive.

The Giles family and welfare

The question of how (and to what extent) the government should care for its citizens has been at the heart of society for hundreds of years. In the UK’s post-WW2 era one of the most significant developments – the creation of the NHS in July 1948 – affected everybody, largely for the better. Giles frequently supported the NHS and local hospitals (he created a book they could sell in 1975) so it isn’t surprising that the Giles family pop up in medical contexts from time to time, even if it’s not for obvious reasons:

"You lot aren't here to bring me comfort and joy - you're here to save your blooming light and heating at home." - Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 23 December 1973 (Image ref: GA3239)

“You lot aren’t here to bring me comfort and joy – you’re here to save your blooming light and heating at home.” – Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 23 December 1973 (Image ref: GA3239)

The NHS has constantly been on politicians’ agendas; one of the early debates related to how much to charge patients for prescriptions. In 1952 the Conservative government introduced a charge to be paid by everyone who needed prescribed medicine but the cost doubled over 12 years, so in 1964 this fee was abolished by the Labour government. Whilst in theory this may seem a generous move it also allowed people to avoid paying for everyday medicines (such as painkillers) by getting their GP to prescribe them:

"Off come the health charges - back come all Vera's aches and snuffles." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 November 1964 (Image ref: GAN1268)

“Off come the health charges – back come all Vera’s aches and snuffles.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 5 November 1964 (Image ref: GAN1268)

Of course, welfare extends beyond medical matters and into the world of work and wellbeing. The miners’ strikes of the 1970s and 1980s impacted many families across the country. As ever, Giles never explicitly used his artwork to make a political comment but the Giles family said what many people thought:

"That was very rude to tell Aunty that a couple of weeks at the coalface would make her think differently about the miners' strike" - Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 6 March 1983 (Image ref: GA4507)

“That was very rude to tell Aunty that a couple of weeks at the coalface would make her think differently about the miners’ strike” – Carl Giles, Sunday Express, 6 March 1983 (Image ref: GA4507)

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s 21 years in power are remembered by many for the reforms she made to the welfare state, privatising nationalised industries and weakening trade union power. The Giles family did not escape Thatcher’s gaze – as Stinker hypothesizes when watching Grandma:

"Mrs Thatcher would certainly give Grandma's State Benefits a radical overhaul if she knew they all went on Lester Piggott yesterday." - Carl Giles, Daily Express, 6 June 1985 (Image ref: GA4810)

“Mrs Thatcher would certainly give Grandma’s State Benefits a radical overhaul if she knew they all went on Lester Piggott yesterday.” – Carl Giles, Daily Express, 6 June 1985 (Image ref: GA4810)

As mentioned above, we could write a whole series on how Giles discussed political and social matters – hopefully this blog has given you a taste for exploring through our Giles Archive even more. Two quotes below sum up, for us, the popularity of the Giles family:

“A Giles book of cartoons is also a day by day, week by week record of English history as it. happens. Look at the cartoon and look at the date and you will find you are living recent history over again.” (Nathaniel Gubbins, Introduction to the Third Giles Annual, 1948)

“As I grow older…there tend to be more and more mornings when you look through the newspaper and realise that the only credible figure left in British public life is Grandma.” (Dennis Norden, Introduction to the Thirty-Fourth Giles Annual, 1980)

What are your favourite memories of the Giles family? How did they reflect (or impact) your political and social views over the years? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

References:

Tim Benson, ‘Giles’ War’ (2017)

BBC, ‘WW2 People’s War: Girls in the Home Guard’, https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/40/a4036240.shtml

BBC, ‘The cost of being sick’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/61404.stm

British Library, ‘Sisterhood and after: Timeline of the Women’s Liberation Movement’, https://www.bl.uk/sisterhood/timeline

Women and Girls in Science: Mary Anne Atwood, alchemical thinker and spiritualist

February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. To commemorate this occasion, we’re going to delve back into our Maddison collection to see how women have been involved in sciences from the very beginning. Today let’s take a look at Mary Anne Atwood, who was afraid she had revealed one scientific secret too many…

Photograph of alchemical researcher Mary Anne Atwood, undated.

Photograph of alchemical researcher Mary Anne Atwood, undated.

Who was she? Born in Dieppe in 1817, Mary Anne Atwood (nee South) grew up surrounded by her father’s books in Gosport, Hampshire. Like many women of the era Mary Anne received no formal education but learnt Latin, Greek, and the classics at home. Encouraged by her father Thomas South she joined a circle of theosophists; a religious group who believed that spiritual knowledge was held in a group of individuals known as the Masters. It was this circle that sparked her research in alchemy.

What did she write? In 1846 Mary Anne and her father released a book detailing their thoughts and research so far: Early Magnetism in its Higher Relations to Humanity as Veiled in the Poets and the Prophets, under the pseudonym Thuos Mathos. The work was well received and the praise encouraged the Souths to begin a much bigger project: a full explanation of the purpose and methods of the alchemical process.

What is alchemy anyway? Today, we know alchemy as the discipline of trying to turn lead into gold, practised between the 16th and 18th centuries. However during the 19th century, as it became more widely recognised that this was not possible, alchemy as a discipline took on a more spiritual slant. Researchers began to examine the relationship of mankind – and the soul – to the wider cosmos, exploring if it was possible to refine the soul away from the influences of the external world and society back to a state it would have been in when God created it. This branch of alchemy is known as Hermetism (or Hermetic writings) and it is this that Mary Anne Atwood and her father were interested in, rather than the Philosopher’s Stone story we know from J.K. Rowling’s world today.

Contents page of Atwood's work ' A suggestive inquiry into the hermetic mystery : with a dissertation on the more celebratedof the alchemical philosophers, being an attempt towards the recovery of the ancient experiment of nature'

Contents page of Atwood’s work ‘ A suggestive inquiry into the hermetic mystery : with a dissertation on the more celebratedof the alchemical philosophers, being an attempt towards the recovery of the ancient experiment of nature’. Long title, fascinating book.

Why has she not become more famous? In 1850, Mary Anne published A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery which was the culmination of years of research into spiritual alchemy. The work was supposed to be published alongside a poem written by her father, The Enigma of Alchemy. When A Suggestive Inquiry… was published it had not been read (or edited) by Thomas South, and shortly after its release to the world the Souths decided it was not fit for sale and withdrew the book along with most existing copies (to the ire of their publisher). The reasons for this withdrawal are twofold. Firstly (and most importantly) Mary Anne and her father believed that they had explicitly written about secrets that should have stayed hidden within allegorical texts, and that this knowledge could be dangerous if in the wrong hands. Secondly there is a suggestion that Thomas South became more devoutly religious between the writing of the texts and that this prompted a change of heart about the matter.

Following A Suggestive Inquiry…‘s withdrawal, Mary Anne retreated from alchemical society. In 1859 she married Reverend Alban Thomas Atwood and lived a very quiet life in Yorkshire. After her husband’s death in 1883, there is some evidence that Mary Anne was approached about a possible reprint of A Suggestive Inquiry… and whilst she did not wish to see it in print again – for fear of it being reproduced and sold without her consent – she gave a few copies to friends and made some minor amendments to the text itself before her death in 1910.

Why is she important? A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery is the first work that gives a comprehensive insight into alchemy as a discipline, and consequently Mary Anne’s work is vital for establishing this particular area of historical scientific research. In 1918 it was republished by Mary Anne’s friend, the painter and thinker Isabelle de Steiger, for the first time since it was withdrawn from sale in 1850.

Title page of the new 1918 edition of Atwood's work 'A Suggestive Inquiry...'

Title page of the new 1918 edition of Atwood’s work ‘A Suggestive Inquiry…’

Freemason Walter Leslie Wilmshurst, who wrote an extensive introduction in the new edition, suggested that the societal and spiritual impact of the First World War led to increased interest in alchemy and Hermetic writings: 

“It was not, I think, the destiny of such a treatise as this to perish at its birth, but rather, when the time should be more ripe for it, to re-emerge from its obscurity and assert that influence which its great merits are capable of exercising. With that clear, sure prophetic vision with which its writer…penetrated the tendencies of modern world movements and conditions, she discerned the impending catastrophe to human society and institutions through which we are now passing.” (p.64)

The copy of Mary Anne’s work we hold is the 1918 edition, which contains additional quotes by the writer. It was collected by the writer and librarian R.E.W. Maddison for his ongoing collection of books relating to the history of chemistry and physics, within which there are many books about alchemy. Whilst the language of Hermetism appears somewhat obtuse by today’s standards, Atwood’s work is a fascinating summary of alchemical studies – and a solid testimony that there are many ways to discover the world beyond traditional education.

Bibliography and further reading:

Mary Anne Atwood, A suggestive inquiry into the hermetic mystery : with a dissertation on the more celebrated of the alchemical philosophers, being an attempt towards the recovery of the ancient experiment of nature. William Tait, 1918. University of Kent Special Collections & Archives: Maddison Collection 19A15.

R.A. Gilbert,  ‘Atwood [née South], Mary Anne’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004. DOI: https://doi-org.chain.kent.ac.uk/10.1093/ref:odnb/53866

Robert P. Multhauf and R.A. Gilbert, ‘Alchemy’, Encyclopaedia Brittanica, 2019: https://www.britannica.com/topic/alchemy.

Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island holds the majority of material by Mary Anne Atwood in its Special Collections department.

As ever, more information about the Maddison collection and visiting us can be found on our website.

Eight women in the archives for International Women’s Day 2018

Hello all! March has rolled around again, and now that the snow has melted we can turn our thoughts to the other key event of the month. March is Women’s History Month, and March 8 is International Women’s Day. The theme of this year’s Day is ‘Press for Progress’, which calls on us all to reduce economic, social and political barriers to gender inequality. With this in mind, we thought we’d have a quick look at some of the awesome women whose stories are part of Special Collections & Archives to see how they’ve broken down barriers for their generation and those who came after:

  • Martha A. Hall

MA Medical Humanities seminar using Artists Books, 2017. Martha A. Hall’s work ‘Five Doctors Speak’ is on the lower left.

Martha A. Hall (1949 – 2003) was a poet, teacher, businesswoman and artist based in New England. Hall began making artists’ books in 1996, when she realised that her breast cancer diagnosis could be explored and communicated through creative means. Hall’s work explores lived experiences of illness, and she left her books to public institutions in order to spark dialogue between patients and medical professionals, as well as allowing others to express their feelings around medicine, health and healing.

In 2016, Dr Stella Bolaki and Egidija Čiricaitė curated an exhibition of artists’ books, called Prescriptions, at The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in Canterbury. The exhibition featured several of Hall’s works, as well as other books by artists exploring lived experiences of health. Many of these books (including two of Hall’s) have been deposited to Special Collections & Archives here at Kent.

Martha A. Hall’s books leave an extraordinary legacy, inspiring us to think about the relationship between our bodies, illness and the wider world. Not only does her art express how it feels to live with cancer, but it challenges notions of how narrative is told. You can find more information about Martha A. Hall here and discover Dr Stella Bolaki’s research project here.

  • Linda Smith

Linda Smith (1958 – 2006) was a comedian, writer and broadcaster best known for her work on radio shows ‘Just a Minute’ and ‘The News Quiz’. Born in Kent, her archive was deposited in Special Collections & Archives by her partner Warren Lakin in 2013 and is the founding collection of our British Stand-Up Comedy Archive. Smith’s archives give a unique insight into how stand-up comedy is created, recorded and promoted – and asks many questions of us in terms of how we collected and preserve material that is by its very nature ephemeral and improvised.

Every year, the University of Kent holds a lecture in memory of Linda Smith where we invite a guest to speak about comedy and its relation to social and political commentary. The event also celebrates Linda Smith’s life and work; previous events have featured Mark Thomas, Andy Hamilton and Susan Calman. Stay tuned for details of this year’s speaker!

  • Nowell Johnson

CH6422: Black and white print of Hewlett and Nowell Johnson at the Peking Dance School, China 1964.

Nowell Mary Edwards Johnson (1906 – 1983) was a Canterbury-based artist. She is most well known as the wife of the ‘Red Dean’ of Canterbury Cathedral, Hewlett Johnson, whom she married in 1938.

Nowell supported Hewlett’s passion for socialism, illustrating books with him (‘The Socialist Sixth of the World’, 1939) and travelling to many communist countries. Her diaries, which are held in Special Collections & Archives as part of the Hewlett Johnson papers, give a fascinating account of her travels to China, Hungary and Russia as she records in great detail her activities, the people she met, and the countries themselves. Nowell’s diaries are also beautifully illustrated – often in colour – as she draws scenes from her travels. You can see her determination to support Hewlett as well as her compassion for others and desire to make a genuine difference in the world.

Read more about Nowell’s life here and find out more information about the Hewlett Johnson papers on our website.

  • Valerie Eliot

Valerie Eliot (1926 – 2012) was hugely influential in editing and publishing her late husband T.S. Eliot’s work after his death in 1965. Valerie had been a huge fan of T.S. Eliot’s writing since she was a teenager (there was an almost 40 year age gap between the couple) and was determined to work with him. After T.S. Eliot died, Valerie inherited his shares in the publisher Faber and Faber and edited the 1974 facsimile edition of ‘The Waste Land’, which includes poet Ezra Pound’s annotations to Eliot’s manuscript.

Our Modern Firsts – Poetry and Prose Collection includes many pamphlets of poetry from small presses which have been purchased thanks to a donation by Valerie Eliot. Eliot College on campus is, of course, named after T.S. Eliot and the University was lucky enough to benefit from Valerie’s philanthropy (including a bust of T.S. Eliot by Jacob Epstein) up until her death in 2012. Valerie Eliot’s work in securing her husband’s legacy is vital, but her generous gifts to the University have made a lifetime impact.

  • Catherine Crowe

F191840 – Cover of ‘The Night-Side of Nature’ by Catherine Crowe

Catherine Crowe (1790 – 1872) was a Kent-based author who spent a portion of her life in Edinburgh. Crowe’s fame was established through the publication of ‘The Adventures of Susan Hopley’ (1841, turned into a play in the same year) but it is her later supernatural work that’s garnered long-term recognition, particularly the novel ‘The Night-Side of Nature’ (1848). Crowe had a breakdown in 1854, and after this her creative output was little; however, she was one of the most popular Victorian writers during her life, and it’s a great shame she’s not been recognised widely since.

The University of Kent holds one of the few archives of material relating to Crowe; our Catherine Crowe Collection consists of material relating to Crowe collected by the researcher Geoffrey Larken. Larken wrote a draft autobiography of Crowe as a result of his research, but couldn’t find a publisher for it. In a typical archive twist, it’s now one of the most frequently asked-for items in our collections, with researchers travelling across the world to see it.

  • Flo (Andy Capp cartoons)

AC3803: ” ‘e’s the sort of bloke you want to bring ‘ome to ‘is mother”, 10 May 1970, Reg Smythe for the Daily Mirror

What would a list of SC&A women be without mentioning Reg Smythe’s eponymous long suffering character Flo, wife of the eternally lazy Andy Capp? Flo and Andy are part of one of the most popular British comic strips of all time; it’s been running in the Daily Mirror since 1957. Even though creator Reg Smythe died in 1998, artist Reg Mahoney has taken over as artist. Living in Hartlepool, Andy and Flo are working-class characters. Although there’s debate over how they represent stereotypes of everyday people (Andy doesn’t work and prefers to spend all his time in the pub), the strip has been hugely popular both in the UK and across the world.

The British Cartoon Archive holds over 4600 Andy Capp artworks, which are requested regularly for exhibition across the UK and world. There was even a musical version of Andy and Flo’s adventures, which was revived in 2016.

  • Lynne Parker (founder of the Funny Women comedy community)

Funny Women Awards 2016 poster

In 2002, Lynne Parker established the Funny Women comedy group, which aimed to support and celebrate women working in comedy. The group runs workshops, networking events, comedy classes/open mic nights, and an awards ceremony every year. If you’ve heard of Bridget Christie, Susan Calman, Katherine Ryan, Andi Osho, Kerry Godliman, Sara Pascoe, Zoe Lyons, Roisin Conaty, Holly Walsh or Sarah Millican then Funny Women has done its work – it has supported all of those comedians, plus many more.

In 2016 Lynne donated material relating to the Funny Women community to the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive; it was catalogued last summer and everyone is welcome to view it. Lynne has also been a guest on our Stand-Up Comedy podcast discussing the work of Funny Women, so give it a listen!

  • Modern poetry and Crater Press writers

Anne Carson, Nox

Crater Press – Borthwick Riot Calendar

Verity Spott: Kate’s Dream Diamond Anti-Fatigue Matting Surface

There are so many fantastic women poets in our Modern Firsts Poetry collections, it’s impossible to pick just one out. We could focus on famous writers such as Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf or more contemporary poets like Denise Riley. We could look at the revolutionary, intersectional verse of Audre Lorde. We could discuss the political-personal work of Grace Lake or the genre-defying literature of Anne Carson. We could also look at the role smaller printing presses, like the Crater Press, have in disseminating women’s writing and the space it creates for new dialogues. Instead, however, how about you come in and explore these wonderful writers?

Other utterly fantastic women in the archives include: Josie Long (stand-up comedian), Grizelda (cartoonist), Nina Boucicault (actress), the many women of the Melville dynasty, Monica Bobinska (involved in the Meccano Club) and, of course, the many many actresses in our theatre collections. As ever, do get in touch if you’d like to know more or visit us. Happy International Women’s Day! 

Vote 100: W.K. Haselden and women’s changing role in early 20th century society

This week (6th February, to be exact) marks 100 years since women first gained the right to vote in the United Kingdom. This anniversary is being celebrated across the country and online using #Vote100. Of course, this also gives those of us lucky enough to work with historical collections a chance to explore women’s history in our holdings, so we’re going to be highlighting some of our favourite stories and figures over the next month.

Today, our attention turns to the British Cartoon Archive and a somewhat unexpected supporter of women’s rights – the artist W.K. Haselden…

W.K. Haselden (1872 – 1953) spent most of his career as a cartoonist at the Daily Mirror newspaper, as well as drawing theatrical caricatures for Punch magazine. Haselden is most well known for his art during the First World War – his characters ‘Big and Little Willie’, which mocked Kaiser Wilhelm and his son, were tremendously popular.

Haselden is also famed for shifting his cartooning style from political satire to social commentary. The Daily Mirror, which Haselden joined in its founding year of 1903, was created as a newspaper for women – it focused on human interest stories and had a visual format filled with photographs and images. It is no surprise, then, that women feature heavily in Haselden’s cartoons as the Edwardian era progressed and gender roles were debated extensively in a changing society.

Haselden was broadly flattering towards women, and much of his work suggests that society might be a more pleasant place if women were involved in men’s work, as this cartoon from 1915 shows:

WH1451: ‘Some Trades In Which Women Are Replacing Men’, 12 March 1915, Daily Mirror

Haselden drew on domestic life to highlight the increasing blurring lines between the private and public realms. In 1916’s cartoon ‘Why women may not be lawyers’, ladies’ ability to have the last word proves frustrating in a judicial context:

WH3827, ‘Why women may not be lawyers’, 20th January 1916, Daily Mirror

Haselden was critical of some of the hypocrisy in Edwardian society, particularly around what women were and were not allowed to do. The pencil notes at the top of the following cartoon (‘What women mustn’t do – and why’) begin with ‘If a woman shouldn’t vote because she doesn’t fight…’, alluding to the argument that suffrage should not be granted to women because they could not join the British Army:

WH1217, ‘What Women mustn’t do – and Why’, 17 January 1918, Daily Mirror

Interestingly, Haselden explores areas where men cannot match women’s skill in certain roles, particularly anything relating to domestic labour. During the First World War, women began working in roles which traditionally employed men, but were now empty as soldiers were needed on the Western Front. This led to discussions around men filling women’s roles in return (often with comical consequences):

WH3817, ‘Now that women are doing men’s jobs’, 17 January 1917, Daily Mirror

Haselden wasn’t entirely supportive of women’s involvement in politics, being particularly critical of the suffragette campaigns. His cartoons suggest that the suffragettes’ methods were silly and ineffective, and that getting involved with politics was a look most women would wish to avoid:

WH0827, ‘Some useful strikes that women might adopt’. 12 October 1912, Daily Mirror

WH0522 – ‘Effects of “votes for women” – upon Women’s faces’, 15 December 1910. Daily Mirror

Men were not exempted from criticism of the suffragettes’ cause. In 1912, Haselden jokingly suggested that male responsiveness to women getting the vote depended primarily on the attractiveness of the campaigner in question:

WH1750, ‘His interest in Votes for Women?’, 30 October 1912, Daily Mirror

Haselden’s commentary is one of the joys of exploring the British Cartoon Archive; it’s nuanced but surprisingly light-hearted. Haselden highlights the frivolities of both men and women during the early 20th century, but also points out that a more equal society might not be a bad thing for anyone. And, of course, who can disagree with his point that women’s dresses should have more pockets?! A thoroughly modern man, indeed.

WH4765, ‘When men imitate women’, 30 June 1909, Daily Mirror

Our collection of Haselden cartoons can be explored through the British Cartoon Archive catalogue online, and his books are catalogued on LibrarySearch. To view any of Haselden’s original artworks held in the British Cartoon Archive, please do get in touch with us. 

 

Sources:

Little, D. (2004-09-23). Haselden, William Kerridge (1872–1953), cartoonist and caricaturist. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 5 Feb. 2018, from http://www.oxforddnb.com.chain.kent.ac.uk/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-66122

W.K. Haselden biography at the British Cartoon Archive

https://www.britannica.com/topic/The-Mirror-British-newspaper

Women and warfare

A couple of days ago, on Tuesday 14 May, we were delighted to host the launch of the new Templeman exhibition, Wild Woman to New Woman: Sex and Suffrage on the Victorian Stage.This has been curated by Alyson Hunt and brings together the Mary Braddon Collection of Canterbury Christ Church University, costumes from the Gulbenkian costume store and parts of our own Victorian and Edwardian Theatre Collections.

wildwomen1The launch was started with a lecture by Professor Kate Newey from the University of Exeter, who spoke about the subtle protest in suffragette parlour dramas and the deliberate inversion of the female stereotype by campaigners for womens emancipation. The event then moved to the gallery space in the Templeman Library, where everyone enjoyed this rare opportunity to see such different collections side by side.

In the course of preparing for this exhibition, Alyson discovered a few treasures in our own archives – such as a copy of Ibsen and the Actress inscribed to George Bernard Shaw by playwright, actress and activist Elizabeth Robins, as well as Robins’ own, annotated copy of Both Sides of the Curtain

wildwomen2This exhibition really is an intriguing and entertaining look at the way in which perceptions of women and society as a whole were being challenged a century ago and is only on until 31st May, so please do come and have a look around when you’re next in the Templeman.

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Not content with supporting this new exhibition, Special Collections also has the last in its annual series of lectures next Thursday, 23 May. Keeping the theatrical theme, our focus changes as Dr Helen Brooks discusses Theatre of the Great War (1914-1918), her initial findings in a research project which will span the centenary of World War One. Much of Helen’s work thus far has focussed on our very own Melville Collection, looking at rarely used and sadly undiscovered materials. Do join us to find out more!

The talk will start at 6pm, with refreshments provided from 5.30 in the Templeman Library, TR201. All are welcome – please note that visitors can park in the University car parks for free after 5pm.

We hope to see you there!