Cambridgeshire

Cambridge University 1908 suffrage banners recreated

Cambridge University students on Suffrage march in 1908 Image copyright Newnham College
Image caption Students from Newnham and Girton colleges carried the original banner through London in 1908

An artist had to learn "lost techniques" to recreate a suffrage banner for Cambridge University.

The original was carried by students from women's colleges Newnham and Girton on marches in London in 1908.

The "very fragile" banner is kept under protective conditions but two replicas are now on display at both colleges.

Artist Annabel O'Docherty had to research the original techniques, materials and paints over the course of a year to make the replica banners.

The original banner was designed by suffrage artist Mary Lowndes and made by students at the colleges.

It was carried in the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies' procession of 13 June 1908 and in several suffrage processions between 1908 and 1913.

Image copyright Newnham College
Image caption Annabel O'Docherty is a former student of Girton College

It features the words: "Better is wisdom than weapons of war", which Newnham College said was added by the students, possibly to indicate they were suffragists rather than suffragettes.

Suffragettes and suffragists both wanted votes for women but they took very different approaches to get it.

The non-violence of suffragists was rejected by suffragettes who frequently damaged property to get what they wanted.

Image copyright Newnham College
Image caption Theatrical costume maker Ms O'Docherty created two replica banners
Image copyright Newnham College
Image caption The original is kept at Newnham College in a protective case

Newnham College said: "Over the years, the skills and techniques to make these beautiful banners have been lost."

Specialist costume maker Ms O'Docherty, a former Girton student, had to learn the art of passementerie in order to create the elaborate tassels and fringes for the banners, which she said "was a decorative craft practised in the home environment at the time, so may well have been within the original makers' skill set".

However, sourcing and dying the yarn, and twisting it using a power drill, turned her home "into a veritable rope-walk for two weeks".

Image copyright Women's Library
Image caption Suffrage artist Mary Lowndes designed the original banner for the Cambridge students

Much of the original material was also no longer available so she had to source suitable alternatives, and even create her own paint as no-one could identify how the 1908 versions had been made.

"The one thing I couldn't recreate was the speckled bamboo used for the pole - no-one could tell me how that might have been created," Ms O'Docherty added.

More on this story