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"Politics, performance and popular culture"Theatre and society in nineteenth-century Britain$
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Peter Yeandle, Katherine Newey, and Jeffrey Richards

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780719091698

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719091698.001.0001

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Women’s suffrage and theatricality

Women’s suffrage and theatricality

(p.111) 6 Women’s suffrage and theatricality
"Politics, performance and popular culture"

Sos Eltis

Manchester University Press

Eltis explores the ways in which the women’s suffrage campaign was performative, surveying the connections between suffrage activism, theatre, and protest. The campaign for Votes for Women was the first political movement to use the arts deliberately and strategically. The theatricality at the heart of women’s political activism from the last decades of the nineteenth century until the First World War was not, however, simply a matter of making clear the popularity of their demands. Feminist activists and writers were also deploying spectacle and performance tactically to challenge notions of woman’s ‘true nature’, her ‘natural’ sphere of activity, and what constituted ‘womanliness’. Militant acts of civil disobedience and symbolic violence against property were inherently theatrical, not designed to instil fear or seriously to undermine the infrastructure of government, but rather to command public attention to the passionate commitment of the suffragettes, and their rejection of existing male-controlled systems of law and justice.

Keywords:   Suffrage, Suffragettes, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, spectacle

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