Suffragette Postcards

 

 

Miss Muriel Matters

MESSAGE:

Dear Marie,

We left Bournemouth with great regret on that lovely morning, it has been finer since we came home so we are not pleased with the way the ‘clerk’ treated us. I saw you again with your mother in the town on Friday, but was on a tram. I thought I would like to introduce you to the ‘hooligan’ I told you about. I have also taken the liberty of sending you one or two papers which you may to look at; of course I don’t want them back. By the by the W.F.L. is not the society which is responsible for the interruption of cabinet minister meetings. And remembrances to Mrs Stainton and love to [...], hoping you’ll have a delightful trip abroad. I so much enjoyed our afternoon together. Your sincerely Eva A. Greenhow.

SENT TO:

Unposted but has address: 36 Hardwick Rd, Palmer’s Green

Aug 30.09

This postcard shows Muriel Matters, a member of the WFL or Women’s Freedom League. The card has a title caption of ‘Votes for Women’ and at the bottom of the card is the caption ‘Miss Muriel Matters of Australia. Lecturer. Women’s Freedom League. 1 Robert Street, Adelphi, London, W.C.’

Muriel Matters (1877-1969) was born in Adelaide, Australia where she became an actress and elocutionist (Crawford, 1999). She came to the UK in 1905 and quickly joined the Women’s Social and Political Union, later moving to the Women’s Freedom League.

Matters was involved in two high profile activities, chaining herself to the grille in the House of Commons and distributing leaflets from a airship. In October 1908 Matters and Helen Fox chained themselves to the grille which allowed women to view but not enter the House of Commons. Crawford (p. 392) quotes Matters as describing it as a ‘vile grille’ and its removal as ‘a symbol of the breaking down of one of the barriers that are between us and liberty’. To the right is a drawing from the Illustrated London News which carried the story shortly after the event. After the chain was cut the two women were ejected from the House and then arrested for disorderly conduct as they  approached the front of the House.

In February 1909 Matters hired an airship, painted ‘Votes for Women’ on it and then along with a pilot, flew it over the House of Commons on its opening day. She distributed leaflets from the airship and was followed on the ground by two other WFL members who drove through towns making speeches. The BBC website has a wonderful audio recording of Matters herself talking about the adventure, originally broadcast in 1939.

About the card

Verso

The National Library of Australia has a short article on Muriel Matters and two other Australian women who were important in the UK fight for women’s suffrage, Nellie Martel and Dora Montefiore. The article, entitled ’Sister Suffragists’, describes the grille incident and the ‘handbills from the clouds’ and has a great photo of Matters on the WFL caravan.

The BBC has an archive audio recording of Muriel Matters describing the airship leaflet drop. It was originally broadcast in 1939.

 

The Illustrated London News, 7th Nov 1908 (635)

Woman officially placed within the House of Commons.

Drawn by our special artist, S. Begg.

The steel link in the woollen wrapping: suffragettes chained to the grille being removed by attendants.

The action of the two Suffragettes in chaining themselves to the grille of the Ladies’ Gallery, and then demanding votes for women, had at least one curious result that does not seem to have been much noticed. When the grille is in place, the ladies behind it are not technically within the House, but so soon as the grille is removed they are in the House. Thus the two Suffragettes in question were actually placed in the House by the attendants of the House. The chains used by the ladies were bound with wool, that no noise might be made while they were being fastened round the grille.