The Ritualistic Healing of the Suffragettes


"The suffragettes’ militant activities were shocking for their time. June Purvis describes them as ‘transgressing the gender expectations of Edwardian society’; they unconsciously drew on a history of riotous actions and ritual behaviour that Julius R. Ruff portrays as ‘almost instinctual conduct’.1 Their rebellious behaviour can be read in the context of both early modern riot and festive inversion.  

The historical popular protest drew on the symbolism of ‘the world turned upside down’ – a phrase used by the early American women suffragists and anti-slave campaigners, Sojourner Truth and Angelina Grimke, in the mid 1800s. This carnivalesque concept would flow in both directions. As Ruff says, ‘festival mocking satire and ritual violence’ could quickly turn to ‘direct hostility, mass violence, riot and rebellion’, and riots employed rituals to reorder society"

- Anna FC Smith

For the Pankhurst in the Park centenary edition of NYC based Art511 Magazine, Alexandra Arts commissioned Anna FC Smith to write this article. It’s now been published on the Art511 Mag site, read the full article here. And download the full magazine here