Category Archives: Food

Suffrage activists loved their teas and parties: Part II

by Kenneth Florey

English suffrage activist Sylvia Pankhurst was responsible for the design of several tea sets.  One, commissioned by the WSPU from the Diamond China Company for their refreshment stall at the Scottish WSPU Exhibition in Glasgow in 1910, was also available for sale after the event. Here Pankhurst’s angel with clarion was now facing right.  A thistle, the national flower, was included in the image.  A third set, probably also attributable to her and certainly the rarest of all English suffrage tea china, pictured the image taken from the Holloway Prison Badge that was given to all WSPU martyrs for the cause.

The prison gate was drawn in green, and the prison arrow, which all suffrage prisoners were forced to wear on their dresses, was in dark purple.  The Women’s Freedom League, the militant but non-violent organization that broke away from the WSPU over policy differences, also produced china that probably consisted in part of teacups and saucers, but no independently produced full tea services are known.

One of the first suffrage “collectibles,” a piece that was made for display only and had no utilitarian value at all, was a silver commemorative spoon that was designed by Millie Burns Logan of Rochester, New York in 1891.  It featured a bust of Susan B. Anthony at the tip of the handle, her name, and the words “Political Equality.”  While there are about five different types of spoons known in this design, including a walnut spoon,” at least two are associated only with tea, including a small demitasse variety as well as a full teaspoon.  Logan’s mother was Anthony’s cousin, and the spoons were probably sold as a fundraiser and not for personal profit. Other commemorative silver teaspoons were later produced, including one ordered by NAWSA for their convention in 1912.

NAWSA, as well as other suffrage groups, also sold special “Votes for Women” paper napkins, which, although theoretically could be used with any type of meal or refreshment, probably were quite popular at suffrage tea parties.  Certainly, not all suffrage “tea events” necessarily involved special tea or “Votes for Women” cups, saucers, and napkins.  However, enough of them did, in part to encourage the sale of such suffrage artifacts, and in part to reinforce the message of the day.  If one were not encouraged sufficiently by a speaker to contribute to the cause, either through money or through work, perhaps the very tea cup that one was drinking from reinforced the compelling message of the movement.++

Link to Part I of the story about suffrage tea memorabilia. Did you like this article? Subscribe to Suffrage Wagon News Channel. LINK.

Ken’s new book on suffrage memorabilia will be published in the Spring/Summer of 2013. See article. The author’s web site. The video photos are from Florey’s suffrage memorabilia collection.

A hot cup of tea with your suffrage history lesson: Part I

TeaMemorabilia

by Kenneth Florey

That there was more than a casual connection between tea and suffrage activism is undeniable.  Suffragists organized tea parties to promote their cause and to raise money, as evidenced by many of the state reports that appear in Volume VI of The History of Woman Suffrage, a work that was originally conceived by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

Further references to suffrage tea parties are scattered throughout the pages of the Woman’s Journal, where they are sometimes held up as models to advance “votes for women.” The Woman’s Journal, the most popular and longest lasting of all suffrage publications in America, was for a time the official organ of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the main periodic source for all things suffrage related.

SPECIAL BRAND OF TEA FOR SUFFRAGE EVENTS AND FUNDRAISING

But there was also a manufacturing component involved, and “suffrage tea,” along with its ancillary products, was sold to the general public and proved to be a successful fundraiser.  During the California campaign of 1911, for example, the Oakland Amendment League had a suffrage booth at the Cherry Festival at San Leandro where they dispensed, among other items, “Equality Tea.”  This tea was a special brand for the campaign manufactured for the Woman Suffrage Party that was also sold by other organizations to raise money at their events.

The Pennsylvania Woman Suffrage Association advertised their own “Suffrage Tea in a Special Box” for fifty cents. In England, the Women’s Social and Political Union began selling in 1910 “Votes for Women Tea” in half pound and one pound packets.  When WWI began, the English movement, which produced a greater variety of suffrage memorabilia than did its counterpart in America, placed a semi-halt on the sale of artifacts, perhaps considering novelty items to be inappropriate during darker times.

Suffrage tea was an exception and continued to be offered through suffrage periodicals.  It is unfortunate that given its ephemeral nature, no tea, or even its attendant packaging, appears to have survived from the period, although one hopes that some examples may as yet emerge.

SUFFRAGE TEA CUPS AND TEA SETS, MOSTLY ENGLISH

There are a number of suffrage tea cups and tea sets known, but most of them are English.  The National American Woman Suffrage Association did offer for sale in its 1915 catalog a demitasse cup and saucer for fifty cents each that were embellished with the words “Votes for Women” on a small, elegant gold rim.  The setting was made for them by Hutschenreuther Selb Bavaria and imported by the Art China New York Import Company. Alva Belmont, Newport socialite and founder of the Political Equality Association, sold a small creamer for twenty-five cents that was inscribed “Votes for Women” in cobalt blue at the suffrage shop that was connected to both her headquarters and the Association’s lunchroom in New York City.

The Women’s Political and Social Union sold the most famous of the English sets at their huge bazaar at the Prince’s Skating Rink in Knightsbridge, London, held from May 13 to 26, 1909.  Manufactured by the firm of Williamsons of Longton, Staffordshire, various distinct pieces included teacups and saucers, small cake plates, a teapot with lid, a small milk jug, and a sugar basin or bowl.

In 1911, the WSPU remade the set in a slightly larger size, expanded the number of items in it from 13 to 22, and sold it for ten shillings, six pence to the general public.  All pieces featured an imprint with a design by Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of WSPU founder Emmeline Pankhurst, of an angel facing left, blowing a curved horn.  In the background are prison bars and the initials of the WSPU.  Above the angel is a banner upon which the word “Freedom” is inscribed.

COMING SOON: The second part of the special feature by Ken Florey about suffrage movement tea memorabilia.” Ken’s new book on suffrage memorabilia will be published in the Spring/Summer of 2013. See article. The author’s web site. Photos above are from the author’s suffrage memorabilia collection.

American apple pie wasn’t sacred to Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Photo by Sage Ross

Photo by Sage Ross

Suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton wasn’t afraid to tackle any subject and make a few enemies along the way. Her position on American apple pie is one example. The Brits had pie right, Stanton said. They didn’t use a bottom crust, for it would inevitably become soggy. Her views on the subject were laid out in a collection of her writings:

“Mr. Gurney’s dig at our pie referred to the soggy undercrust so many of our American cooks persist in making. The English never have an undercrust to their pies, one of the few respects, it seems to me, in which English cooking, which is generally atrocious, is superior to our own, which also belongs in many respects to the atrocious order. The English put the fruit in a deep dish and simply spread a nice light crust over it. If there be women, or men either for the matter of that, in the United States who know how to make a crisp undercrust and bake it to the well-done point, let them produce the perfect American pie. But if they cannot accomplish this difficult feat, let us have done with our national raw, soaked undercrust of dough, which is why du=yspepsia has attacked one-half of our men, who will eat pie whether it is good, bad or indifferent.

“Though these lines were written in 1840, they still hold good to-day. Pie is still with us, and so is the abominable undercrust. All travelers can testify to
seeing some son of Adam at every railway station in America running for the cars with a great piece of pie in his hand, which to withstand such wear and tear must have an undercrust as tough as sole leather. Yet the prospective presidents of this great republic all eat it, and will to the end of time.”

From Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s writings, a free ebook online.

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