The spectacle of masculinity: Men and the visual culture of the suffrage campaign

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This 8,000-word chapter was invited as part of a peer-reviewed volume to mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act (6 February 1918) which granted to vote to women in the United Kingdom. The volume addressed the complex issue of Suffrage’s intersection with art and design and this chapter was unique in that it addressed the role of male artists and designers in supporting or opposing the enfranchisement of women. It drew on previously unpublished archives of organisations such as the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage and the Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement held at The Women’s Library, London School of Economics. It also utilised archives in Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin and elsewhere in the UK and Ireland.

The chapter offers a completely new perspective on Suffrage history. Previously it was assumed that the majority of men were opposed to it. This was not the case. The chapter is illustrated visual and material responses by men, from postcards to banners and badges, that have never been published before, some were photography especially for the volume. It also offered much contextual imagery, also previously unseen.

Aside from uncovering a hidden history the chapter’s impact is further evident in its re-consideration of debates about masculinity and homosexuality as historical constructions. Several reviews of the book have singled out the chapter, and its use of queer theory in particular, as “innovative” and “intersectional” in challenging widely held assumptions about gender (see Twentieth-Century British History; Women’s History Review). The chapter built on research for the monograph, Queering the Subversive Stitch: Men and the Culture of Needlework, to be published by Bloomsbury in 2021 and is currently offered as part of the Bloomsbury Design Library.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSuffrage and the Arts: Visual Culture, Politics and Enterprise
EditorsMiranda Garnett, Zoë Thomas
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781350011830
ISBN (Print)9781350011861
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 20 Sept 2018


  • Suffrage
  • masculinity
  • homosexuality
  • politics
  • embroidery


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