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Writ on Cold Slate.

Only this age that loudly boasts Reform, hath set its seal of vengeance 'gainst the mind, decreeing nought in prison shall be writ, save on cold slate, and swiftly washed away.'

Stock Code 95629

London, The Dreadnought Publishers, [1922].

Original price £3,750.00 - Original price £3,750.00
Original price £3,750.00
£3,750.00 - £3,750.00
Current price £3,750.00
Rare women's suffrage artefact. A scarce collection of poems written by Pankhurst during one of her numerous terms in prison.

Born in Old Trafford in 1882, Sylvia Pankhurst was influenced in her youth by the political activism of her parents, Emmeline and Richard Marsden Pankhurst, who were members of the Fabian Society and the Independent Labour Party and helped establish the Women's Franchise League. Wishing to become an artist, she attended Manchester Art School and, from 1904, Chelsea's Royal College of Art. Her work, which combined socialist realism and Pre-Raphaelite allegory, was influenced by her art teacher, Walter Crane. Following Pankhurst's arrival in London, her parents' friend, Keir Hardie, became an important figure in her life. On his return from visiting India in 1909, he discussed with her his findings and opinions. Increasingly involved with the Women's Social and Political Union, Pankhurst devoted her energies from 1906 onward to fighting for women's suffrage, becoming known for her militancy. Using journalism to fund her activism, she wrote a series of articles on women's labour for the WSPU newspaper, Votes for Women, visited America on a lecture tour, and in 1911 published The Suffragette on the movement's history.

A committed socialist, Pankhurst became involved with working women in London's East End, and supported George Lansbury, M.P. when he stood for re-election in Bromley-by-Bow on a women's suffrage ticket. In 1913 she established the militant East London Federation of Suffragettes, which supported trade union struggles including the Dublin lock-out. Pankhurst founded the Woman's Dreadnought in 1914, later renamed the Workers' Dreadnought, through which she came into contact with Rajani Palme Dutt, who contributed articles to the paper from 1917 until her split with the Communist Party in 1921.

During the First World War she led anti-war campaigns, continued her social welfare work, and began to support revolutionary movements. She met Lenin after the war and, in 1920, helped form the British Communist Party from which she was later expelled. In 1924 she moved to Red Cottage in Woodford Green, where she was joined by Silvio Erasmus Corio, an Italian exile who had briefly converted to Islam in the early 1920s. At this time she wrote India and the Earthly Paradise, a 'romantic Communist' contribution to Indian nationalism which 'may have been the last result of her contacts with fringe elements of that movement' and was published in Bombay in 1926.

She gave birth to her only child, Richard Keir Pethick, in 1927 at the age of 45 and because she refused to marry the father her mother disowned her. In the 1930s Sylvia Pankhurst committed herself to promoting peace, fighting fascism, assisting Jewish refugees and supporting Spanish republicans. Ethiopian independence became a consuming concern following the Italian invasion. In 1935 she established the journal New Times and Ethiopian News, which publicised and supported Haile Selassie's anti-colonial campaign. With her son, Pankhurst went to live in Ethiopia in 1956 and died in Addis Ababa in 1960.

On October 23rd, 1906, a group of suffragettes led by Mrs Pankhurst herself infiltrated into the lobby of the House of Commons and started a protest meeting. They were bundled out into the street by policemen, there was what Sylvia Pankhurst called 'a scrimmage' and ten of the women were arrested. When they came up in Cannon Street police court the next day, the magistrate refused to listen to them and peremptorily ordered them to be bound over to be of good behaviour for six months or go to prison for six weeks. They protested and demanded the right to be heard in their own defence but the magistrate had them removed by the police

At this point Sylvia walked into the courtroom and complained that women who wanted to give evidence in the case had not been allowed in. Promptly dragged out into the street by force, she tried to make a speech to an interested crowd, but was hauled back into the court again, charged with obstruction and sentenced to pay a pound fine or go to prison for fourteen days. Choosing prison, she was taken to the women's gaol at Holloway with the others in a Black Maria.

Once there, after hours of waiting, they were strip-searched and made to take a bath (the baths, Sylvia wrote, were 'indescribably dirty' and the water 'clouded with the scum of previous occupants') and then dress in scratchy prison clothes, stamped in black with the broad arrow. On their heads they wore white cotton caps fastened under the chin, and each was provided with a handkerchief to last for a week. They were then marched along corridors and up flights of stairs to be locked one by one in small, stone-floored, iron-doored cells. There was a plank bed with a mattress and pillow 'as hard and comfortless as stone', as well as a wooden stool, a single wooden spoon and a tin plate and pint mug, a bit of hard yellow soap and a thin towel, a rudimentary brush and comb, a tin wash-basin and slop-pail, and items of cleaning equipment.

Sylvia was released on November 6th. She would be imprisoned many more times and subjected to forcible feeding when she staged hunger strikes.

Scarce; no other copy shown in auction records in the last 40 years. COPAC lists five copies.

First and only edition, 8vo, 47, (1) pp., text browned, very short, closed tear to edge of half title, publisher's printed wrappers, advert on rear panel for the author's 'Soviet Russia, As I Saw It', light browning to spine, closed split to base of spine otherwise very good.


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Writ on Cold Slate.


Stock code: 95629



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