Historical Notes for ‘The Scandalous Suffragette’

Violet’s story celebrates every woman who ever fought for the rights we enjoy today.

Deeds not Words. Today we might not be able to imagine what it was like to have no vote and few legal rights, but in Violet’s time this battle had not yet been won In 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Movement was founded by Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. They demanded that women to have the right to vote and they were not prepared to wait. “I invited a number of women to my house in Nelson Street, Manchester, for purposes of organization,” wrote Mrs Pankhurst. “We voted to call our new society the Women’s Social and Political Union, partly to emphasise its democracy, and partly to define it object as political rather than propagandist. We resolved to limit our membership exclusively to women, to keep ourselves absolutely free from party affiliation, and to be satisfied with nothing but action on our question. “Deeds, not words” was to be our permanent motto.”
You can find out more from The Pankhurst Centre: http://www.thepankhurstcentre.org.uk/museum-2/suffragette-history

Activists and Militants.
In the early 20th century, frustrated by their lack of progress, the women’s movement splintered into various groups with competing means to achieve the goal of suffrage, including those who used radical and militant means, from civil disobedience to property damage, arrest and even arson. Some suffragettes supported these activities, others thought they harmed the Cause. Violet’s story represents this turbulent period.
Find out more at the British Library: https://www.bl.uk/votes-for-women/articles/suffragettes-violence-and-militancy

Votes for Women!
The suffrage play that Violet, Jane and Arabella discuss was written by Elizabeth Robins, an actress, playwright and ardent suffragette. Many pamphlets, books and plays were written by women to support and broadcast the aims of the Cause. The themes in Votes for Women! capture the mood and conflict of the day. It was first performed in London in 1907 and the script of the play was published by Mills and Boon in 1909, the same year as this story. You can find the play at: https://archive.org/details/votesforwomenpla00robiuoft

Suffrage jewellery like this suffrage watch was worn as a code by some activists.
Read more in this Vogue article about its history. https://www.vogue.com/article/suffrage-jewelry-history.

Chocolate Empires.
The time period in which Violet’s story is set was when great chocolate empires such as Cadbury and Fry had come to prominence. The confectioners generally provided excellent conditions for their workers, including for women. In this, Violet’s goals at Coombes Chocolates factory make her very much a woman of her times. You can discover more about chocolate factories and their history at: https://www.cadbury.co.uk/our-story
If you’d like to taste a floral-flavoured chocolate fondant, try Charbonnel et Walker’s ‘English Rose and Violet Creams’ Grand Ballroom Collection https://www.charbonnel.co.uk/collections/the-grand-ballroom/our-fine-rose-violet-creams-the-grand-ballroom-275g.html (available from Liberty, London) or try those favoured by Buckingham Palace https://www.royalcollectionshop.co.uk/buckingham-palace-rose-and-violet-creams.html

Shrinking Violets.
Are violets shy? The bright purple flowers, from the viola family that includes violets and pansies, are colourful and easily seen. They got their poetic epithet in the 19th century, describing their growing places in the shade and undergrowth. But violets are no wallflowers; they thrive in sunshine too.

The Blue Danube.
Violet and Adam dance at the ball to the immortal waltz ‘The Beautiful Blue Danube’ by Strauss. Take a twirl around the floor yourself. In this rendition by Andre Rieu and his orchestra, the female musicians wear beautiful ball gowns – and watch out for the white-gowned debutantes and their partners who appear on the balcony https://vimeo.com/258077067

Love and Duty.
Interwoven into the story is Tennyson’s poem ‘Love and Duty’ (1842).
The full poem can be read at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/8601/8601-h/8601-h.htm
Full of desire and conflict, it is the inspiration for Violet and Adam’s choices that fortunately for them had a happy ending …


The Scandalous Suffragette Cover

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Violet Creams

A recipe for chocolate fondants, to share on International Women’s Day (March 8th).

Fifteen ounces of granulated sugar
I/2 pint of water
2 teaspoons of glucose
2 tablespoons of violet syrup or violet liqueur
3 tablespoons of double cream
One ounce of icing sugar
Eight ounces of dark couverture (high-quality) chocolate
Violet food colouring
Crystallised violet petals

To make the fondant, place the icing sugar and water in a saucepan, place over a low heat and stir until the sugar is melted. Add the glucose, and bring quickly to the boil. Let it keep boiling until, if you drop a small piece into cold water, it forms a soft ball. When it is at that consistency, turn off the heat. While still warm, add the violet flavouring and colouring, as you desire. Let it cool and add the cream. On a damp marble slab or wooden board, pour on the fondant mixture. With a flat bladed knife, fold the outside of the mixture into the centre, several times. Using icing sugar on your hands when it is cool enough, knead the mixture until smooth and creamy. Let the mixture set for a minimum of three hours. Roll into any shape you fancy. Cover the shapes with the melted chocolate, and allow to set, after topping with a crystallised violet.