Today I met Dr Desna Greenhow from the Watts Gallery. She is transcribing Mary Watts’ diaries for publication in 2016, the same year Limnerslease (the home of George and Mary Watts) is due to open.
I wanted to look at the archives to see if there were works that Mary had created in response to suffrage, as she was head of a suffrage organisation, along with Gertrude Jekyll her friend. Desna is a wealth of information on Mary and she said with confidence that there were no examples of her work that related directly to suffrage, but her ethos and the way she lived her life was that of a women who cared deeply about equality. Desna showed me some of her diaries. The writing is so small you could go blind trying to work it out!
While we were talking, Chloe Kroeter, who is also working in the archives, joined in the conversation. She had done her PhD on women and activism and she had a book called the Spectacle of Women – imagery of the suffrage campaign 1907-14 by Lisa Tickner. She went home and collected it for me. She said that she was writing a book on the subject and we should talk. Serendipity.
I’ve started reading the book – a paragraph that stands out is where Vida Levering, the heroine of Elizabeth Robins’ suffragette novel The Convert, is heckled by a student in the crowd: ‘Where is their Michelangelo? Where is their Plato? Where’s the woman Shakespeare?’ Vida asks instead, ‘How many Plato’s are there in this crowd? Not one! Yet that doesn’t keep you men off the register! How many Shakespeare’s are there in all England today? Not one. Yet the state doesn’t tumble to pieces! Railroads and ships are built, homes are kept going, and babies are born. The world goes on…by virtue of its common people.’
Later today I meet up with Jenny Lewin, an old friend and great architect.
We walked and talked about my ideas for Parliament and she told me to check out ICOMOS, the International Council On Monuments and Sites. She is sending me the summary of ethical considerations to check against my work. Exactly what I needed…Hooray!
Dr Maya Angelou, the American poet and author died today – a great woman and an inspiration.