A life-sized model of a suffragette named Hope, built from 32,327 LEGO bricks, is on display at Gladstone’s Library until April 4. Members of the public are invited to have a cup of tea and a selfie with the model, which took three people 171 hours to build, and to find out more about the fight for voters’ rights.
Hope was originally commissioned by the UK Parliament in 2018 and stood in the House of Commons before going on tour around the UK. It is fitting that Hope has taken up temporary residence at Gladstone’s Library, as the current Library building goes back to 1902, opening a year before the British Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst.
Assistant librarian Isobel Goodman, who helped organize Hope’s arrival, emphasised how the founder of the Library had a long and complicated relationship with the cause.
She said: “The fight for women’s suffrage was ongoing even before the Pankhurst’s set up the WSPU: it was being debated in parliament and William Ewart Gladstone, who founded what is now Gladstone’s Library, gave speeches on the subject.
“He knew Millicent Fawcett who was one of the leading suffrage campaigners of the day and he had copies of Mary Wollstonecraft’s work too. Our foundation collection and Glynne-Gladstone archive are those of a 19th-century prime minister, and so the recurring political debates of the day, like suffrage, are reflected in those.
“We have books and pamphlets which belonged to William Gladstone as well as copies of his speeches on the subject, and we have letters in the archive where he discusses these topics with his friends and colleagues.”
Hope is available to view in the Gladstone Room, alongside display banners that offer information about the fight for universal suffrage in the early 20th Century and about democracy today.
The term suffragette was originally designed to minimise the efforts of women who campaigned for the right to vote by engaging in protests that included militant tactics and actions like hunger strikes.
However, it was soon embraced by campaigners who still pushed for full suffrage after some women were granted the right to vote as sections of society remained ineligible to cast a ballot until the Equal Franchise Act 1928 came into effect.
Staff at Gladstone’s Library have been highlighting elements of its collections to mark Women’s History Month, including daily social media posts looking at women writers and blogs on the Volume page of the website. You can find these at http://www.gladstoneslibrary.org
Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden is a unique institution. It is Britain’s finest residential library and its only Prime Ministerial library. It was founded by the Victorian statesman William Ewart Gladstone and houses thousands of books including his personal collection and contemporary literature. The current building, opened in 1902, was funded by public subscription. In addition to the Reading Rooms, which are accessible to registered Readers, it offers overnight stays and in-house catering to guests and visitors. It is free to sign up as a Reader. The library is located in Flintshire, near the Cheshire border. It is 20 minutes from Mold and 25 minutes from Chester.