Lucienne Boyce is that rare creature, a writer of both history books and historical novels. I’d previously immensely enjoyed her debut novel, To the Fair Land, to the extent that I was up for reading anything else she’d written whatever the genre.
I was therefore keen to pick up a copy of The Bristol Suffragettes, a non-fiction book drawing attention that reminds us that the women’s suffrage movement was not as Londoncentric as if often supposed.
A Story That Deserves to be Told
As a Londoner who has lived in or near Bristol for nearly half my life, I never realised that there was a significant local Suffragette movement here, and this book provides a detailed and fascinating description of their activities and impact in and around Bristol.
Included is a map of a Bristol city walk that includes particularly significant places, e.g. their official shop on Park Street, which was attacked and torched by university students as revenge for the Suffragettes burning down their sports pavilion. Phew – heady stuff!
But their protests were mainly relatively harmless and non-violent. I love their idea of sending letters to MPs laced with snuff or pepper – certainly a way to get their attention without causing loss of life or limb!
A Moving Account of a Shameful Age
Although Lucienne Boyce is a passionate feminist, she narrates this story with detachment and objectivity, yet it is still very moving – and probably the more so because of her professional and clinical approach. I hadn’t realised before that the cause of the suffragettes’ militancy was incredible rudeness and intolerance not only from male MPs but from much of the rest of the population. Even other women were campaigning AGAINST giving women the vote – shocking!
But the Suffragettes had the moral high ground, giving up their campaign as soon as the First World War broke out, so as to put all their energies into the war effort instead. Ironic that it was this that eventually brought them the vote (though not on equal terms with men until a decade after it had ended).
Special mention should be made of the book’s beautiful presentation and design, using the Suffragettes’ distinctive colours, adding to the pleasure of reading it.
A Book You’ll Want to Share
In all, a fascinating book, with lots of snippets that you’ll want to read out to anyone who happens to be nearby (“Did you know….?”) I learned a great deal from reading it and my respect for these brave, determined ladies (and the occasional gentleman supporter)has grown enormously. My copy has also done the rounds of friends in the local Women’s Institute, who are hoping she may be able to come to speak to them about it. (Lucienne Boyce does a lot of public talks on this period of history and also in connection with To the Fair Land and her latest historical crime novel, Bloodie Bones.)
Apparently she is now working on a second history book, a biography of a lesser known but highly significant member of the Suffragette movement, which I’m sure will be a fascinating read.
To buy The Bristol Suffragettes online click here or order it from your local bookseller quoting ISBN 978-1781321065. (See sidebar for links to find your nearest bookstore.)
To find out more about Lucienne Boyce’s writing, visit her website: www.lucienneboyce.com.
To read my review of To the Fair Land, click here.