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Edith Downing

John Simkin

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Downing joined the Central Society for Women's Suffrage in 1903 and its successor, London Society for Women's Suffrage in 1906. Downing became frustrated by the lack of success of these organisations and in 1908 she joined the Women Social & Political Union. The following year she made small portraits of Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney, that were sold for WSPU funds.

Downing joined forces with Marion Wallace-Dunlop to organise a series of spectacular WSPU processions. The most impressive of these was the Woman's Coronation Procession on 17th June 1911. Flora Drummond led off on horseback with Charlotte Marsh as colour-bearer on foot behind her. She was followed by Marjorie Annan Bryce in armour as Joan of Arc.

The art historian, Lisa Tickner, described the event in her book The Spectacle of Women (1987): "The whole procession gathered itself up and swung along Northumberland Avenue to the strains of Ethel Smyth's March of the Women... The mobilisation of 700 prisoners (or their proxies) dressed in white, with pennons fluttering from their glittering lances, was, as the Daily Mail observed, "a stroke of genius". As The Daily News reported: "Those who dominate the movement have a sense of the dramatic. They know that whereas the sight of one woman struggling with policemen is either comic or miserably pathetic, the imprisonment of dozens is a splendid advertisement."


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