A university has launched a campaign to tie in with the release of Sarah Gavron’s film Suffragette this week.
What is now Royal Holloway, University of London was opened by Queen Victoria as the all-female Royal Holloway College in 1886 and did not admit male undergraduates until 1965. Several suffragettes studied there, including Emily Wilding Davison (played by Nathalie Press in the film), who was fatally injured after she stepped out in front of the King’s horse during the Derby on 4 June 1913.
In order to “celebrate our pioneering history and the leading role our founders played in the advancement of women in higher education”, but also to “look to the future and champion our current inspirational women and the role they can play in inspiring both male and female students”, says principal Paul Layzell, RHUL decided to create its new “Women Inspire” campaign.
A website includes inspirational quotes; podcasts in which five female academics – specialising in English, geography, history, management and physics – describe a woman in their field who inspired them; and a video series looking at the university’s cutting-edge research.
Stella Moss, lecturer in history, sets out “five things we can learn from suffrage campaigners”. She notes, for example, how their willingness to “defy convention” through tactics such as “window-breaking and arson attacks – a far cry from the ideals of respectable conduct espoused by etiquette manuals” not only “generated considerable publicity” but “came to be seen as evidence of their political commitment”.
Meanwhile, a quiz titled “Which suffragette are you?” asks visitors to the site questions such as what kind of women they are inspired by, what they are looking for in a partner, what they hope to be remembered for and whether they would seek political change though writing, “break[ing] the law”, “mak[ing] headlines” or “go[ing] on hunger strike”. Their responses flag up a leading suffragette who would have answered the same way.
Another initiative asks students, staff and alumni to photograph themselves holding up a handwritten placard about which woman has inspired them and why. The images will be tweeted using the hashtag #RHWomenInspire.