St Clare’s College students reflect – learning about suffrage through MoAD collection objects
On September 23 ten students from the Year 9 and 10 Civics and Citizenship classes visited MoAD (Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House). The purpose of the visit was to participate in a private viewing of MoAD’s collection exploring women's rights and women’s involvement in Parliament.
During the excursion we visited the Bunker and viewed significant items relating to women’s suffrage including items of clothing, a badge, a hunger strike medal, advertisements and a board game. We were aware that the Bunker was a very special place that doesn’t usually have public access. It was privilege to view the items there. It was amazing to hear from the heritage staff about how they collect and maintain objects and to have the learning staff explain the significance of the suffrage items to us.
We had learnt about the suffrage movement previously in class, but the primary source material in MoAD’s collection made the history come alive so much more than a textbook can and it enhanced our understanding of the suffrage movement.
The embroidered 'Votes for Women' stockings in the collection were particularly impactful as they showed that a subtle form of rebellion still made a huge impact. We understood that by wearing the stockings the women were being non-conformist by wearing their skirts slightly shorter than what was acceptable at the time. The hand stitched embroidery on the stockings showed the detail and the effort the women went to to spread their message. We also liked that the feminine nature of the stockings showed that the wearer was still a women and feminine, despite their progressive and political views.
The ‘To Buckingham Palace’ flyer advertising a protest at Buckingham Palace was interesting to see as it was led by Emmeline Pankhurst, someone who we had learnt about in class. The flyer showed us the different forms of advertisements from the past and we compared that to methods used today to advertise protests and advocate for change. Today, movements such as these would be more likely to be advertised in social media posts, rather that flyers printed on paper. This source once again demonstrated the effort and lengths that the suffragettes went to to print flyers with hand drawn illustrations and distribute them throughout major cities.
The Pank-a-Squith Board Game was equally fascinating as it demonstrated a way to inform and advocate for women’s right to vote in a fun, non-confrontational way. Through viewing the board game we learnt the meaning behind the purple, white and green colours that were used throughout the suffrage movement. We reflected on the different audiences this type of source would have reached in comparison to the hunger strikes and protests that were also used.
Year 9 and 10 students from St Clare’s College, Canberra
Read these blogs to learn more about the suffrage objects the students examined in the Bunker: