Pam’s Pictorama Post: I prefer to eschew political posts, especially at a time when I think we are all quite exhausted by the news, but one aspect I have embraced is the importance of voting. Back in November I posted about Kim and I waiting in line to vote and my general nerdiness on the subject (that post can be found here), and the right to vote for all and in particular woman’s suffrage, has long been of interest to me. The long, painful and often bloody fight for the vote means it was acquired at great cost by our forebearers. At the very least we should exercise the right, even when we feel disenfranchised or like our choices are poor ones.
One of my long-standing favorite posts was devoted to Sylvia Pankhurst (a fascinating woman – a recent new biography was just published on her) who I first I stumbled across because she started an East London factory to employ indigent woman and what do you think they produced? Felix the cat toys! (That post can be found here.)
Meanwhile, this black cat was listed in a Hake’s auction. In addition to toys, Hake’s always has absolutely fascinating political items in their larger sales which are fascinating to look through. The arrival of the Hake’s catalogue is always a cause for some joy in this house and I like to curl up with it in bed, showing Kim the highlights as I work my way through. (There is an earlier post where I sing the praises of the Hake’s catalogue and it can be found here.) My kitty has a small chip on the back, some paint wear like on his ears, and the e! has either worn or was never fully painted.
Suffrage items are popular and generally sell for a premium, but this little guy must have slipped through most folks notice and I managed to acquire him, barely contested. The listing had almost no information and I took this for a piece from the American suffrage movement, although research now shows that it was likely marketed in Great Britain. It has an opening at the back, quite small, and has been listed as a vase as a result. If you want one and aren’t as lucky as I was, it would seem you can acquire one, but at a significant price.
This kitty is a German made item, from a company called Schafer & Vater (1890-1962), although unmarked. It is unquestionably in the style and identified as such by many sources. Schafer & Vater specialized in comical hard ceramic and ceramic paste items and made a few variations on these suffrage items.
Of course some of my curiosity was around why a cat or black cat to represent the cause. One site explains that there were anti-suffrage advertisements promoting the idea that if women got the vote their husbands would be stuck doing housework and with the family cat. Or that women were too delicate – kittenish. In response the women’s movement adopted the black cat as a symbol. (Incidentally, the British don’t seem to have this wonkiness about black cats being unlucky – in fact they seem to embrace them as being good luck!)
In this country, Nell Richardson and Alice Burke undertook a five-month drive across the country with their black kitten Saxon to promote the vote for women. Shown below, Saxon sadly not in view.
Posters proliferated with cat images. I especially like one very much in the style of Louis Wain below, by an artist named Ellam Down. He seemed to have a line of anthropomorphic animal postcards, but may be best known for this one today. I may have to research him a bit more – perhaps a future post?