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Olivia Janiszewski on Suffrage City
24 November, 2023
In Cynthia Hammond’s text titled “Suffrage City: spatial knowledge and Suffrage Work in Bath, 1909-1913” written in 2013, she answers “how early twentieth-century feminists used the larger space of the city for their cause” (Hammond 133) in response to “the special nature of suffrage activism in Bath” (Hammond 134). Her goal was to understand how women, in the search for the vote, built up the environment of the city of Bath and why the suffrage movement could be reconciled in a small town. This text by Hammond is a prime example of how to develop a method to study space, particularly city space through the feminist lens. She organizes her brief into four motives: “1) the Window 2) the Bicycle 3) the House and 4) the Luggage Tag”(Hammond 133), objects described in the diary of Mary Bathwayst. These motives help her address the movement of bodies through objects that speak to the “routes, access and points of denial facing” (Hammond 133) the city of Bath. Before moving towards the object scale, she explores the city more broadly through mapping seen in Figure 1 to reveal segregations of class and gender in public and private spaces.
For example, the Bath Central skating rink was used for outdoor skating and city events, including many government speeches as it lay on the border between the upper and lower classes of the area. The Liberal Federation used the rink as a stop on their tour to promote the Manhood Suffrage Bill that would bring even more votes to men ultimately making any bill passed on the women’s side obsolete. This event admitted men only. The objects are used to convey experience and feeling as Hammond feels a map couldn’t. The window-smashing, done in an act of rebellion by Mabel Capper, brought attention to the city of Bath as it shed light on a female reacting to inequality. The Bicycle, is an object of great status to Bathwayst’s life, as she recalls her many visits to the ‘Votes for Women’ shop. The Bicycle acts as an instrument for Bathwayst in the year 1910 to complete her busy days working towards women’s rights. The house, where Bathwayst lived, can be referred to as the most relevant building in Bath in regard to suffrage history. Architecturally, it mirrors the rest of Bath in its residential appearance along with hosting many suffrage events and rehearsals. Finally, the luggage tag represents the danger in which the women of Bath put themselves in to serve the fight for the vote. “The luggage tag incidence” where the Bath Golf Course was vandalized by suffragists, was thought by Hammond to possess a “ special spatial knowledge Bath in addition to some materials that spoke directly to gendered spatial experience” (Hammon 148) that a golf course innately has. Cynthia Hammond’s use of the four objects is proven essential when examining a city as a gendered spatial experience. Rendering these events personal allows the reader to understand the suffragists of Bath. The small city allowed for more links between important spaces for the suffrage movement.