8/16 Our hotel room has a bay window with a brocade cushion. I am sitting there looking out through tree leaves onto a street just 100 yards from Trafalgar Square with a large fountain and a towering column with Lord Nelson standing
atop. Double decker buses, cars, pedestrians swirl around the Square. The National Gallery spans one side; a Waterstone bookstore is at our corner, where people pitch tents for their night lodging (3 tents this morning). It is a bee hive of buskers (street performers), protest activity, e.g., the Homeless Poet who chalks elegant script anti-money and pro-love messages on the stone plaza. Two huge groups gathered in the Square to march down Whitehall Street, the half mile to Parliament Square—“Fight for Freedom Stand with Hong Kong” and Vegans/Animal Rights. During our walk down Whitehall, I spotted a hulking Memorial to the Women of World War II in the middle of the wide street. Sculpted by
John W. Mills and unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005, I would rate it as the most
peculiar memorial to women I have ever seen. Attached mid-way up a block of black granite—22 feet high, 16 feet long and 6 feet wide—are 17 individual sets of clothing and uniforms representing all the ways women served during World War II. I found the empty garments disturbing, actually creepy. It is in stark contrast to the statues across the street of high-ranking military men in uniforms bedecked with medals. (Click on a picture to enlarge)
8/17 We revisited the National Portrait Gallery and discovered wonderful portraits: Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature by Leonard William McCo
mb; Dorothy Hodgkin, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry,
portrayed by artist Maggie Hambling with the structural model of the four molecules of insulin that she had defined and with four hands to “indicate energy and activity;” a featureless Virginia Woolf by her sister Vanes
Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel Wright; and
Emmeline Pankhurst painted by Georgina Agnes Brackenbury in 1927, the year before Emmeline died, just months before the Act that finally enfranchised all women over the age of 21.
8/18 We took the underground to Hyde Park where on a Sunday, 111 years ago (June 21, 1908), 30,000 women carrying 700 banners marched in seven processions along different routes for a demonstration and rally. Organized by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, treasurer of the WSPU and co-editor with her husband Frederick of “Votes for Women,” it was said to be the largest demonstration held up to that time in Great Britain. She asked women to wear white and selected purple, white, and green as the official colors. Purple for “dignity,” she said, white for “purity,” and
green for “hope.” Stores advertised white dresses and tricolor scarves. Half a million people lined the routes and gathered in the park to listen to suffrage speakers. Alice Paul, who was studying in London and would become a key leader in the American fight, was inspired by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence’s speech to join the WSPU. Men participated, including George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, Thomas Hardy.
From the entrance to Hyde Park, we walked a half mile to the Royal Albert Hall, the site of memorable speeches and events held by suffragettes, suffragists, and anti-suffragist. Suffragettes called it their “Temple of Liberty.” Seeing the distinctive dome with the great mosaic frieze come into view, I thought of Helen Ogston, dubbed “The Lady with the Whip,” who interrupted a Liberal Party meeting and used her dog whip to fight off guards
who tried to remove her. Of great importance to the American fight was when Alva Belmont heard Emmeline Pankhurst speak in Royal Albert Hall and was fired up to switch her considerable financial resources and prodigious energy from the staid National American Woman Suffrage Association to the upstart National Woman’s Party, founded by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.
We took the double-decker bus back to Trafalgar Square, where we revisited a statue we had serendipitously discovered located across from the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery: the Edith Cavell Memorial by George Frampton dedicated in 1920. Edith Cavell was a British nurse who tended to soldiers regardless of which side they fought on during World War I. Accused of treason for helping 200 soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium, she was tried, convicted, and executed by a German firing squad on October 12,
1915. The figure of Cavell dressed in her nurse’s uniform is ten feet high. The pylon is forty feet high. The inscription on the front reads: “Edith Cavell/Brussels/Dawn/October 12th, 1915/Patriotism is not enough/I must have no hatred/bitterness for anyone.” The words are what she said to a chaplain the night before her execution. They were added in 1924 at the request of the National Council of Women.
Tomorrow, 8/19, we have a very early wake-up call for a taxi to the airport. When I get the inevitable question: What did you like best about your trip? Without hesitation I will answer EVERYTHING!