“.. the whole difference is the difference of motive …. & I contend that if you recognise the motive you should also recognise the provocation.” 
Suffragette, Frances Parker (1875-1924)
To mark the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 1918 Representation of the People Act twenty renowned and emerging artists were invited to each create an image which was embroidered onto a handkerchief, by London College of Fashion’s specialist embroidery technicians, to mark women’s suffrage.

Embroidered handkerchief with gold and mauve embroidered words in a repeating pattern "Women inspiring women". Photo: Peter Abrahams

Mona Hatoum embroidered handkerchief. Photo: Peter Abrahams

The starting point for this project was a handkerchief, embroidered in 1912 by Suffragettes who were imprisoned at Holloway Prison. Most of the sixty-eight women who embroidered their signatures onto the handkerchief participated in demonstrations in March 1912 organised by the Women’s Social & Political Union. They were denied the status of political prisoners and many were force-fed.

While men might have more commonly lived by their pen, the needle gave women agency in education (by learning to read and write whilst simultaneously learning their trade), employment and, where economically and materially possible, in their creativity and self-definition.  The stitched word enabled women to find artistic and even radical expression and is a unifier of women from different class and cultural backgrounds.

Suffragette handkerchief with signatures embroidered in different colour thread. "Votes for Women, Holloway Prison March 1913"

Suffragette handkerchief, 1912. Priest House, West Hoathly. Photography credit: Tom Reeves

The show includes work from emerging artists and LCF alumni, Jo Cope and Francesca Smith,  alongside established names such as Rachel Whiteread, Sarah Lucas and Mona Hatoum.

Handkerchief embroidered with comic breasts with the words Sarah Lucas on them

Sarah Lucas embroidered handkerchief. Photo: Peter Abrahams


Embroidered handkerchief - Abstract pattern in gold, green and purple colours.

Rachel Whiteread embroidered handkerchief. Photo: Peter Abrahams

Motive/Motif: Artists Commemorate the Suffragettes was co-curated by: Charlotte Hodes Professor in Fine Art, LCF and Centre for Fashion Curation member Alison Moloney, Curator and Research Fellow, LCF.

The exhibition is at Vestry House in Walthamstow until 9th June 2019.

More projects by Alison Moloney