As part of its Women and Power programme the National Trust has just opened a new exhibition at Killerton House near Exeter, Votes for Women?
This year being the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act which gave some women the right to vote in parliamentary elections, the exhibition explores the campaign for women’s suffrage but, at Killerton House, the history of the suffrage movement has a more personal resonance with two generations of the same family taking opposite sides in the argument.
The Killerton estate was bought by the Acland family in the Elizabethan period and remained in the family’s ownership until 1944 when it was left to the National Trust. Gertrude Acland helped to found Exeter’s anti-suffrage league and she and her husband, Charles, hosted an anti-suffrage garden party at the house. Gertrude’s niece, Eleanor, meanwhile, was a member of the Liberal Women’s Suffrage Union although she was concerned that the suffragists’ violent tactics would undermine their campaign.
The exhibition is running alongside a new fashion collection which explores the use of fashion by the suffrage campaign, Branded: Fashion, Femininity and the Right to Vote, which will show how fashion became politicised during the campaign.