Pank-a-Squith Board Game #2011-0099
Pank-a-Squith board game, comprising game board, instruction leaflet, and six lead suffragette tokens in cardboard box.
The issue of female suffrage was one of the major unresolved questions in western democracies in the early decades of the twentieth century. Many activists looked to Australia as the exemplar of progressive democratic leadership, because Australian women had won both the vote and the right to stand for parliament at a national level in 1903. Australians were also active in suffrage campaigns overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom, in the years just prior to the First World War.
The formation of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903 marked a break from the politics of demure persuasion that characterised the earlier period of the suffrage campaign. Frustrated at the lack of progress from years of moderate speeches and promises about women’s suffrage from members of parliament, Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the WSPU,and several colleagues decided to abandon these patient tactics in favour of more militant ones. Emmeline later wrote that ‘Deeds, not words, was to be our permanent motto.’ (E. Pankhurst, My Own Story, 1914, p.38). Over several years the actions of WPSU members became increasingly physical and violent. Emmeline herself was jailed several times for her actions, the first time in 1908 when she tried to enter Parliament to deliver a protest resolution to Prime Minister Asquith. She spoke out against the conditions of her first incarceration, protesting at the tiny amounts of food she received, the vermin, and the hardship of solitary confinement. In 1908 two WSPU members, Edith New and Mary Leigy, threw rocks at the windows of the Prime Minister’s home at 10 Downing Street. Emmeline Pankhurst expressed her approval of the action. In 1909 the WSPU added hunger strikes to their list of resistance tactics. As various members were jailed they expressed their horror at the conditions by refusing food, thus helping to publicise their cause. Prison authorities often force-fed the women through tubes inserted in their nose or mouth, a painful technique that was condemned by both suffragists and medical professionals. Pankhurst went on many hunger strikes and wrote of the ordeal: ‘Holloway became a place of horror and torment. Sickening scenes of violence took place almost every hour of the day, as the doctors went from cell to cell performing their hideous office.’ (E. Pankhurst, The Suffragette Movement, 1931, pp.251-2).
The Women’s Press was founded as the WSPU’s publishing arm, producing the weekly newspaper Votes for Women from 1907. From 1908 The Women’s Press stocked various purple, white and green products and novelties such as brooches and badges, scarves, ties, hatpins, flags and so on. The colour scheme had been devised by the co-editor of Votes for Women, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, who wanted suffragists to cover themselves in the colours which, she said, represented “purple…for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette…white stands for purity in private and public life…green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring.” (D. Atkinson, The Purple, White & Green, p.15).
The WSPU shops also stocked various games, created by several London manufacturers. Amongst these was Pank-a-Squith which was first advertised in Votes for Women in October 1909 for one shilling and sixpence. The pictures on the 50 squares of the Pank-a-Squith game depict the events and issues that concerned the WSPU at the time. The 10 Downing Street stone throwing incident is shown, as are the arrests of Emmeline Pankhurst and the hunger strikes and force feeding of jailed suffragettes. Although there is no solid evidence that games such as Pank-a-Squith raised much money for the suffrage cause, there is no doubt that it is an example of some of the earliest political merchandise relating to suffrage. It is also a highly significant reminder of the radicalism espoused by suffragettes in this era, and relates directly to the suffrage movement in Australia.