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While looking through the different sources at the Birmingham Archives, we came across this photograph of a painting which had been slashed three times by a suffragette called Bertha Ryland. At the time, the painting was on display at Birmingham Art Gallery on loan from a private collection.

Master Thornhill by Romney, attacked by Bertha Ryland

Master Thornhill by Romney, attacked by Bertha Ryland

Lucy and Imogen: ‘it was a miracle that Bertha got in with the knife because everyone was checked before entering the gallery but she hid it up her sleeve. This suggests that she had thought the plan through, showing how determined these women were. The incident had some serious consequences such as women not being allowed in the gallery as well as imprisonment for the individual guilty of the crime. It is not one of their most memorable actions by the suffragettes as if you look it up a different, more famous painting comes up. However, the action of slashing a painting at the time would have been quite shocking and would have certainly caught the publics’ attention’.

Archive workshop

Archive workshop

Nabeela looked at another violent incident that took place in Birmingham: ‘Northfield Library got burned down by the suffragettes, who left a book and note saying ‘this is for your new library’. The book was by Emmeline Pankhurst but we don’t know what happened to it. The suffragettes were those who were violent and were thrown in prison for their actions. Suffragists were those who protested quietly and were more peaceful’.

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