“Sisters” – Votes for Women Suffrage

Eye International Conference 2019, Amsterdam

At the University of Brighton, Screen Archive South East cares for a collection of some 10.000 magic lantern artefacts. Our name ‘Screen Archive’ underlines the long tradition of screen practices, stretching over 350 years, and includes the media of the lantern, film, video and now born-digital.

The Magic Lantern and especially Early Cinema have a strong historical inter-relationship, so it was relevant for our archivist Ine van Dooren to present at the 10th Eye International Conference and its theme “Sisters – Women and the Silent Screen” in Amsterdam between 26 and 29 May, 2019. Now in its twentieth year, Women and the Silent Screen (WSS), an international conference held biennially, brings together research focusing on all forms of women’s presence in the earliest decades of motion picture history. The theme of WSS X is Sisters, taken both literally and figuratively within a wide range of theoretical and historical angles.

In the true spirit of sisterhood, the presentation was a collaborative research project between researcher Sarah Dellmann, collector and lanternist Gwen Sebus and SASE archivist, Ine van Dooren. It combined a ‘re-constructed’ lantern performance with a reflective conference paper. ‘A Political Parody for Women’s Suffrage, Revisited and Re-screened [Cackling Alone Does Not Lay Eggs](1916-1918)’ Their approach, in the form of performative and experimental media archaeology, was very much appreciated by the audience.

The research was based around an historical 1916 lantern lecture revue designed by and for the Votes for Women organisations. This suffragist revue was a parody of the disappointing parliamentary debates on women suffrage and was written in rhyme with many slides of caricatures. It was performed in at least 20 venues before Dutch women received the right of full suffrage in 1919.

This 2019 study was an appropriation styled as a ‘bricolage’, being similar in spirit and agency to the historical revue and informed by a critical investigation.

The Eye International Conference, held annually, explores contemporary archival and academic debates, catering to film heritage professionals, scholars, archivists, curators, and restorers. The conference includes panels and special screenings of (restored) films.

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  Aletta Jacobs a Dutch women’s suffrage activist seen here with hammer crushing the MPs debating in parliament.