Category Archives: Feminism

10 Speeches Every Radical Should Know

By Tom Bailey @tombaileyblog

The power of a speech is very often overlooked. Indeed, rhetorical skill and oratorical eloquence are often seen as instruments of deception rather than sources of inspiration. And yet, there is surely something in a good speech that can motivate us like nothing else – speeches, just like any art form, can enthuse us with passion and hope and they can help us to channel those emotions towards action.

So that’s why we thought it was important to collect some of the most radical speeches ever made, so that you too can share in the powerful emotions stirred up by a great speech. We’ve put them in Chronological order, and the collection of ten speeches spans from the 14th Century to the late 20th! Of course, these men and women had flaws, but this doesn’t mean that their speeches aren’t inspirational or moving – indeed, in every speech, there is surely something we can learn.

1. All Men By Nature Were Created Alike – John Ball

In May 1381, Wycliffite priest John Ball addressed a group of rebelling labourers who would later take part in the so-called Peasant’s Revolt – a revolt that was partly caused by the introduction of the 1380 poll tax.

In his great speech, Ball argued that “all men by nature were created alike” and that the servitude of agricultural workers constituted what he called an “unjust oppression”. He believed in the equality of all people, and this conviction is clear from his address.

He urged the serfs to “cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty”. They should fight for “equality in liberty” and battle against degrees of nobility and class. It is these words that are often cited as the inspiration for the June 1381 revolt led by Wat Tyler.

Now these ideas may sound pretty normal to most of us 21st Century readers – Ball, you might think, just sounds like your average left-winger. But this speech was written over 630 years ago, when it was considered dangerous to even think this sort of thing, let alone preach it. That’s why this speech is so important.

Sadly, both Ball and Tyler were executed as traitors for their egalitarian views. They were killed because their proto-socialist and progressive beliefs were seen as a threat to the established order of society. Still, their actions and their words live on. Continue reading

Informative & inspiring: a review of Suffragette

Ninety-seven years after women were given the vote in England, Focus Features released Suffragette, a British historical drama commemorating the achievements of the Women’s Suffrage movement. Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne-Marie Duff, Suffragette skilfully captures the bravery and fortitude of these noble women.

The film focuses on the experiences of Maud Watts (played by Mulligan), a fictional composite of many working class women fighting for equality. Maud works in the Bethnal Green Laundry and, like many working women of the time, is treated terribly by her boss, who sexually abuses women who work for him.

Throughout the film Maud comes to realise the inherent injustices of society as she grows more and more involved with the suffrage movement, to the anger and distaste of her family and community.

The film demonstrates the incredible struggle that suffragettes experienced, from hunger strikes and police violence to arrests and complete ostracization. It also reveals the stigma that was, for a long time, bizarrely attached to the belief that women should have equality with their male counterparts. Continue reading

Women Who Made a Difference

The history of the women’s suffrage movement is a perfect match for our radical and historical interests here at the Radical Tea Towel Company. No wonder we have several designs inspired by the movement on our products – here we explain the background.

Our suffragette ‘Women’s March’ design was inspired by Margaret Morris’s cover for the song sheet of ‘The March of the Women’, the anthem of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain. It was composed in 1910 by Ethel Smyth with words by Cicely Hamilton. Smyth dedicated the song to the Women’s Social and Political Union. In January 1911, the WSPU’s newspaper, ‘Votes for Women’, described the song as “at once a hymn and a call to battle.”  Like most things in life, you can listen to a recording on YouTube!

Suffragette Tea Towel Continue reading

Two Modern Campaigners for Women

At the start of the 21st century, a hundred years after the death of Emily Davison, what are the defining issues for women? The renewed fight for contraceptive and abortion rights? The backlash against objectification, pornification and ‘rape culture’ in newspapers, TV and on social media? Or issues such as poverty, the fight for a living wage and work place equality?

And who are the greatest movers and shakers campaigning for women today?

Lucy Holmes who started the ‘No more page 3’ campaign arguably deserves a mention. The campaign was launched in 2013 with a petition calling on the Sun’s editor, Dominic Mohan, to “take the bare boobs out of The Sun.” To date it has tens of thousands of signatories and support from numerous organisations.

Caroline Lucas - 'No More Page 3'

Green MP Caroline Lucas wearing a ‘No More Page 3’ t-shirt in the House of Commons

Continue reading

Suffragette: The Movie!

A new period film, Suffragette, which charts the campaign for women’s votes in Britain, is to hit our our screens in January 2015.

Suffragette Movie

As well as dramatising history, the film is making it, as it is the first to use the Houses of Parliament as a set for a commercial film, 25 years after TV cameras were allowed in for the first time. Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Romola Garai and multi-Oscar-winner Meryl Streep as one of the movement’s leaders, Emmeline Pankhurst. Scenes were shot both outside and inside the building, including the central lobby and one of the committee rooms. You can see some of the filming under way in Parliament in this BBC report. Continue reading

Tea towel wiping surface

Feminist kitchen accessories – an oxymoron?

With Father’s Day approaching this Sunday 15th, it seems the perfect time to have a discussion about the ‘feminist’ nature (or not) of what the Radical Tea Towel Company does. Occasionally, we receive comments on our facebook page about whether the kitchen accessories on our website simply encourage stereotypes of women working in the kitchen. Here are a couple of examples:

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We don’t actually believe our stuff has to be seen in an ironic light at all: we have a range of figures and concepts on the tea towels, and the suffragette movement just happens to be one of these.

There’s nothing about a suffragette tea towel that says it’s only for use by women, or that a man can’t appreciate the finer stylistic points of a Keep Left apron. Which is why we offer you feminist gift ideas for Father’s Day as well as Mother’s Day 😉 Continue reading