Event: Breaking Glass

Date: April 3rd, 1913.

Place: Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester.

Event: Suffragette Protest: Breaking glass. 

What happened:

In the galleries of Manchester Art Gallery three Manchester women smashed the glass of paintings to protest against Emmeline Pankhurst’s imprisonment. These women were: Anna Briggs, Lilian Forester  and Evelyn Manesta. The suffragettes attacked 13 paintings including some of the most famous works in the collection by Pre-Raphaelite and late Victorian artists, they started at one end of the room and worked their way around. The gallery attendant was at the other end of the series of the galleries and by the time he reached the women they had smashed a long row of paintings. They tapped at the glass with hammers; they intended to break the glass only but four of the paintings were quite seriously damaged. All paintings had to be re-glazed. You can find a list of the paintings here. Wonder Women organised an event examining the action and there is a lot of detail about the trial online. Lillian was sentenced to three months imprisonment and Evelyn to one month, Annie was acquitted. Security in museums was increased as a result of the action, sticks, umbrellas, bags and parcels could not be brought in, handbags were searched, more attendants were employed and insurance was looked into.


Forrester said: “I do not stand here as a malicious person but as a patriot… a political offender… I have a degree in history and my knowledge of history has spurred me to fight for women’s freedom.”

‘There is to me something hateful, sinister, sickening in this heaping up of art treasures, this sentimentalising over the beautiful, while the desecration and ruin of bodies of women and little children by lust, disease, and poverty are looked upon with indifference.’- Ethel Smyth, Suffragette composer.

“I gave my comrades my fullest support but in no way aided them. Our women take their course on their own deliberate responsibility. This is not a personal but a world question.” Annie Briggs. (radicalmanchester.wordpress.com)

Jeanette Winterson: ‘Pussy Riot went on hunger strike in protest at their sham trial and sham justice. The suffragettes had been hunger striking since 1909. That note on the other side of the hammer, “Stop forcible feeding”, was an attempt to draw public attention to what was happening to women prisoners in Holloway …The suffragettes believed that a woman who could vote was a woman who could change the way society operated. That hasn’t happened. Instead women have become adapters to an environment that doesn’t suit us. Men control the workplace and the work ethic. Now that our brain power cannot be doubted our bodies have been requisitioned. When a woman cannot feel comfortable in her own body she has no home.’

The Judge “If the law would allow I would send you round the world in a sailing ship as the best thing for you.”


Details to include in a postcard:


Slamming doors

Running on wooden floors


2 thoughts on “Event: Breaking Glass

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