Players of ‘Suffragetto’ aim to get their suffragette pieces into the House of Commons or the Albert Hall while these are defended by their opponents, the policemen

The only surviving copy of an Edwardian-era board game pitching suffragettes against policemen is to go on display in an exhibition marking the centenary of the first British women to get the vote. 

Players of Suffragetto aim to get their suffragette pieces into the House of Commons or the Albert Hall, represented by squares on the board, while these are defended by their opponents, the policemen. 

The game was produced in 1907-08 by the British Women’s Social and Political Union, the campaign group for women’s suffrage founded by Emmeline Pankhurst. 

The Bodleian Library in Oxford holds the last copy of the two-player game known to have survived. It was donated by games collector Richard Ballam in 2016. 

The library holds a wealth of suffragette-related material, including photos, posters, scrapbooks and photographic postcards, one from the same era as the game labelled “Mrs Pankhurst arrested in Victoria Street, Feb 13 1908”.

The free exhibition, “From Sappho to Suffrage: Women who dared”, marks 100 years since the Representation of the People Act, when women over the age of 30 won the right to vote. It will showcase items across 2,000 years of history relating to high-achieving or maverick women in science, politics and the arts. 

A ticket for a 1908 suffragette march from Kensington to Hyde Park

The original manuscript of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein — her tale of the talented young scientist and the creature he creates — will also be shown, complete with corrections and revisions made by her lover, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. 

Mary Shelley came up with idea in 1816 when, holed up by rain while on holiday in Geneva, the couple went to dinner at Lord Byron’s villa. Byron suggested each guest write a ghost story, prompting the 18-year-old Shelley to explore the horrifying consequences of a fantastical scientific experiment. 

Other treasures in the show include 2nd century BC fragments of poems by Sappho, the celebrated archaic Greek poet, which were found in a papyrus roll buried in the rubbish dumps of Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. Also on display will be Ada Lovelace’s 19th century notes on computer programming and Jane Austen’s handwritten manuscript of short stories, mini-plays and verses, transcribed by the author in 1793. 

Senia Paseta, co-director of women in the humanities at Oxford university and curator of the exhibition, said many of the artefacts have not been shown in public before. “We’re hoping people will be surprised by what they see.”

From Sappho to Suffrage: Women who Dared” will run for a year from March 6 at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. 

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