SATURDAY October 6, 13h // Madeleine Bernstorff presents "The Fanaticism of the Suffragettes"

SATURDAY October 6, 13h // Madeleine Bernstorff presents “The Fanaticism of the Suffragettes”

Madeleine Bernstorff presents “The Fanaticism of the Suffragettes” + Discussion (brunch and open house from 11h – 15h).  /////

(Madelein Bernstorff’s website)


The FANATICISM OF THE SUFFRAGETTES is a compilation video (and trailer for a film program)  inspired by an article*** from the German film magazine Lichtbildbühne from 1912. It is based on the observation that the women’s suffrage movement became radicalized at almost exactly the same time as cinema, still in the process of self-invention, began to consolidate itself and to shrug off nineteenth-century forms of expression. This historical conjunction is revealed in numerous newsreels and comedies. Our primary interest lay in the portrayal of rebellion, activism and an often high-spirited intervention against the ruling order at a time when cinema was itself experiencing a radical upheaval. We also wanted to show not only that the films made between 1900 and 1914 generally satirize the movement for emancipation, but also that the movement itself strategically deployed public images.

From 1903 on, the radical Women’s Social Political Union (WSPU) fought for political rights for women in Britain under the autocratic leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst. They organized demonstrations, campaigns and countless petitions. Around 1910, the WSPU’s approach took an increasingly radical turn. Their members generated publicity using militancy and violence; harsher repression ensued. Many comedies refer to the actions of the WSPU. The non-fiction films show a more orderly image, often consciously managed by the suffragettes: long marches in white garments with the insignia of Holloway Prison and well-placed placards bearing slogans like “Taxation without representation is tyranny”.  F.e. in 1918 one harassed husband still dreams of being Prime Minister and inflicting draconian punishment on suffragette activists to quash their militancy, yet in fact the outbreak of World War I saw most (bourgeois) suffragettes rushing to serve the national cause and setting aside their demand for the right to vote.

(idea and concept: Madeleine Bernstorff, editing: Angelika Levi/English version: Sebastian Bodirsky. Voices: Elsa de Seynes and Christabel Pankhurst, produced by support of: exhibition Bertha-von-Suttner-revisited, Niederoesterreich and Kuenstlerhaus Buechsenhausen, Innsbruck and many others) 17 min, 2009/2010

“The “Modern” Women’s Movement in England
The fanaticism of the suffragettes has again contrived a new battle method to attack the deeply hated male sex and above all the state government impeding their endevours. During all their future events and marches, the suffragettes are to be accompanied by female camera operators so as to immediately cinematographically record all police “assaults”. The films are then to be shown to women throughout the land so that other women in smaller towns can learn about the difficulties with which the women’s movement has to struggle. This new means of propaganda, to call a spade a spade, is meant to instigate women in the towns of the province, who have hitherto been spared by this ugly movement, and encourage them to greater “heroic deeds”. Of course, the English police will fight this new mischief and simply take the cinema apparatuses away from the suffragettes. That would be the only means, since private screenings of the films cannot be forbidden due to the lack of legal regulations. But the English police does have a powerful ally in the audience that will lend a helping hand if the suffragettes again go too far.”
(From the filmmagazine Lichtbild-Bühne – Berlin, Dec. 14, 1912)