Pageant of Great Women, Bristol

Pageant type


Organised by the Women’s Social and Political Union

Jump to Summary


Place: Prince’s Theatre (Bristol) (Bristol, Gloucestershire, England)

Year: 1910

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: 1


5 November 1910, 2pm

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Arranged by [Pageant Master]: Craig, Edith
  • Children’s Dresses Committee Supervised by: Mrs. Frank Tuckett
  • Country and Morris Dances arranged by: Nora K. Gough
  • Pianist: Miss Gertrude Dodd

Names of executive committee or equivalent


Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Hamilton, Cicely


Cicely Hamilton was herself to play the ‘Woman’, but pulled out. Her part was taken by Olive Terry.

Names of composers

  • Suppé, Franz von
  • Moore, Thomas
  • Waldteufel, Emile

Numbers of performers


Financial information

Object of any funds raised


Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: No
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: 3000


The figure of 3000 is an estimate. The theatre was filled beyond its usual capacity of 2800.

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

£2 2s.–6d.

Boxes £2 2s. and £1 5s.; orchestra stalls and dress circle 4s.; feauteuils 3s.6d.; balcony 3s.; upper circle and amphitheatre 2s.; pit 1s.; gallery 6d.

Associated events

The production was preceded by Morris Dances and Old English Games performed by children and a one-act play ‘How the Vote Was Won’, by Cicely Hamilton and Christopher St John.

Pageant outline

Pageant of Great Women

Copied from Programme.

Woman is seen pursued by the embodiment of prejudice and falls to the feet of the embodiment of Justice. Justice asks her if she is worthy of freedom and she says yes but is then contradicted by Prejudice who says she is simply full of foolishness, and as freedom is born of wisdom she is not worthy, as only men are wise. Woman delivers a monologue about the limitations on her freedom to pursue the activities she wants.


Enter Hypatia, St. Teresa, Lady Jane Grey, Madame De Stael, Madame Roland, Mlle. De Scudery, Jane Austen, George Sand, Caroline Herschell, Madame Curie and a Graduate. All figures introduce themselves and their achievements in two lines when they enter.


Sappho, Vittoria Colonna, Angelica Kauffmann, Vigée le Brun, Rosa Bonheur, Margaret van Eyck and Camargo enter and introduce themselves and their achievements.

Nance Oldfield challenges Prejudice, telling him that if he had his way then none of these women would have been able to achieve what they had, and that she would be being played by a lanky boy. Prejudice asks for proof that Woman is small of heart and only provides love for those in her own home. 


St. Hilda, Elizabeth Fry, Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Catherine of Siena enter and give examples of their humanitarian work.


Charlotte Corday, Flora Macdonald, Kate Barlass and Grace Darling enter and give examples of their bravery to save the lives of others.

Prejudice, unsatisfied, determines that if Woman is given freedom she will strive to rule and will then reel beneath the sense of power. 


Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria, Zenobia, Philippa of Hainault, Deborah, Isabella of Spain Maria Theresa, Catherine II of Russia and Empress of China Tsze-Hsi-An.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • Hypatia of Alexandria (c.355–c.415) mathematician, astronomer and philosopher
  • De Cepeda y Ahumada, Teresa [Saint Teresa of Ávila] (1515-1582) Spanish mystic, writer and reformer of the Carmelite order
  • Grey [married name Dudley], Lady Jane (1537–1554) noblewoman and claimant to the English throne
  • Staël von Holstein, (Anne-Louise) Germaine [née (Anne-Louise) Germaine Necker; known as Germaine de Staël], Baroness Staël von Holstein in the Swedish nobility (1766–1817) writer and salon leader
  • Roland, Marie-Jeanne [née Phlipon] (1754-1793) writer, political figure and salon leader
  • de Scudéry, Madeleine (1607-1701) novelist and social figure
  • Austen, Jane (1775–1817) novelist
  • George Sand [pseudonym of Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dudevant, née Dupin] (1804–1876) novelist
  • Herschel, Caroline Lucretia (1750–1848) astronomer
  • Curie, Marie [née (Maria) Skłodowska] (1867 - 1934), physicist, chemist, Nobel Prize winner
  • Sappho (c. 610 BCE–c.550 BCE) poet
  • Colonna Vittoria,  (14921547) poet and social figure
  • Kauffman, (Anna Maria) Angelica Catharina (1741–1807) history and portrait painter
  • Le Brun, Elisabeth Louise [née Vigee, known as Madame Elizabeth Vigee le Brun] (1755-1842) painter
  • Bonheur, Rosa (1822 - 1899) painter
  • Camargo, Marie [Marie-Anne de Cupis de Camargo] (1710–1770) ballet dancer 
  • Hild [St Hild, Hilda] (614–680) abbess of Strensall–Whitby
  • Fry [née Gurney], Elizabeth (1780–1845) penal reformer and philanthropist
  • Von Ungarn, Elizabeth [Elisabeth of Hungary] (12071231) princess and catholic saint
  • Benincasa, Catherine [Saint Catherine of Siena] (13471380) , Dominican nun, mystic, patron saint of Italy
  • Corday, Charlotte [also known as Marie-Anne-Charlotte Corday d’Armont] (17681793) assassin of the French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat
  • MacDonald, Flora (1722–1790) Jacobite heroine
  • Darling, Grace Horsley (1815–1842) heroine
  • Elizabeth I (1533–1603) queen of England and Ireland
  • Victoria (1819–1901) queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and empress of India
  • Queen Zenobia (c.240after 274) queen of the Palmyrene Empire
  • Philippa [Philippa of Hainault] (1310x15?–1369) queen of England, consort of Edward III
  • Isabella I [Isabella the Catholic] (1451–1504) queen of Castile (1474–1504) and of Aragon (1479–1504), consort of Ferdinand II of Aragon (Ferdinand V of Castile)
  • Maria Theresa [Maria Theresia] (1717–1780) archduchess of Austria and queen of Hungary and Bohemia, empress of the Holy Roman Empire, consort of emperor Francis I
  • Catherine II [formerly called Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste, also known as Catherine the Great] (1729–1796) empress of Russia 
  • Tsze-Hsi-An (b. 1834–1908) empress of China
  • Joan of Arc [Jeanne d’Arc] (1412-1431)
  • Boudicca [Boadicea] (d. AD 60/61) queen of the Iceni
  • Agnes Dunbar, countess of Dunbar or of March (d. 1369) consort of Patrick Dunbar, seventh earl of Dunbar or of March
  • Lakshmi Bai, Rani [queen] of Jhansi (c.1835–1858) leader of the Indian Mutiny
  • Davies [née Cavenaugh], Christian [Catherine; alias Christopher or Richard Welsh; called Mother Ross] (1667–1739) female soldier
  • Snell, Hannah [alias James Gray] (1723–1792) sexual impostor
  • Talbot, Mary Anne [alias John Taylor] (17781808) female soldier
  • Nightingale, Florence (1820–1910) reformer of Army Medical Services and of nursing organization
  • Terry, Dame Ellen Alice (1847–1928) actress

Musical production

  • Song, ‘The Nightingale’
  • ‘Jockey to the Fair’
  • ‘Oh No, John’
  • Overture: Wanderers Ziel. Suppe
  • Waltz, La Plus Belle. Waldteufel
  • March, Invicta. Thomas Moore

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Clifton Chronicle and Directory
Western Daily Press

Book of words

Hamilton, Cicely. A Pageant of Great Women. London, 1910.1

Other primary published materials


Pageant of Great Women. Bristol, 1910. Bristol Central Library Pb Drama I. B24421.

References in secondary literature

  • Boyce, Lucienne. The Bristol Suffragettes. Bristol, 2013.
  • Marlow, Joyce (ed.). Suffragettes: The Fight for Votes for Women. London, 2000.

Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Copy of programme and flyers held in Bristol Central Library, Reference: Pb Drama I. B24421.

Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Pageant of Great Women had premiered at the Scala, London, in 1909. After its phenomenal success there, raising the profile of women’s suffrage groups, it toured many provincial cities, reaching the Prince’s Theatre on 5 November 1910. As the flyer declared, ‘Remember! Remember! The 5th of November. Because of the special matinee at the Prince’s Theatre.’2 A cup of ‘Votes for women tea’ and a biscuit were on sale during the second interval. The chief organiser of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Annie Kenney, justified the pageant by suggesting that ‘The pageant of great women on November 5th would be a reply to those critics who raised one objection or another.’3 Joyce Marlow, in her book Suffragettes: The Fight for Votes for Women, quotes the Clifton Chronicle’s review:

The matinee at the Princes Theatre…was a huge success. The theatre was filled from floor to ceiling, so that the result from a pecuniary point of view must have been very satisfactory, and to judge by the applause, a very large majority of those present were sympathisers and enthusiastic supporters.

According to the play the vote was won ‘by a general strike of all unmarried women’. For the pageant the stage was set as a large hall with a raised empty dais on each side. In the centre was a lofty golden throne, and on it was seated Justice. To the steps of the throne comes Woman who demands justice and freedom. She is opposed by Prejudice who sets out his case that woman is the plaything of man and not capable of acting independently. Woman opposes this, and calls forth a number of characters representing learned women, graduates, artists, saintly women, heroic women, rulers and warriors. Prejudice, convinced and silenced against his will, retires, and Justice decides in woman’s favour.4

The Western Daily Press noted that ‘the demand for seats has been so great that extra fauteuils have been added’.5 The event was attended by a number of famous suffragettes including Christabel Pankhurst. Other well-known suffragettes took parts, including Emily Davies as St Hilda and Lady Constance Lytton as Florence Nightingale.6 A number of the daughters of the most famous actress of the era, Ellen Terry, featured in the pageant.

The Western Daily Press was sensitive to its overwhelmingly male readership, many of whom opposed the WSPU and suffrage in general ‘Saturday was woman’s day in Bristol. She asked for it, and she got it, and she invited all and sundry to witness how she would spend it.’7 The language was contrived to stress the feminine elements of the performance, both praising it and also denigrating it as less important than other pageants: ‘delightful entertainment, nicely performed, always interesting, and a pleasing prompt to one’s historical knowledge … an enjoyable and, sometimes, an impressive exhibition’.8 The reviewer withheld (almost certainly) his judgment, in favour of reporting on the crowd’s reaction: ‘To judge from the applause, which, it must be admitted, was extremely partial at times – not a surprising fact, perhaps, one would assume the audience was somewhat sympathetic towards woman and her claims as voiced by the character.’9

The reviewer was nonetheless mollified by the approaches of the final scenes, which appeared to discourage the direct action increasingly favoured by many suffragettes who had grown tired of waiting for the right political conditions in which to press their demands: ‘Woman, frail yet persevering, small yet powerful, reinforced by such a “great” army from the mighty past, threw herself again at the feet of Justice and demanded freedom, the scene was not a little impressive.’10 The review in the Western Daily Press concluded by quoting from an address made by Mrs Pethick Lawrence, the WSPU treasurer, to the audience after the performance:

They did not deny, she said, that women were the weaker sex, but that was all the more reason why they should not be handicapped in the great game, or fight of earning their own living. Referring to the Pageant, she said she was quite sure the men would not grudge them their share of pride and congratulation on the achievement of success.11

The Prince’s Theatre was destroyed by a German bomb thirty years later, on 24 November 1940.12 Fascinatingly, the Pageant of Great Women was restaged in Hull in 2011 to celebrate the centenary of its performance, with an extra scene added featuring the life of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley.13

The staging of the Pageant of Great Women in Bristol in 1910 attests to the importance of Bristol in the wider suffrage movement. The study of women’s suffrage has, like many other histories, focussed primarily on events in the capital, whilst ignoring the long struggles in provincial British cities. In fact, the city had a long heritage of agitation, including strikes of Bristol women across cotton mills, tobacco factories, docks, and confectionary factories across the city in 1889 and 1892;14 the formation of the first Co-operative Working Women’s Guild; and Theresa Garnett’s imprisonment for her attack on Winston Churchill at Temple Meads Station in November 1909.15 Bristol, which has always prided itself for being an ‘alternative’ city with a strong radical tradition can justifiably claim an important part in the women’s movement, of which the Pageant of Great Women was an important, albeit more staid, part of the struggle.


  1. ^ (accessed 6 May 2016).
  2. ^ Flyer, in (Bristol, 1911).
  3. ^ Western Daily Press, 4 October 1910, 7. See also ‘Bristol’s Other Women – IWD 2012’: (accessed 6 May 2016) for more information on Kenney.
  4. ^ Clifton Chronicle and Directory, 9 November 1910, quoted in Joyce Marlow (ed.), Suffragettes: The Fight for Votes for Women (London: Virago, 2000), n.p.
  5. ^ Western Daily Press, 1 November 1910, 5.
  6. ^ Lucienne Boyle, ‘A Suffragette with Bristol Connections’, Bristol247 (accessed 6 May 2016).
  7. ^ Western Daily Press, 7 November 1910, 3.
  8. ^ Ibid.
  9. ^ Ibid.
  10. ^ Ibid.
  11. ^ Ibid. See Brian Harrison, ‘Lawrence, Emmeline Pethick-, Lady Pethick-Lawrence (1867–1954), suffragette’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 2004): (accessed 6 May 2016).
  12. ^ (accessed 6 May 2016).
  13. ^ Anna Birch, ‘Fragments & Monuments film and performance company feature Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)’, 51: (accessed 6 May 2016).
  14. ^ Mike Richardson, ‘The Bristol Strike Wave of 1889-90’: (accessed 6 May 2016).
  15. ^ Paul Barltrop, ‘West: Succour to the Suffragettes’, BBC News: (accessed 6 May 2016); (accessed 6 May 2016).

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Pageant of Great Women, Bristol’, The Redress of the Past,