“Hard Times in Suffragette City:” Drawing Connections between the Women’s Rights Movement of the Early 1900’s and Tracy Chevalier’s “Falling Angels”

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Upon reading Tracy Chevalier’s Falling Angels, I noticed that there was a great deal of variation within the different perspectives from each of the characters in this novel.  The characters in the novel alone, represent different views of feminism. Each character had something different to say and gave us something different to think about.  Kitty Coleman, is a prime example of person we watch grow up before our own eyes.  Kitty represents the youthful side of this social transformation that swept England during the time this novel takes place. This movement was known as the “Suffragette” Movement; a women’s rights movement that took place from the turn of the century (i.e., early 1900s) up until the Mid-1910s.  I felt that the female characters do a great job at the different mix of views of what a feminist was during this time.  An example of Kitty’s perspective of the Suffragette movement comes to us towards the end, when she argues with her husband Richard about her involvement with the suffragettes.  Kitty narrates:

“Richard’s response was predictable—a rage he contained in front of the police but unleashed in the cab home.  He shouted about the family name, about the disgrace to his mother, about the uselessness of the cause.  All of this I had known to expect, from hearing of the reactions of other women’s husbands. Indeed, I have been lucky to go this long without Richard complaining.  He has thought my activities with the WSPU a harmless hobby, to be dabbed in between tea parties.  It is only now he truly understands that I, too, am a suffragette.” (197)

This narrative passage shows the reactions that one would see, not only from the point of view of people representing the news media of this time, but what goes on behind the closed doors of the private lives of women in England.

But not all women were supportive of the suffragettes.  A character who represents this opposition is Lavinia Waterhouse; a woman of self-proclaimed etiquette and represents the snobby, elitist views of what a woman should be.  For example, we can see on pages 102 and 103, an etiquette guide to how one presents his or herself at get this… a funeral! And no, she did not focus on it from the point of views of respect and how one should behave which would be understandable yet obvious etiquette.  All she describes in detail, is what one should wear. This has everything to do with the suffragettes because even though many of them were either of middle class/upper class, many of them believed in breaking out of the sexist stereotypes that were given to what a woman was supposed to with her life and not conform to this elitist perspective of what a women should be. To conclude, I believe that the influence of the suffragette movement in England is greatly depicted in this novel.  Furthermore it gives the reader a look at the struggle from personal levels of characters who grow and learn about who they really are and they want to do with their lives.  And in this case that I being part of “suffragette city.”

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From the Port of Londinium to the Docklands of Today: A Brief Historical Look at the Docks of London.

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     When I first went to the Museum of the Docklands, I felt so absorbed into the rich history of this region by the River Thames. The first exhibit floor consisted of the stories of how it all began.  Recounting the battle between the native Britons led by Queen Boudicca and the Roman army who would eventually defeat the natives, take the land and build the region’s first port, Londinium was incredibly interesting to read at this part of the exhibit floor.  As the exhibit went on it was then discussing the fall of the Roman Empire, which in turn left the once bustling port to the Germanic-Saxon tribes who drove off the last of anyone who was still living in this area. Then the exhibit talked about the revival of the area which would result in a rebellion led by Alfred the Great, who would help bring about the first steps into unifying the nation of England.  Later on, I saw the story of this revival unfold as a place on the brink of dismantlement turn into one of the world’s most flourishing ports as the Docklands more and more throughout its history grew into the port of a metropolis. However, there were exhibits that were depressing but did portray the time periods and the harsh realities that were depicted in them.

The second floor exhibited artifacts, paintings and information podiums on slavery and the British East India Trading Company which pretty much ruled the world’s economy at the time.  Showing exhibits of as well the slave trade which made me emotionally distraught but to be fair they also tell of the do focus on England’s African population in a great detail of context and the contributions they had made to the docklands after slavery. Another exhibit that really got to me emotionally was seeing the photographs of the Docklands Development and how many people had to suffer so that the Docklands could me the modernized port it is now. When I saw that in the information plaque that over 50,000 residents were forced into homelessness due to the development in the from the Mid-1970’s to the Late 1980’s, I felt just mortified about it. To conclude, the history of the Docklands is rich. Whether that history was paved with the suffering and exploitation of it’s own people and the people of the nations under it’s colonial rule, or paved with the ideas of exploration, modernization and a unified nation, the 2,000 year old history of this area still continues to this day.

City of the ‘Docks:’ How the London Docklands Development Plays an Important Role in the “City of the Mind”

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      Penelope Lively’s City of the Mind, really expresses a point of view of London that most seem to overlook.  And in two words that would be “big business.”  This concept of doing what is right morally and what is right for “business” goes hand in hand in the mind of Architect Matthew Halland.  On one instance, he is definite on his morals not to evict the residents out of their homes and destroy sites of such history for it would be a terrible thing to do.  On the other hand, he is almost left with no choice to some extent due to the ruthless harassment he receives from the evil, developer who will stop at nothing to make poor Matthew reconsider.  In our reality, (which I would soon later found enough evidence from my excursion to the Museum of the Docklands in London), these ruthless tactics would result in the homelessness of over 50,000 people, throughout the 1980’s.  But it is not just about the people who reside in these buildings but the history these buildings have to offer.

      An example of this history being demolished can be seen in Chapter three, when Matthew has a bit of banter with one of the construction workers. The passage starts off when the narrative depicts:

“Matthew stopped to peer through the peephole in the woodwork, to find himself eyeball to eyeball with a helmeted construction worker, who opened the gate.” …”Looking for someone?” “No. Just curious. [Matthew]” …”There was a wasteland of mud, the bulldozers backing and biting.” …”What’s all this going on? [Matthew]” …”Paved precinct. Shops and that.  We’re taking the bodies out. [Construction worker]” …”Bodies? [Matthew]” …”Churchyard.  Thousands of them. [Construction worker]” …”Where will they go? [Matthew]” …”They’re to be re-interred in a big cemetery out Wembley direction. [Construction worker]” (37)

Now I have nothing against cremation but if these bodies were buried in this churchyard that is most likely a burial under their final wishes.  With that being said, it shows a disrespect for the dead in this churchyard by moving them as if they were pieces of trash that need to be brought to the dump.  This also takes away the historical value this churchyard may have in the local area in London where it is being bulldozed.  And for what for the profit of commercial value over historical! It is really shows the audacity of ruthless developers and businessmen. And I do agree we need commercial development to take place in order to have the cities themselves accustom to their citizens. On the other side of the coin development can damage the lives of the residents and the history that resides in their area.

     In the end, the development of London’s Docklands region was an example of the negative side of development more so than the positive side of development during the time the novel was published.  Forced evictions, increase in homelessness, increase in poverty were just a few of the problems that resulted from this development project.  However, the point of this post is to show that things have changed through the utilization of looking what it was like in Lively’s time. And the area (since 1997 at the earliest) has been reviving into top financial districts with Canary wharf and its boardwalks, museums, restaurants and pubs galore.  Despite the crookedness behind these developments, it did help build an area that, historical value or not was, slowly dying economically and that is what might have brought the Docklands wharf to the greatness they’re at right now.

Learning Analysis Blog

I’ve never had any problems being away from home or traveling. But I’ve never been out of the country before. I don’t think I was ever nervous about it. I had a few concerns, such as any possible medical problems I could run into and how I could counter them and the course load. But overall I was really just ecstatic about this opportunity. The only thing I really struggled with in London was allergies. At home, I go through immunotherapy because I have a lot of allergies.  I didn’t think through the idea before hand that going to a different area of the world that there would be different allergens around. Having to deal with extreme allergies again was a major adjustment to me.

All I remember about arrival is excitement and disbelief. We went to the Brunswick to get toiletries and lunch shortly after arriving at Connaught Hall. The Brunswick was like an open-air mall. I loved the market that was there. There was a small book sale, baked goods, and food from oter  After this, we all walked through Russell Square and past the British Museum, where we were supposed to go later that day. This of course did not happen until the next day. We went too Carphone and some of us picked up prepaid cell phones. I picked one up because Verizon decided not to activate my cell phone. Once back at the dorm rooms, I was able to correct the problem with my cell phone, and after waiting, my room was finally clean and ready for me to just put my stuff in and head out to the British Library.

Courtney and I wanted to grab something to drink, so we left separate from others and headed to Costa. I ordered a strawberry lemonade and didn’t expect what I got. It was blended with milk and a little ice, then served over ice. I would later learn that what is Sprite to us is lemonade in England. We then headed to the British Library. I admittedly did not expect it to be a museum. Seeing the Magna Carta, What really caught my attention though were the original copies of music manuscripts. Pieces by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, and others were all there. I always find looking at originals interesting, because you can usually tell an intention on how a piece should have been interpreted. I actually found a violin sonata that I’ve played, and Handel’s Messiah was also there, which I have both sung and played excerpts of.  This was so exciting to be in the same room as the DNA of these composers.

I was also very grateful that we came during a time where there was an exhibit on Benjamin Britten, an English war composer. Much like Virginia Woolf, many of Benjamin Britten’s pieces focused on war, specifically his hatred towards it. I have played Britten before, but never looked all that much into him past the one specific piece (which was not war related). This was the highlight of my trip to the British Library.

After looking around a bit more, I met up with more of the group, and Katrina. Katrina took us to a pub. Since I’m only 19, this was my first time being legal to drink, and my first time purchasing alcohol. This felt foreign to me, as if being in a foreign country didn’t. It was really nice to just hang out with everyone and make new friends.

The next day, I went with a group of people to do  “the tourist thing.” Growing up with New York City basically in my backyard, I’ve never really been a tourist in a big city. I’ve been to Boston and Cleveland for music, and the most I’ve done is walked around to get some cheap food. I really just followed people around since I had no clue where I was going. We ended up at Buckingham Palace, and we got to witness part of the changing of the guards. Right beforehand, I caught a glimpse of the royal marching band practicing for the ceremony. I thought we could hear Big Ben chiming, but I later learned that it was actually St. Margaret since Big Ben doesn’t ring anymore. We spent a lot of time in Westminster. It didn’t occur to me that a lot of places would not be open on Sunday. We ended up at The Barley Mow and had traditional fish and chips!

Outside of Buckingham Palace

 

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We then went to the British Museum. This place really packs a punch. There were so many pieces of history in one space. To me, the most impressive was the Rosetta stone. It’s still pretty unbelievable that I actually saw it in person. This museum reminds me of the idea “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” While this saying shows how much power the British Empire has in the world, where they are so widespread, this museum does the same thing. A place that can hold so many artifacts from other cultures is clearly a place with a lot of power.

Rosetta Stone

The first day of classes, we discussed Bernardine Evaristo’s The Emperor’s Babe. I personally never knew of Londinium prior to reading this. This really put into a perspective of the new and old for this class to me, and how London is always changing. This book also focused a lot on woman’s sexuality. These young women were very open about their sexualities, and also very in tune to their body’s desires. While I believe women still know what they want and like, I do believe that the focus on the self has been lost today. These women were young and carefree. They didn’t serve men like it has been believed women should. While the times are very different, the characters are still relatable, at least for me. Zuleika does what she wants because she enjoys it, not because anybody tells her to. Her friends seem to be the same way, though we follow Zuleika more closely, as she is the main character. These are women to look up to I believe.

 

This same day we went to the Museum of London and viewed the Suffragette and the Roman Galleries. The Roman Gallery really put pieces together for how people lived in Londinium. Seeing what the modern day equivelant really helped me to see how this could connect to day’s day and age, and see how they got by without what we have now.

 

In McVicker’s class, we discussed Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. I have never read Woolf before, and this book made it very apparent that there is a lot of detail to pay close attention to in her writings. This essay clearly presented the idea that women need money and privacy to be successful in writing. This was a harder fate for women to achieve than men. Once women writers were finally becoming accepted, there was still an idea that they write about different things than men.  We of course know this is no t the case, as either sex can write about anything, but it’s the style in which they write. But this was not the case then, and Woolf indicated the importance of an androgynous mindset.

The second day we focused mainly on Tracy Chevalier’s “Falling Angels.” This was my favorite novel of the trip, and definitely one of my favorites that I’ve ever read. This also focused on the woman’s role. For Maude, we watch her grow up, and become a young woman. We can assume that she will end up being like her mother, as Kitty Coleman is a very influential individual. Kitty has struggles of her own,, and finally realizes the missing piece to her life. She not only joins the Suffragette movement, but transforms her home into a headquarters for this movement. She becomes one of the most important individuals in this group of women, Even when she is arrested and faces the possibility of jail time, she doesn’t take her focus off of her mission.

 

“…You’ll be fine. Thre is something I want you to do for me, though.”
Maude gazed at me eagerly.

Even before I pulled out the collecting card and began to tell her about self-denial week-a campaign drive the WSPU was initiating to raise money – I knew I was doing the wrong thing. As her mother I should be comforting and reassuring her. Yet even as her face fell I continued to explain that she should ask all our neighbors as well as any visitors to place donations in the card, and that she should send it to the WSPU office at the end of the week.

I don’t know why I was so cruel.

 

The Suffragette gallery gave me chills. It was so impressive to see the lengths in which these women went to fight for a right they deserved. This was my favorite part of the London Museum from the day before. Highgate Cemetery also helped me to connect and make Falling Angels come to life. There were so many different statues, and learning the symbolism behind them all was interesting. Of course, the sleeping angel was the highlight of the excursion, however it was overall very impressionable.

After this, we discussed Foucault’s “Of Other Spaces: Heterotopias” and Keats’ Ode to a Grecian Urn. This was relatable to the cemetery visit as well. Each grave marks a specific space We believe that they exist, but do they really? Or is what lies underneath just an illusion field? Perhaps the graves have decayed and now it is just dirt. Of course, we do not wish to believe this, so we believe the former.  According to Foucault, the Earth is disruptive since it does not stay in the same place. The urns in the cemetery also freeze a moment of time, and nothing endures but change.

 

The fourth day, we discussed Feminine Gospels. We mostly focused on the roles different adult figures in “Laughter of the Stafford Girls’ High” play. Dr. Bream is older, and keeps a tight control over everything. The other teachers went along with this, but eventually the laughter broke them, and they all realized that it was okay to change and be themselves. They decided to pursue their own lives and do what makes them happy. Once Dr. Bream loses control, chaos ensues, and the change eventually drives her insane. This breaks the automatism.

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In McVicker’s class, we discussed The London Scene. We defined a place as an order, and space as a practiced space. Then we questioned how presence transforms space. Visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral on our walking tour really answered this question. It was heavy with tourists. I know we weren’t there to worship, but when I walk into a highly religious space, I feel protected and safe. But this place seemed empty and cold. The infrastructure was incredible, but it infuriated me that a religious space would charge a fee for people to visit.

 

The next day we discussed The Mara Crossing. Basically, Englishness is defined by culture. Not just amongst the people, but the animals as well.  This book connected the link with how humans define a culture (in this case, Englishness), and how animals define as well, and they really weren’t all that different. In McVicker’s class, we discussed Tess of the D’Urberbvilles as we were preparing to visit Stonehenge. Tess was very weak to Angel. I believe Angel’s name paints him as a perfect figure meant to protect Tess. Of course, he does this as best he can until she is arrested in Stonehenge.

 

The Natural History Museum was fascinating, but The Victoria and Albert Museum really stole my heart out of all of the museums. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Everything was white and pure. There was a lot of natural light, and I was really able to connect this to the lifestyle.

Stonehenge really was the highlight of the weekend. To actually be inside this place was just mindblowing. I’m still at a loss for words with this experience.

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Seeing places such as Lacock and Oxford really showed me how different other areas of England are in comparison to London. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I loved the teachers, the courses, and the people in the group. I never thought that 16 days could change my life so drastically, and honestly, 16 days just wasn’t enough.

 

 

Highgate Cemetery

My visit to Highgate Cemetery was unlike any other cemetery visit I’ve been to. My dad owns three cemeteries, so I am fairly used to seeing cemeteries. I’ve been to work with my dad, which allows me to connect to the characters in Falling Angels. I wouldn’t necessarily have been playing in the cemetery, but it wasn’t a place of grief for me, like they are for most other people. This is not to say that I haven’t had a traditional experience of a cemetery. I have visited grandparents that have passed on, as well as friends and family friends.

 

But upon visiting Highgate, I gained yet another perspective of a cemetery. The first difference I noticed was that these have above ground crypts. According to my dad, these are not common in America, as opposed to traditional burial sites. I understood how it is a way for the living to connect with the dead, as they occupy the same space. But it goes past that. This is a place that the living and the dead, and possibly whoever is watching over them as well (maybe angels). This is a place where all different religions, ethnicities, genders, classes, and time periods all come to rest in peace together. And of course there are also the people that visit them.

There was a lot of symbolism in this cemetery. For example, the broken columns symbolize a life lost too soon. There were snakes biting their tales, called ouroboros. Ouroboros represent an idea of a life cycle. A person goes through their life, then the afterlife, and is eventually reborn, according to the ideology behind ouroboros. Of course, angels are seen as protectors in Christian religions (guardian angels).

 

In addition to these, there were some unique ones. There was a man who had a very loyal dog, so they made a statue of his dog. Another had a lion. The most unique one I saw was one man had a horse. According to our tour guide, Helena, this man was actually a horse butcher. I’m not sure the reasoning behind putting that type of statue, and I don’t think I want to find out really. Then of course there was the sleeping angel. We’ve read about this angel so much in falling angels. It is so uniquely characterized, and is really gorgeous.

Sleeping angel

The other side of the cemetery was definitely more modern. It was much better kept, and more recent burials. It was pretty exciting to see Karl Marx’s grave. There were also famous writers there.

I definitely believe this experience of a cemetery has changed my view on a cemetery, and I will be carrying this new perspective with me in the future when I visit cemeteries. I never expected one cemetery visit to completely change how I see all cemeteries.

The Old Bottle and the Old Shoe

The old nursery rhyme about the mother with too many kids seems to have taken off a very different idea. The original poem found on poetryfoundation.org read as:

 

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.

She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

She gave them some broth without any bread;

And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

-Mother Goose

 

According to Psychology Today, this nursery rhyme is regarding high fertility in many societies. In such societies, women are meant for child bearing, and thus expected to have multiple children. Any form of contraceptive is seen as sinful, so the chance a woman could get pregnant during intercourse is much greater. Of course, the more children a family has, the more money is required. Many families with greater amount of children are in high poverty. In the same article, it makes mention of an Albanian mother who sells a child in order to help the rest of her family. The article read “In spite of living in such severe poverty that she is forced to sell her children, the woman had recently given birth to her 8th child.“ The article then goes on to discuss how women’s bodies tire out after having too many children, which can lead to a higher death rate amongst infants, since the child was not fully healthy in the womb. The main focus of this nursery rhyme, however, is on the affect a large family has on the children. A family in poverty would have less food, and of course this less amount of food must be spread over a large amount of children, so they get even less. Many children in these families are starving and malnourished.

 

However, this riddle connects into the British Empire. The old woman who lived in a shoe is believed to have been about Queen Caroline. Queen Caroline was married to King George the II and had eight children. All 8 children were members of the British Parliament. According to rhymes.ork.uk, this is reason enough to suggest the bed represents Parliament. Furthermore, according to the same site, “even today the term ‘whip’ is used in the English Parliament to describe a Member of Parliament who is tasked to ensure that all members ‘toe the party line’.” Of course, it is also rumored that the “old woman” could have been King George II, as he was nicknamed the old woman for beginning the powdered wig trend. Obviously the children play the same role in both theories.

 

 

Then of course there is Patience Agbabi’s version of “There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe” which I believe is a modern take on a family in London. This woman has a bad marriage.  “There was an old bottle who met an old shoe.” She is a broken brown bottle. She is fragile, and an alcoholic. He is the lace up-leather shoe. He has been weathered down, but is still held together, and his past has made him tough. He holds expectations for her that she cannot fulfill, which causes her to drink more. I believe this relates to the idea that it is expected for women to bear children. The children are glass boots.
“There was an old woman: there was an old shoe.
She lived like a foot till the sole was worn through.”

 

Ultimately, the pressures in her everyday life led her to alcoholism. Once they tried to get her help, it was already too late.

 

“There was a brown bottle, empty and broken,

a pair of glass boots in a box they can’t open.”

 

The struggles that women used to go through are relatable to what they go through today. Women still have certain expectations in tradition families, and I believe this poem can show a different outcome of that lifestyle. This woman clearly did not get what she wanted out of life, and ultimately cost her life.

 

“She died alcoholic, she died in her bed,

she died when they severed the boots from her head.”

London’s Layers

Formerly” refers to what used to be, the past. The idea of “Formerly” by Tamar Yoseloff is what used to be in London is often no longer around, or at least is not the same. Each poem shows how London has changed over the years. “Final Clearance” says it.

Fin, Fine, End, that’s all.

It’s clear that once upon a time

you were the life and soul,

the duke of blue o’clock.

Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

The Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, as well as other locations in Formerly have changed significantly over the years. This one has changed the most though, as it isn’t even the same store anymore. This can and does happen anywhere in the world; not just London. While I can see how London has changed, I don’t see a “former London” per say. I see London in layers. It is a major contrast from New York City, where if something gets too old, they tear it down and build something newer in its place. Instead, I see a newer London built on top of a former London.

In Piccadilly Circus, for example, some years ago there were old buildings with blank faces. They neighbored newer buildings. However, now those older buildings have large TV monitors over what used to be bare faces. I wouldn’t see this as what was formerly London being changed into a new London, but instead the former London and the newer London coinciding with each other. The former London is still there. However, now it has a layer of new London on top of it.

This idea can be found all over London. Really anywhere you go in London, you can see how the old buildings still stand in their place. But of course on top of those, you can see the newer buildings. They stand taller, and are made to look more modern.  While the two coexist, they are still layered, separated from each other.

Formerly” really sums it all up. The poem itself has a line from each poem before it, which I feel is more than just poetic. This symbolizes how everything over the years comes together to form London. And the picture really shows how London is both new and old. The wall and the sign is still the same, but now a satellite dish has been added to it.

I loved how with this book we were able to actually see it everywhere in London. You could see how London has been changing. There was also a lot of construction, where they were building on top of was is pre-existing. But I think the part that impacted me the most is actually seeing one of the places that was discussed in the book. I ran into the “duk of gton” and if I hadn’t read this book, I wouldn’t realize what was significant about it now reading “duk of on”. I think this is an example of the old and new intertwining. This place of the past is still changing. Even the name isn’t the same anymore! I wonder where the letters go when they fall off.

 

London Skyline