Monthly Archives: March 2010

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. The theme for IWD 2010 is “Equal rights, equal opportunities, progress for all”, so in celebration here’s a look at how female equality campaigners have been represented on British stamps. 

50th anniversary of Votes for Women stamp (1968)

50th anniversary of Votes for Women stamp (1968)

Fittingly, the first woman commemorated on a British stamp was suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, as part of a 1968 commemorative celebrating the 50th anniversary of Votes for Women.

Within our Archive we hold all artwork submitted for the 1968 Votes for Women stamp. The issued stamp was designed by Clive Abbot, and is based on a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst which was erected in Victoria Tower Gardens, near the Palace of Westminster. However, the instructions to the artists invited to submit designs for this stamp (Abbott, M.C. Farrar-Bell, David Gentleman and Jeffrey Matthews of Harrison & Sons) had something very different in mind.

It was suggested that the stamp have “a shadowy background of the House of Commons with a pictorial representation of two women, one in 1918 dress, the other in 1968 dress, dropping their votes in a ballot box”. Two designs along these lines were submitted by M.C. Farrar-Bell, but were rejected.

Unadopted design for Votes for Women stamp by M.C. Farrar-Bell

Unadopted design for Votes for Women stamp by M.C. Farrar-Bell

Jeffrey Matthews submitted a design which differed slightly from the instructions, incorporating the House of Commons and a ballot box, but also a laurel wreath, a symbol of the Women’s Social & Political Union and of victory, and a scroll motif suggestive of the banners, flags, and sashes of the suffragettes.

Clive Abbott and David Gentleman both submitted designs based on this famous photograph showing Emmeline Pankhurst’s arrest at a protest. Gentleman also submitted another design, based on a photograph such as this (there are many similar photographs showing suffragettes with sandwich boards), but this was also rejected. (We’ll be making more of the artwork from this issue available in the future as part of the Stamp Artwork Project.)

Unadopted design for Votes for Women stamp by David Gentleman

Unadopted design for Votes for Women stamp by David Gentleman

Emmeline Pankhurst and the theme of women’s rights have been celebrated several times more on British stamps, in 1999, as part of The Citizen’s Tale issue, in 2006, when a portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst was used as part of the National Portrait Gallery issue, and, as long time readers of this blog will remember, in 2008 when Millicent Garrett Fawcett, suffragist and wife of former Postmaster General Henry Fawcett, appeared on the Women of Distinction issue.

A trio of women's suffrage stamps

A trio of women's suffrage stamps: Votes for Women stamp (1999), Emmeline Pankhurst portrait (2006) and Millicent Garrett Fawcett stamp (2008)

The Women of Distinction issue also featured Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman to become a Doctor in Britain and the first female Mayor in England, family planning pioneer Marie Stopes, Member of Parliament and women’s rights campaigner Eleanor Rathbone, black political activist Claudia Jones, who organised the first Notting Hill Carnival, and Barbara Castle who piloted the equal pay act.

Women of Distinction presentation pack (2008)

Women of Distinction presentation pack (2008)

Elizabeth Fry stamp from the Social Reformers issue (1976)

Elizabeth Fry stamp from the Social Reformers issue (1976)

Hannah More stamp from Aboltion of the Slave Trade issue (2007)

Hannah More stamp from Aboltion of the Slave Trade issue (2007)

Other female equality campaigners who have been represented on stamps include the champion of women prisoners Elizabeth Fry, whose work was commemorated as part of the Social Reformers issue of 1976 (designed by David Gentleman), and poet and campaigner Hannah More, who appeared on a stamp released in 2007 as part of the Abolition of the Slave Trade issue. More’s anti-slavery poems are considered to some of the most important written during the abolitionist period, and part of one of them, The Sorrows of Yamba, can be seen in the background of the Hannah More commemorative stamp.

The most recent female equality campaigners to appear on British stamps were pioneering feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and Judy Fryd, founder of Mencap and campaigner for mentally handicapped children, who both appeared in last year’s Eminent Britons issue.

From the Eminent Britons stamp issue (2009): Mary Wollstonecraft and Judy Fryd

From the Eminent Britons stamp issue (2009): Mary Wollstonecraft and Judy Fryd

The Rowland Hill Fund

The following blog was written for us by Mary Jeffery, Manager of the Rowland Hill Fund.

The Rowland Hill Fund is a registered charity founded in 1882 as a memorial to the great postal reformer and founder of the modern postal service Sir Rowland Hill, who retired as Secretary to the Post Office in 1864.

Portrait of Sir Rowland Hill

Sir Rowland Hill

Rowland Hill adapted the postal system of the 1830s from one which was slow and inadequate to the introduction of using an adhesive stamp on the letter sheets, and the Penny Black was born. This system meant letters were cheaper to send and Rowland Hill succeeded in making the postal system more efficient and profitable.

Rowland Hill died in Hampstead, London in 1879 and in 1882 the Post Office created the Rowland Hill Fund in his memory for postal workers, pensioners and their dependants in times of need.

In its early days before the existence of the Welfare State organisations such as ours were often the only place that individuals could turn to when in financial distress. Although welfare provision is now an accepted part of society there is nonetheless a need to provide financial support, and the Rowland Hill Fund is still a vibrant concern.

Over the years the Fund has helped thousands of individuals and made grants totalling many hundreds of thousands of pounds. Last year the Fund dealt with 369 new cases distributing close to £250,000 in grant aid to current and retired colleagues, and made more than 50 grants of £1,000 or over.

The support we offer is varied; help with budgeting, respite breaks, home modifications for the disabled, mobility vehicles or an unexpected crisis. The diverse nature of the help provided indicates that there is an ongoing need for the financial support and practical advice we are able to offer. There is a free confidential Helpline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, HELP 0800 688 8777. Here are examples where the Fund has helped.

“A serving colleague’s ground floor belongings were destroyed in the recent floods. She had to move upstairs until the substantial repairs on the ground floor had been completed and needed a temporary electricity supply and a washing machine. We contributed £500 as an emergency payment.”

“For several years a retired colleague had difficulty of movement, and with the help of his wife had managed to continue leading a fairly full life. As she was getting older, she was no longer able to lift him. The Fund helped towards the installation of a stair lift and bath hoist.”

“A couple are travelling daily to visit their son in hospital. Their son was born with a number of heath problems and has been in hospital since birth and will remain there for several more months. They had paid out £720 in travelling expenses and the Fund reimbursed them and will continue to pay their travel costs until their son leaves hospital.”

“A family house had hardly any heating and there was no hot water available except from kettles. Their two young children were particularly affected during the cold weather and had to be shipped off to their grandmothers to stay until the weather improved. The Fund contributed towards the cost of a replacement gas boiler.”

Often people are suffering hardship through no fault of their own and we are here to provide assistance when it is most needed, and in these changing times we want people to know that there is somewhere they can turn to for support. If you know of a Royal Mail Group colleague or pensioner who may be in need of financial or practical support, do let them know about the Fund.

Please support your charity and give what you can to help those who need it the most. For more information, ways to contribute and eligibility criteria, visit our website www.rowlandhillfund.org

15% off at our online Shop

Until Monday 15th March we’re offering 15% off all orders over £10 at our Shop. So if you’ve had your eyes on something but not got around to ordering it, do it now and save. 

Night Mail t-shirt

Night Mail t-shirt

Products recently added to the online shop include greetings cards and postcards featuring our collection of GPO posters, but a range of other items are also available including t-shirts based on the Night Mail poster, a range of publications covering philately, postal history and design, and even an apron and tea towel featuring the Telegram Messengers.

To obtain your discount you must order by telephone or e-mail. Just call us on +44 20 7239 5125 or email us at shop@postalheritage.org.uk with your contact details and the items you wish to purchase quoting the code “March2010″.

Terms and Conditions
This offer is only available when ordering by telephone or e-mail, on or before 15 March 2010.
Discount only available for orders over £10 (excluding postage and packaging)

The British Library Philatelic Rarities

by Adrian Steel

The entrance to the British Library, St Pancras

The entrance to the British Library, St Pancras

I was privileged to be shown around the British Library’s exhibition for the 2010 Festival of Stamps by David Beech FRPSL, Head of Philatelic Collections, recently. The exhibition, entitled ‘The British Library Philatelic Rarities’, opened on 1 February and runs until the end of the year.

Fifty of the gems of the British Library’s substantial collections have been selected and displayed in the pull-out frames, situated on the upper ground floor of the British Library’s main St Pancras headquarters. Along with the rest of the permanent philatelic exhibition, they are available to view during normal BL opening hours.

Philatelic Collections Frames at the British Library

Philatelic Collections Frames at the British Library

The exhibition of course includes penny blacks, as well as penny reds from Plate 77 (used and unused), but the rarities are from around the world, including the 1d stamp produced in 1765 for the American colonies, the introduction of which was so hotly disputed that the cry ‘no taxation without representation’ was raised.

During my visit it was particularly pleasing to see the number of different people who as casual visitors paused to look at the philatelic material on display, and the situation of the pull-out frames in the main public areas helps this. The London 2010 Festival of Stamps is all about taking the richness of philatelic heritage and the many rewards of stamp collecting to more people, and new people, and seeing what the BL hold will provide great encouragement.