Rare portraits of Devon women influential in the suffrage campaign

Ross Tibbles
Ross Tibbles

Rarely seen portraits of influential Devon women, including Nancy Astor, Eleanor Acland and Gertrude Acland, will be on show at Killerton House on 4 August, running until 31st October.

The portraits are visiting as part of a touring exhibition, ‘Faces of Change: Votes for Women’, a partnership between the National Trust and the National Portrait Gallery.

Their images will be on display alongside rarely displayed portraits of Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, as part of an exhibition to mark the centenary of the People’s Representation Act which gave some women the right to vote.

There will be an opportunity for visitors to see a rare drawing of Nancy Astor by John Singer Sargent, who in 1919 was the first woman to take her seat as an MP in the House of Commons, representing Plymouth Sutton. A portrait of National Trust founder, Octavia Hill, who was against the vote for women, will also be part of the display.

The exhibition will explore the story of two generations of Acland women, both of whom lived in Devon on the Killerton estate, but held deeply different views on women’s suffrage – Gertrude Acland was a founder member of Exeter’s anti-suffrage league against women’s votes – whilst her niece, Eleanor Acland, was a founder member of the Liberal Women’s Suffrage Union, fighting for the right to vote.

Portraits of key figures such as suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, and police surveillance photographs of militant suffragettes, issued by Scotland Yard during the height of activist violence will be on display.

Eileen Dillon, Learning Officer for The National Trust at Killerton says, “We are really excited to have the National Portrait Gallery exhibition at Killerton this summer.

It’s the first time that we have partnered with the National Portrait Gallery here and we are looking forward to welcoming our visitors to explore the story of women who fought for change.”

Tom Freshwater, National Public Programmes Manager for the National Trust says, “Anniversaries such as the centenary of women’s suffrage provide a special opportunity to shine a light on some of the remarkable people who shaped our past. We are delighted that ‘Faces of Change – Votes for Women’ will enable the National Trust and the National Portrait Gallery to explore together through our collections some of the significant people at our places and to put their stories into a national context.”

Visitors will also be able to see portraits of women and men on both sides of the suffrage debate including doctors, writers, actors and politicians. Each place will show how it connects to this national story.

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Photographs © National Portrait Gallery

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