Sally Heathcote – Suffragette – Mary Talbot , Kate Charlesworth , Bryan Talbot
This is the second collaboration between Mary and Bryan Talbot, the first was Dotter of her Father’s Eyes, the story of James Joyce’s daughter Lucia, which we reviewed here.
Sally Heacote – Suffragette takes on the topic of the Suffragette movement in England in the early 1900s. As it is nearly a hundred years since women were allowed to vote, it is a time to take stock and also to review the sacrifices that were made in the battle for equality. While Sally Heathcote did not actually exist, the majority of the other characters in this graphic novel did. This is quite an insight into the movement, and brings you from the initial stages to a time where the changes in the law were inevitable. The brief section on the Suffragette movement in the history books of my school years focused Emily Davison, who threw herself in front of the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby in June 4, 1913. In truth, the movement was already well established at this time, and there were many strong willed women and men willing to fight for equality. They committed acts of vandalism, suffered imprisonment, went on hunger strikes and endured forced feedings in prison and all for the cause they so strongly believed in.
The art work is largely black and white, but certain flashes of colour are introduced, which make it all the more striking. Sally’s strong red hair, badges, flowers and a variety of other items are coloured, while the rest of the panel remain in simple dual tone. Bryan Talbot has a substantial talent to capture expressions and simple poses, and there is a marked attention to detail in recreating this Edwardian Britain.
This is not just a simple tale of the movement, as Sally is a well rounded character, and we get to see her movement from a seemstress to an empowered woman, but also her friendships and loves along the way. After her first trip to prison, she is introduced to the radical wing of the movement and carries out a number of crimes. They have firmly established that no one will be injured in these attacks, but the book does not hide from the fact the movement crossed the line into damage of property and even arson.
The decision to create the character of Sally, rather than use one of the actual individuals in the movement allows a certain degree of freedom in what parts of the story to tell but will also allow others to question the veracity of the tale. The book aims to give the reader a palatable version of the events and it achieves this goal well. It is an unusual topic for a graphic novel to cater for, as often the world of comics is seen as male dominated. Hopefully that is just another barrier that this book will help break down.
You can find out more about Mary Talbot on her webiste here.