This is my painting of Norah Smyth, a rather camera-shy photographer, painter and sculptor who became an organiser and key activist in the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS). One thing she helped organise was a defence bodyguard of women to protect demonstrators from the frequent violence meted out to suffragettes by the police. Norah was arrested and imprisoned on a number of occasions
On the top right is her snap of Sylvia Pankhurst (whose home, a large house on Old Ford Road, she shared) making a speech from a precarious wooden platform next to a ‘Votes for Women’ slogan she’d just painted in gold across the frontage of 198 Bow Road.
Below it is her photo of local customers in the Women’s Hall enjoying cheap, wholesome food in the ELFS restaurant.
On the left is her photo of an ELFS delegation to Downing Street to meet the Liberal Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. (Norah’s radical suffragette aunt, the composer Dr Ethyl Smyth, once stormed into No 10, sat herself down at the Asquith family piano on the ground floor to hammer out and yell her March of the Women composition whilst a Cabinet Meeting was taking place upstairs.
Norah was the Treasurer of the ELFS. She gave lots of her own money to keep its activities afloat, particularly the Toy Factory in Bow that made wooden toys, providing work and a decent wage to many local women, with its crèche for those with young children. Norah often acted as Sylvia’s chauffeur, driving her to meetings in this country and other parts of Europe. She helped to edit the ELFS’s Dreadnought newspapers, particularly whenever Sylvia was in prison.