Sally Heathcote: Suffragette by Mary M. Talbot, Bryan Talbot, Kate Charlesworth is a graphic novel focusing on a fictional character involved in the suffrage movement from it’s earliest beginnings.
Sally, a working class manchester maid, is rescued from the workhouse by MRS Pankhurst herself and is, therefore, able to tell us the continuous story of the Suffrage movement from it’s earliest beginnings.
At first, I thought this book was non-fiction and not historical fiction as I learnt after reading. The story itself was quite captivating and as a working class London feminist it was nice to read about the fight for female votes from the working class point of view.
I understand the educational purpose of using someone close to the most all known suffragette in history but I do believe that could have found a real suffragette to base this on.
However, it may not be the women movement that is the author’s intended focus. The story brings up questions of friendship, loyalty, fighting for what you believe in and facing the consequences of that passion. There is also a lot of reflection on MRS Pankhurst’s actions and can become quite negative. I was less unsure about this narrative when I believed the novel to be non-fiction. The author does use Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence’s auto-biography as a reference and considering the events in Sally Heathcote: Suffragette I do not know if I can say this is a fair presentation of Emmeline Pankhurst. Although, Emmeline Pankhurst was a human in a position of considerable responsibility but also privilege and can not be assumed a saint.
The art style matches with the context with a sketched style and muted colours except added vibrant shades for pieces of focal characters that the audience must remember.
The amount of information can sometimes be overwhelming and can result in the flipping back and re-reading of parts to remember who, what and where you are sometimes.
I was proud to see the inclusion of the horrific abuse suffered by Women for my right to vote and would hope that future Women may be reminded of this. These reminders are necessary, highlighted by the novel itself in the last comic strip as Sally Heathcote’s Granddaughter exclaims “Oh, I don’t think I’ll bother, grandma.” When Sally expresses her excitement at her ability to vote in a years time.
A sad truth that the struggles and torture our ancestors went through to pressure our rights should never be forgotten. Rights we do not value were bled, starved and protested for by women who were seen as weak minded and irrational.
I would recommend this as a nice quick read for anyone who wants a basic outline of the suffrage movement but if you’re really interested I’d do some other research.
Thanks for reading,