Reviews and comment from the Demon Crew - creative writers at De Montfort University, Leicester.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Death in ten minutes

What impressed me most about Fern Riddell's account of the Suffrage movement was how honest it was. She didn't shy away from the harsh truths of what happened. If anything she embraced it. She's clearly fighting against the glamorization that is typically done when people recount these kinds of historical events.

Her talk was framed around her book on the life of Kitty Marion a determined and violent member of the suffragettes who lived an incredible life - "the original "me too'" as Fern called her. Kitty Marion wouldn't put up with sex being used as a commodity and decided to devote their life to activism. She fought for women's rights by any means necessary. Vandalism, arson, and bombings were a part of daily life.

"Are our memories so short?" Fern asked the audience, indeed it does seem much of the grit has been stripped from many accounts of the time period. But Fern is keen neither to vilify those who took part nor to justify their actions. She simply explores them truthfully then trusts the readers to come to their own conclusion from the facts. In today's political climate that's admirable. I'm eager to give her new book Death In Ten Minutes a read when it debuts in April.

The other impressive thing was how Fern dealt with pointed questions from the audience. They didn't ask her the easy stuff; one chap challenged Fern about how it wasn’t just some groups of women who got the vote but working men too - a fact that's often forgotten. Fern agreed though with stipulations. The fella became quite heated over the issue but Fern remained collected and responded about how divisive the topic can be. Someone else asked about what the bigger cause of women getting the vote was, the war or suffrage. Fern admitted that she rocks from one view to the other. A student asked about the involvement of men in helping to get the vote. Fern was eager to cite numerous cases of men who helped the suffragettes. Sadly time was running short. I could have listened for another half hour. 

Sam Davies

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