Hard Work – But Glorious or what I did during furlough… by Clare Wichbold
When I started my initial research into the suffrage campaign in Herefordshire back in 2018, I had no idea what it was going to lead to. I was working at Hereford Cathedral at the time, and was also involved in the Hereford Three Choirs Festival. We were celebrating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, when some women of property and of a certain age gained the Parliamentary vote. There was a mini-campaign of violet (instead of blue) plaques around the city celebrating the women and men involved in the suffrage movement, I dressed as a suffragette during festival week, and everyone enjoyed hearing the music of Dame Ethel Smyth, doyenne of the women composers.
I put my research to one side, jostled out of the way by work, with a constant refrain of “Ooooh, you should write a book” ringing in my ears. I’d toyed with the idea of a novel, but what I had didn’t seem to work as there were too many people turn into a workable narrative. I decided that if I did ever get round to writing, it would be a thoroughly researched, but readable, factual account of what was happening in the 19th and early 20th centuries in Herefordshire.
My claims of being too busy disappeared in March 2021 when I was furloughed from my current job as Fundraising Manager at The Courtyard Centre for the Arts in Hereford. Messages of encouragement began to arrive, and I started to write. I wrote every morning, even if it was nothing more than a word dump, then afternoons were devoted to gardening, fence painting, dog walking, preserve making, and anything else that didn’t involve going much further than the end of the lane.
Being a fundraising manager means that I love a good deadline and a word count. So I set myself a target of 75,000 words as a draft by the end of October 2020, thinking I’d be back at work and finishing the book off at the same time. Little did I know that I’d still be furloughed, we’d be heading into Lockdown 2.0, and I had time to go further.
I’d approached several publishers but hadn’t got anywhere and felt a little disappointed. I’d made contact with people across the country, from Longhorsley in the north, birthplace of Emily Wilding Davison, to Brighton, where the heritage of the suffrage campaign has a remarkably high profile. The stories I’d found, from my early research, and a wealth of material on line, were amazing. Then I had a sudden moment of enlightenment in late October when I realised that with furlough, I’d been lucky enough to be “paid” to write a book. How many people get that opportunity? I therefore decided that I would approach a local company, Orphans Press in Leominster, who have a reputation for high quality production and design, to see if they would help me self-publish.
I sent the manuscript off and there was a rapid “yes”. So the wonderful team at Orphans Studio set to work, and turned draft text into a real book. Their advice was invaluable, about layout, referencing, indexing and images. I didn’t need a full copy edit, possibly due to all my previous writing of funding bids, but I did employ a professional proof reader to check everything once the design and layout was completed, an expense well worth paying for!
The seven chapters cover various individuals and aspects of the campaign, both for and against votes for women. They are essays in themselves, but they interlink to create a whole account of what was happening in Herefordshire leading up to the 1918 General Election.
In the meantime, I was planning how to launch Hard Work – But Glorious, an interesting occupation during the pandemic. With self-publishing you don’t have the might of an organisation behind you to promote your book. However, I did have a couple of strokes of good fortune: I was recommended to speak to Lindsay Jackson at Ledbury Books and Maps about stocking my book for online sales and in store, and I was able to have a live audience at The Courtyard to do a launch talk, together with a discussion session and Q&A with a local BBC radio journalist, Nicola Goodwin. I’ve done lots on social media, which is a bit of a struggle sometimes; I’ve yet to get onto Instagram, but Twitter has been my mainstay, as well as good ol’ Facebook. I did get a professional journalist to do a book information sheet and a press release, which has been invaluable, and on their advice I had some proper PR photographs taken as well.
You’re probably wondering where the title comes from, and the cover image, too. In spring 1908 Gladice Keevil, a suffragette who’d already been arrested and sent to prison on more than one occasion, was coming to visit Hereford as part of the Women’s Social and Political Union campaign to encourage women to attend the Hyde Park Rally in June of that year. She was corresponding with a local suffragist, Bea Parlby. The letters are held by Herefordshire Archives, and Gladice wrote: “We want to thoroughly rouse the town, push the sale of tickets, bills in all shop windows and house to house canvassing as much as possible. It will be hard work – but glorious”. When I read this, I got goosebumps and immediately knew I had my title. The cover is a 1913 postcard from the LSE Women’s Library Collection, and I am so grateful that it was freely available as all their material is out of copyright.
I’m back at work now, and planning my second book, a biography of Constance Radcliffe Cooke, an unlikely suffragette whose father was an anti-suffrage MP; her campaigning is one of the chapters. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying sharing the stories from Hard Work – But Glorious, and putting Herefordshire firmly on the suffrage map.
Hard Work – But Glorious is available online from Ledbury Books and Maps, price £15
Follow Clare on Twitter: @CWichbold #HardWorkButGlorious