Here at The Women’s Library there is a constant struggle to catalogue all the records, letters and personal papers of those who leave their collections to our archives. Which means that we are still coming across fantastic, previously unknown stories, scandals and anecdotes all the time.
By an amazing stroke of luck, I found this correspondence between two fairly well known suffragettes, Evelina Bruhne and Fanny Bovvington-Keye, last week, just in time for last night’s Burning Bridges storytelling night.
I must entreat you to write your letters on the inside of the envelope. If you must throw off the patriarchal shackles of stationery then it really would be most advisable to try some other form of communication. I fear Gilbert read rather more of our secret scheme than I had intended when he brought the post to the breakfast table this morning.
But what’s done is done. In answer to your initial question – yes, I believe petticoats could indeed become most flammable once soaked in engine oil. But I must give counsel against your idea of soaking them whilst on one’s body. As you know, our meagre feminine education means that I am not as well versed in the nature of chemical conflagrations, but I fear this technique might land us in rather hot water, as it were.
As to the material construction of Westminster Bridge. After conversing with George I believe it to be primarily iron. That surely must be flammable? Otherwise, perhaps some form of wooden torching could be quickly erected along the arch, to give the impression of a blaze?
Indeed, I do believe that most persons of good quality will understand our reference to Wordsworth. And I fear that the flaming siege of Westminster Bridge may not be quite the right stage for a recital of the sonnet, although you are quite right, your enunciation is quite unparalleled.
Yours in eternal sisterhood and confidence,
Here is the reply, donated along with Fanny’s otehr personal papers:
My Dearest Fanny
I shall forever be in your debt for such wise counsel. After some initial investigations of the flammable properties of undergarments I can advise that you are quite right to suggest their removal. Fear not, my injuries are nothing a dab of witchhazel cannot soothe.
Do please give my highest regards to George.
Malcolm is most looking forward to our supper party on Saturday.
All my love in insurrection and wise alacrity,
Post Script: I fear one of the staff may have found our ‘Votes for Women or Burn on Earth’ banner under the bed this morning. It was all most unexpected. Mavis was to beat the carpets, but took it in to her fuzzy head that she was to beat all the bed linen. I remonstrated with her most seriously. She has promised not to tell that dullard policeman her father about any of our scheme. Fear not brave heart. Us women will stick together.