On the 17th June 1911 the Actresses' Franchise League took part in a Coronation Process in London - marching from Embankment to the Albert Hall.
Both militant and constitutional societies took part in what would be the biggest and last procession for Votes for Women. Held a week before George V's coronation it was hoped by the organisers that the Procession would encourage the new King to support the suffragists and their cause. Over 50,000 women representing societies from across the country and the world marched in a procession that was approximately six miles long. The whole thing was led by a woman dressed as Joan of Arc and riding a white horse and the procession included the WSPU's Drum and Fife band, a Suffragette Prisoners section and women dressed as a Pageant of Queens. It must have been an extraordinary sight!
The Actresses' Franchise League contingent marched five abreast carrying roses and wearing sashes in their colours of pink and green. The roses they carried were the variety 'Dorothy Perkins', developed in America by the company Jackson and Perkins, who are still in operation today.
Named for Charles Perkins' granddaughter, 'Dorothy Perkins' was introduced in 1901 and was a great success. In 1908, the rose won top honours at the Royal National Rose Society.
There was a long list of instructions for the actresses who would be marching in the procession - of where and when to meet, how they should behave and look and what they should be carrying:
There were also strict instructions issued by the League offices as to the colour scheme of clothing that the AFL members should wear for the procession.
Tussore is a lightish tan and heliotrope a pinky purple, if you're wondering.
A great shame that the photo below isn't in colour - I bet they looked fantastic!
All the banners and flowers were given to Suffragette organisers when the marchers arrived at the Albert Hall - and the flowers subsequently taken to the women's wards of various hospitals.
What about the clothes shop Dorothy Perkins? Curiously enough, the shop changed it's name from H.P. Newman to Dorothy Perkins after the rose in 1919, apparently when the wife of one of the company directors suggested the name.
About a month ago I decided to see if I could track one down - and here's Dorothy Perkins planted in my garden next to a tree I'm hoping she will ramble up. It's just outside the window by my desk so I can keep an eye on her progress!
Update in April 2020.
Three years after this blog post, I moved house and sadly had to leave Dorothy behind, but as you can see from the picture below she was thriving. I've just moved again to somewhere with a garden space, and so have sourced and planted another Dorothy Perkins rose and hope to see these beautiful flowers again in the future.
Thoughts, reflections, bits of research