It is 1913, nine years after the end of A Little Princess saw Sara Crewe escape Miss Minchin’s orphanage.
Lottie, the smallest girl from the original story, learns about the Suffragette movement from Sara, who returns to visit from time to time. Soon Lottie finds herself sneaking out of the orphanage to attend a demonstration, in defiance of her cold, distant father. A father who has a secret to hide about her own missing mother…
It’s a story about lost mothers turning up in unexpected situations, the power of friendship and female empowerment.
Guest Post by Holly Webb
The story of The Princess and the Suffragette starts in 1911. At the time, the main expectation of middle and upper-class girls in Britain was that they would become wives and mothers. They only needed to be educated to the extent that they could run a household – a basic understanding of accounts, planning a menu and directing servants. They would also be able converse politely in company, and have accomplishments such as sketching, music, dancing and speaking French. Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies certainly wasn’t trying to educate girls to go on to university. Lottie, my main character, who was the spoiled baby of A Little Princess, knows that she hates the school. She finds the obsessive gossip about London society and being presented at court boring – but she doesn’t really understand that there’s anything else for her to do.
A girl like Sally, the maid from Miss Minchin’s who introduces Lottie to the Suffragettes, would only go to school until the age of twelve. Although there were some schools for older children, staying at school would mean she wasn’t earning. She might also be taken out of school every so often to help look after younger children, or to help with the family washday, which was a huge amount of work.
A woman’s place was in the home (and the mill, and the factory) – and many men fought desperately to keep her there.
How much has changed?
Women can vote all over the world – and just today I heard on the news that Saudi Arabia, the last country to allow women voting rights, has lifted the ban on women driving.
Girls can do anything! Haven’t we won?
But women in Britain still only earn 81p for every pound earned by men. Women’s contribution to society through working and caring in the home isn’t given its proper value, and women are far more likely than their partners to sacrifice a career to look after children. If you look at the chairs and CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, there are twice as many men called Dave as there are women.
Women in public life are constantly harassed and threatened online – as I’m writing this, BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg is at the Labour Party Conference with a bodyguard to protect her after online threats – because she’s a woman, and she’s obvious, and for some people, that’s not acceptable.
Lottie and Sally would be still fighting.
Holly has written over 100 children’s books including the Animal Stories series, Hounds of Penhallow Hall and The Princess and the Suffragette.