See caption
Original photograph showing Manesta being restrained by a prison warder on the left, doctored image on the right
Source: Daily Telegraph

Evelyn Manesta was the name given by one of the three suffragettes arrested for damaging with hammers the glass protecting thirteen pictures in Manchester Art Gallery on 3 April 1913; the other two women were Annie Briggs and Lillian Forrester, the organiser of the Manchester Women’ Social and Political Union (WSPU). On being apprehended by the gallery staff Forrester explained that the women had no intention of damaging the pictures, but that they had broken the glass in protest at the imprisonment earlier that day of fellow suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.[1][a]Four of the paintings suffered some damage in the attack and all had to be reglazed. The cost of replacing the glass was £85, and repairs to two of the canvasses amounted to £25.[2]

The women had felt it was appropriate to make their protest in Manchester because that was the city where Pankhurst had founded the movement for women’s suffrage.[3]

None of the women denied the charge of malicious charge, so they were not required to stand in the witness box at their trial on 22 April 1913. Each of them did however choose to address the jury. Manesta declared that she was a political offender, protesting that the law did not apply equally to men and women, and in particular the divorce laws.[4]

Manesta claimed to be twenty-six years old and a governess. But other than this one incident nothing is known of her, leading to some speculation that the name was an alias used by an unknown suffragette.[1] As the undoctored picture of her head being held up by a prison warder shows, she certainly seems to have been reluctant to have her photograph taken.

For her part in the attack, Manesta was sentenced to one month in prison. Briggs was acquitted, but Forrester as a repeat offender was sentenced to three months imprisonment.[5][b]As Forrester was pregnant, she did not serve her full term but was released early.[5]

Motivation


Standing woman, artwork
Sibylla Delphica by Edward Burne-Jones was one of the pictures damaged.
Source: Art UK

Earlier on the day of the attack Emmeline Pankhurst had been sentenced to three years in prison for inciting an explosion at the house of Liberal MP David Lloyd George on 19 February 1903.[6]

Many of the pictures targeted by Manesta, Forrester and Briggs were idealised images of women. For them and for other suffragettes, it was an act of political symbolism to attack such images of women while real women suffered.[7]

Citations



Bibliography


Atkinson, D. (2018). Rise Up Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes (Kindle). Bloomsbury.
Denney, C. (2018). The Visual Culture of Women’s Activism in London, Paris and Beyond. McFarland.
Irving, S. (2011, November 21). TheSuffragette Attack on Manchester Art Gallery, April 1913. Retrieved from https://radicalmanchester.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/the-suffragette-attack-on-manchester-art-gallery-april-1913/
Manchester Art Gallery. (n.d.). Manchester Art Gallery Outrage. Retrieved from http://manchesterartgallery.org/news/manchester-art-gallery-outrage/
National Portrait Gallery. (n.d.). Lillian Forrester; Evelyn Manesta. Retrieved from https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw222556/Lillian-Forrester-Evelyn-Manesta?LinkID=mp65462&role=sit&rNo=1

Notes

   [ + ]

a. Four of the paintings suffered some damage in the attack and all had to be reglazed. The cost of replacing the glass was £85, and repairs to two of the canvasses amounted to £25.[2]
b. As Forrester was pregnant, she did not serve her full term but was released early.[5]