Aberdeen Art Gallery holds a collection of correspondence and papers that belonged to a woman journalist called Caroline Phillips. Most of the correspondence dates from between 1907 and 1909 and deals with the organisation of the Aberdeen branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), otherwise known as the Suffragettes. While the popular image of the suffragettes places them in England, particularly London, in fact the campaign for votes for women happened throughout the UK. However, it is unusual to have such a treasure trove of information about the goings-on in one small branch in north-east Scotland. This makes the Art Gallery collection – known as the Watt Collection after the person who deposited the letters at the Gallery – fascinating.
Caroline Phillips worked for the Aberdeen Daily Journal – the more conservative of the two daily newspapers in Aberdeen at this time. However, the archive shows that she used the Journal address as her address for correspondence relating to the WSPU, and also drafted WSPU-related letters on Daily Journal notepaper! In January 1908 she was warned by her employer that she was ‘identifying’ herself far too closely with the woman’s suffrage movement, and there is also evidence that she was shut out of some public events organised by the Liberal party because of her connections to the suffragettes. But this does not seem to have stopped her serving as honorary secretary for the Aberdeen WSPU branch and becoming involved in meetings and militancy.