It is a curious thing but the leading lights of the Women’s Social and Political Union not only found the time to prosecute a campaign to win the vote for women but also turned their minds to inventing board games as a means of raising funds. We have already looked at Suffragetto which was produced in 1908. It was followed a year later by Pank-A-Squith, an ungainly name conjured out of the surnames of the two principal proponents in the suffrage struggle, Emmeline Pankhurst and the then Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith.
First advertised in Votes for Women on October 22, 1909, the game was designed to teach people about the issues around the struggle for women’s suffrage but also to raise much needed funds as well as brightening up a dull evening. The set consisted of a board, a die, six suffragette figurines made from lead, and a set of instructions. Each of the figurines holds a rolled petition and wears a sash prominently displaying the green, white, and purple colours of the movement. The board also displays the suffragette colours and has “printed in Germany” stamped on the back.
The board contains 50 squares in a circular spiral pattern leading to the middle one which marks the Houses of Parliament, the arrival at which was the pinnacle of achievement for the movement. The object of the game, suitable for two to six players, was to move from the outer edge of the board to the centre and was rather like snakes and ladders. A throw of the die determined how many squares the player could move. The pictures on the board vividly illustrate some of the perils a determined suffragette could anticipate encountering.
The sixth square showed a group of women throwing rocks at the windows of the Home office, landing on square 16 required the player to send a penny to Suffragette funds, and square 18 had a picture of the Bow Street magistrate’s court. On square 25 there was an illustration of Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested after striking a police officer and squares 32 and 43 showed Holloway Prison and the practice of force-feeding, respectively.
Although there was a vein of humour running through the game, it also shed light on the darker side of the campaign with its images of police brutality against women protestors and the force-feeding of imprisoned hunger strikers. It was a novel and innovative way of popularising the cause and the movement’s colours as well as raising funds for the cause. A complete set was sold recently for just under £5,000.