Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The population of England in 1819 was restless indeed, with many people -- both men and women -- rising up against the government for one reason or another. On August 16th, a crowd of from 60,000 to 80,000 people gathered at Saint Peter's Field in Manchester to make their demands known. When soldiers on horseback representing the throne stormed the crowd, sabres raised, fifteen of the demonstrators were killed and more than six hundred wounded, a quarter of them women.
One of these women was Mary Fildes, a passionate radical who had been accused of distributing pornography when she handed out material on birth control. One eyewitness described how "Mrs. Fildes, hanging suspended by a nail which had caught her white dress, was slashed across her exposed body by one of the...cavalry." Although badly wounded, Mary Fildes survived and continued her radical political work. That's what in-your-face women always do.
NOTE: The woman in the white dress on the stage in the painting above has been said to be Mary Fildes.