Suffragette prison narratives: the foreignisation of the carceral experience

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Writing by imprisoned suffragettes created valuable publicity for the women’s suffrage movement, while also drawing attention to another social issue: the need for prison reform. Prison is a marginal, othering space, and suffragette prison narratives thus bear witness both to the subservient position of women in society, and to the marginalising effects of imprisonment. Focusing on suffragette writing from Holloway prison, this chapter proposes that prisoner writing can be likened to translation, as the writer attempts to describe the carceral world to those outside prison walls, mediating between cultural contexts. Drawing on concepts from translation studies, the chapter considers the translation strategies of domestication, which produces a fluent translation that reads like an original; and foreignisation, which sees the translator accentuate the foreign origins of the source text. This chapter examines the interplay between these strategies in suffragette prison narratives, comparing the prison diaries of Alice Hawkins and Elsie Duval, written covertly in prison, with carceral accounts written by Sylvia Pankhurst and Kitty Marion upon release from prison, published as propaganda for the suffrage cause. Situating these suffragette prison narratives within a wider prisoner writing tradition, the chapter considers how imprisoned suffragettes collectively describe the carceral experience, testifying to the world behind prison walls.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWomen’s Suffrage in Word, Image, Music and Drama
Subtitle of host publicationThe Making of a Movement
EditorsChristopher Wiley, Lucy Ella Rose
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780429344534
ISBN (Print)9780367361983
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


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