- Museum number
- Object: The Belle-alliance, or the female reformers of Blackburn!!!-
A file of (burlesqued) female reformers proceeds (left to right) along a platform towards the chairman of a Reform Meeting, a bow-legged proletarian wearing fashionable Hessian boots. Beside him kneels a ragamuffin holding the pole of a banner inscribed 'Reform' towards the leader of the women, a stout noseless virago with petticoat rolled up to show breeches (with pockets turned inside-out) and tattered stockings. She places a large cap of Liberty with cockade and favour upon the pole, holding up in her left hand a rolled document: 'Adress of the Female Reform[ers]—of Blackburn July 5th 1819'. She shouts: ""Muster Chairman & Brother—will you accept this token of our Love & by placing it on the head of your pole [scored through] Banner you will confer a Obligation on us—& will you read the adress which I holds in my hand, to the meeting, it embraces every thing we want, & my apologise [sic] for our putting on the breeches; and entreats you, & every man in England, to stand up & come forward & join the general Union, that by a determined Constitutional resistance to our oppressors we may obtain the Great end" !!!" On the upper border of the print: "The presentation of the Cap of Liberty was accompanied by a short emphatic speech delivered by Mrs Kitchen" !!! —The Banner was then lowered, Crowned by ye Cap of Liberty & re-hoisted amidst the continued shouts & huzzas of ye meeting." Three men, salaciously amused, stand behind the chairman; two wave their hats. The first woman is followed by one still fatter, similarly dressed, and holding a dagger. The third is younger and more demure, wearing a short patched petticoat, the only one of the women not wearing a bonnet rouge. Behind her a thin woman holds up in both arms a child wearing a bonnet rouge and with a dagger in each hand; she declaims: ""we swear to instill into the minds of our children, a deep rooted abhorrence of all civil or religious government like the present"!!" A fat disreputable creature follows, holding a bottle in each hand, with a tiny neglected infant tucked under the right arm. She winks towards the men below, saying, "we are some of the right sort my lads!" Below her, two men, one a butcher, hoist a fat and not uncomely woman on to the platform. Above the crowd below, on her way to the platform, is a woman resembling a maenad of the French Revolution (cf. Théroigne de Méricourt in No. 7560 by I. Cruikshank). She holds up a firebrand in one hand, a dagger in the other, and shouts: "If they von't grant us Libeties vhy d—me ve'll take 'em." Behind her a woman holds a long pole with a cross-piece of daggers from which hangs a woman's ragged shift with a notice: 'The Female St George over coming the Monster Corruption'. On the shift is depicted a dragon breathing fire at a woman who bestrides it holding a dagger and shield. Behind the women is a background of densely packed male spectators shouting: "God bless the Women!"; "Bless the whole of them"; and "Huzza! Petticoat government for ever."
Across the lower part of the design are spectators, much caricatured and generally disreputable, and on the left a number of dwarfish Jacobin children with daggers or knives. An emaciated man wearing a petticoat points up at the second woman in the procession, turning to a sturdy disgruntled fellow, to whom he points out the rape of his breeches. Others are more enthusiastic, including a knock-kneed man wearing a ragged smock and short gaiters on bare legs. On the right of the platform and in the background is a sea of heads; from these ascend the words: "Oh! my eyes this is a glorious sight!—Huzza—" and "I think it is high time some of the Ladies should think about Reform." After the title: '"Liberty or Death", was vociferated from every Mouth—ye tear of welcome sympathy seem'd to trickle from every eye—"God bless the women", was uttered from every tongue; in fact, imagination can only do justice to this interesting scene. Could the Cannibal Castlereagh have witnessed this Noble expression of public sentiment, he must have had a heart of brass if it had not struck him Dead to the ground"!!!—!!!—!!! Vide Report of the Meeting.'
12 August 1819
- Production date
Height: 250 millimetres
Width: 355 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Description and comment from M. Dorothy George, 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires in the British Museum', IX, 1949)
The words after the title are quoted from the 'Black Dwarf', 14 July 1819, in a full account of the meeting at Blackburn on 5 July, when the Female Reformers presented a cap of Liberty with a short emphatic speech by Mrs. Alice Kitchen. Their Address was read by the chairman, Mr. J. Knight, and strongly worded resolutions were passed. The women's address contained a passage declaring 'the avowed determination, of instilling into the minds of their offspring a deep-rooted abhorrence of Tyranny, come in what shape it may; whether under the mask of civil or religious government ...'. This was one of many mass meetings which, with the Unions and Associations formed in industrial districts, made Ministers fear revolution, see No. 13271, &c. For the Female Reformers see Bamford, 'Passages in the Life of a Radical', 1905, ii. 141 f. See also Nos. 13260, 13262, 13263, 13264, 13275,
A drawing in pen and pencil for a caricature on this subject is in the Print Room (201. c. 6/85).
Reid, No. 905. Cohn, No. 921.
The Belle-alliance is an ironic allusion to Waterloo; cf. 'Peterloo' (No. 13258, &c.).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2008-09 Sept-Jan, BM, Room 90, Liberty in Political Prints, 1760-1820
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number