Wednesday 25 January 2012

Library burns, long live the Library

'The building was set fire to at night, and the building and contents were destroyed.  A book by Christabel Pankhurst was left at the site, along with a note reading, ‘To start your new library’.

It was not the first arson attack by the Birmingham branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which was active in the area throughout the period of its existence.

The burning of the library effected the poorest people in Northfield, including women and children, who had little access to reading.  The success in raising awareness of the suffragette cause came at a cost to sympathy for the movement.

It makes me uncomfortable to look at this image from nearly a century ago, and sad both for the women willing to risk everything for their cause, and for all people who suffered through their activism.

To me, it also demonstrates the (continuing) importance of libraries - their potent symbolic, and actual, link between power and knowledge.

Also the importance of photos (even an old black and white, low resolution copy of a newspaper) to tell a story.  Please visit Northfield Portrait and see our growing collection of photos, and send any images you may have of Northfield.

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