“Suffragette”: An Ethnographic Review

Mind you, I am all too familiar with the content of the film, “Suffragette.” Having studied, then taught, women’s studies and feminism at the university level since 1990, I know the basic story of the Pankhursts. The story of votes for women.

Both the US and the UK had simultaneous battles ongoing in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Yes, battles. We are shocked and appalled by the images of police-men throwing down young girls in classrooms, on street corners. We can’t understand how any police-man can shoot a fleeing suspect in the back, in cold blood. Part of the answer is that the police have always been a violent gang of legalized thugs that do the bidding of government – be that local, regional, or national.1

Yet, knowing the tragedies of women’s lives, especially working women’s lives, does not diminish the agony of watching it unfold before you in the well-acted, well-constructed film that is “Suffragette.” The lead, Maude Hobbs Watts, skillfully played by Carey Mulligan, is the English personification of a too hard-worked, married mother of one who was in a certain place at a certain time. Karma? Fate?

A laundry-woman (not considered a skilled trade despite being one), Maude is confronted by the 1913 anarchist movement founded by Emmeline Pankhurst. The call to incitement to act in “deeds, not words,”2 came after some half-century of peaceful protests, speeches, and pamphlet-writing by multitudes of woman orators and authors who all made reasonable arguments in favor of women’s equal status with men.

Maude’s awakening/consciousness raising came at first from seeing and getting caught inside a radical Women’s Social and Political Union WSPU window-breaking attack on West End shops. Injured and confused, she made her way home and talked – or tried to talk – to her husband, Sonny, about what she’d witnessed. The more she learned, and the more women she met who themselves were involved in the Votes for Women movement, stirred something deep inside. A yearning for a different life, for herself and her husband, but most especially for her son, Charlie.

The dramatic break-up of this tiny family is a microcosm of the whole raison d’etre of the women’s movement. Her husband failed her. Her child was swept away from her. The “boss” at the laundry, where she worked herself to exhaustion for a pittance, had been sexually abusing her since becoming an orphan of the laundry (her mum was scalded to death) at age 4. She watched as another young 12-year-old girl was being targeted by the same “boss.” Maude had had enough.

While I don’t think breaking windows and blowing up mailboxes are particularly good or effective ways of getting ones’ point across – then or now – I quite understand the frustration that must have welled up in this movement. Reason and well-thought argument, it was clear, did nothing, nothing to change men’s minds. Pankhurst also said that men only understand war.

In the end, a woman’s life was sacrificed in order to bring the British government around to even paying attention. Even then, it had to happen in such a public place with the entire world’s press watching and reporting to have an effect. Whose life and what mode of sacrifice? For that bit, go watch this film. Weep for those women, weep for women right now, and weep for all of us.

I’ve called this an ethnographic review because part of the experience was going to the Strode Theatre in Street, Somerset (close to Glastonbury) for a cinema night. The house was nearly full. Throughout the film there were ripples of disgust, shock, and horror. At the close, the film makers gave some pertinent facts about the fight for women’s rights. As each new line or information or date of suffrage for women around the world was revealed, there was an audience-wide intake of breath. Later, in the café while ordering coffee to try to settle my thoughts and drive home, women at the bar were saying that every little girl needs to see the film. I think every child should. A few elder women whispered at their table that their own mums or grans were involved. Many, though, had no idea that all this had happened.

That is the base, the core of the problem that we as women still have to face every day with our current fight for women’s rights. Education and keeping the herstory alive and in schools, writing, films, music, art – IN PUBLIC – is vital for today’s battles to be won.


1 BTW, I am not anti-policing as there are legitimate criminals. I am anti-thuggery, however, which is what I am discussing here.
2 Pankhurst, Emmeline. 1914 My Own Story. p. 38.

A November Photo Essay

Thursday dawned as a very wet, very blustery, very bleh day.  Great day. No really.  I went to the Abbey as usual, but as there were few people about, I decided to go up to the meeting room where all of the reference library is kept and delve into a PhD thesis about the Abbey’s archaeology. There is also a brandy-new book available that outlines the archaeological digs at the Abbey as long as such has been going on.

After I exhausted my eyes, I went down to the Abbey Tea Rooms for a cuppa and a look through the local paper.  I “met” a very loud young man who told me he was a channel and a healer.  “Me too,” says I.  I have found that channels and healers are a dime a dozen in Glastonbury.  This one was heading back to London after 18 months here.  He sounded bereft, as if he were going home to Siberia and not just 3 hours down the M4. Leaving Glastonbury has a tendency to that to people, though.  I understand and sympathized.

Once I finished my tea, I decided to take a drive up streets and lanes that I had never been on before.  What was laid before me is a quiet lane and a “back door” route to the Tor.

Here are some vistas of the countryside from that lane.

The late afternoon/evening had turned beautiful seeing the rain of the morning move to some other vale and now the clouds lay gorgeous on Avalon.

Just a bit further along the lane, solitary among boulders of granite or limestone to keep people from parking and leaving their cars there, is this solid quartz boulder.  Of course, my pictures don’t do it justice.  It is 30″ high at its maximum and about that broad on the ground.  My pictures attempt to show the numerous points and crannies that make up the boulder.  For you Arthur fans, could this be the stone from which he pulled the sword??? Hmmmm. Seriously, though, it is an amazing piece of mother earth to be found here on the side of the road in Somerset.  A treat.

So, it began raining again and I ended my short sojourn.  But, the next day, Friday turned off beautiful.

Again to that lane, past the views and the quartz boulder.  To some magnificent views of the Tor that I have ever taken.  See for yourself.


You can really see the layered terraces that are one of the hallmarks of the Tor. [Remember that the Tor is the hill, not the medieval tower on the top.] Many use the terraces as a labyrinthine walkway to ascend the Tor.  Whether or not that labyrinth is a human-made pilgrimage-way is up for constant debate.  It has been used enough, at this point in time, that it has become that for many pilgrims.


I went down another even smaller lane, which went to a beautiful home and into a very muddy farm road that I didn’t try.  But as I was turning around to go back out, this was the view.  Can you imagine living with that view outside your windows?  This is one of my favorite pictures that I have ever taken.  We are looking from slightly northeast view, here.

From Janet Haddock’s Pinterest page

On this map, I am taking the picture approximately from the little red dots on the road in the upper right corner.  I wish I could put in an arrow. Alas.

From here and in due awe, I went back down Wellhouse Lane [which ends on Chilkwell St. and runs between the Chalice Well Gardens and the White Spring] to take some exterior pictures of the White Spring.  Although there are many photographs on-line, the association of companions of the White Spring ask that no electronics or photographs of any kind be taken of the interior.  I respect that.  The nature of the energy in the White Spring is wilding. It is the raw force of Gaia rushing from beneath the Tor itself.  There are geological papers about the origins of the springs, but, even these scientists seem somewhat at a loss. I invite you to read J.D. Mather’s “‘WONDER-WORKING WATER’: THE HISTORY AND HYDROGEOLOGY OF THE CHALICE WELL AND OTHER GLASTONBURY SPRINGS” for a scientific explanation.  All of the springs associated with the Tor “arise from the Pennard Sand.  And, while there is fluctuation of water levels due to rain or lack there of, at least the Red Spring and the White Spring always flow.

From Wellhouse Lane Up



Spiral in the Courtyard

This is the place in the whole of Glastonbury where I personally find my connection to land, to the Lady and to the land of Faery.

Step with me into the Temple. The rushing water

from the heart of the Tor

Full of Goodness

Full of Magick

Full of Life.

The realm of Gwyn Ap Nudd

Faery King

The Realm of SHE WHO IS

Queen of the World

The realm of a thousand years in a single day and night.

When we emerge from the Faery

what will we find outside?

A world healed? A world gone madder?

WE must decide.                                                 cbm 11/19/2015

This is a place I love.  Today, Sunday, I’m going to go and volunteer there so others may come and visit.  Blessed Be.

And now on into Somerset to Compton Dundon.  The day was so fine and the yews growing over the edge of the Chalice Well wall whispered to go and visit the old one.  The ancient yew in the church yard of the St. Andrews Church at the top of a hill in the lovely village of Compton Dundon.  It is a spectacular site/sight and I will let the photos speak for themselves.



One side of She the Yew
St. Andrews Sign of warning.
From about 250′ at the edge of the church yard.

This tree is breathtaking.  She is surrounded by an octagon stone wall with over 6′ sides.  She is hollow inside and appears not to care in the least.  The church information claims she is some 2000 years old.  That means the first builders of the first church must have recognized her age and let her stand.  The church itself is at least 1000 years in origin as there is a floor tomb within marked 1036. Here are some interior and exterior pictures.  From an old architect’s view, it is amazing.

While I sat on the great octagon under the Yew, from inside the church (which was quite empty) I heard doors banging shut.  Four times.  Even the pigeons in the bell tower were flustered and flew.  I said a prayer for any stuck souls to go to their intended places and the banging stopped. The pigeons came back and the crows wheeled overhead.

It is difficult to leave the Yew’s presence, and only the rain forced me back to the car and down the steep lane to the village below.

Being a wanderer – I love to get lost and find my way out again! – I took a road that I had never been on.  Whilst on it, I took a turn that was a farm road leading to one that appears to be for sale and quite deserted.  As I came back to the more main road, I saw this. . .

Rainbow 1 of 3

Surely, that is a sign.

On Culture Shock, Being Here, and Being Away.

I began writing this entry on November 9, 2015. It is also the first day that I am clearheaded enough to write for the Blog here. Not that I haven’t been writing, oh, no. I have nearly a ream of handwritten notes. Getting those from one form of calligraphy to another, that’s another matter. As the heading says, I feel I must talk about culture shock. But, just what are we talking about? The bane of the anthropologist’s existence. To read more, click on the link above to read Rachel Irwin’s excellent explanation in her article, “Culture Shock, Negotiating Feelings in the Field.” I have taught this concept in my classroom for some 16 years, now, and have also related what I personally experienced when I was in the field between 1996 and 1998 in Cherokee, NC. Let me tell you, knowing mentally what is going on here, even remembering my other experience of culture shock nearly twenty years ago, does not, did not, has not fully prepared me for the moment(s) that it hit me here in Glastonbury.

It’s not that I’m uncomfortable. I have this nice little nest here at InnGlastonbury that is perfect for me. My abilities [walking and climbing hills] have increased many-fold. [Although I do wish I had a bicycle so it would be a tad easier to get to places further away.] I have the resources to have a car at my disposal (although I don’t use it as much as at home in NY), I have enough ££ to purchase food and drink and the little necessities that always come up. I have friends. Now. There are so many visitors to Glastonbury that I am just another face in the vastly moving crowd in certain times and places. Even as the darkness creeps ever nearer in the evening and mist/fog and clouds lay close along the land, tourists and pilgrims still come to Avalon. There is most certainly enough work to keep me engaged, more even, than I had anticipated when I was contemplating this project and sabbatical over a year ago. And therein lies a major part of the culture shock. I’m putting two different charts in here. One is my personal interpretation, the other is from a website called www.CrossCulturalSolutions.org .

Culture Shock chartThis one is mine and specific to my time here in England. The chart below is a longer range look at culture shock experience. So, let’s walk through the experience. It is my hope that this discussion will add to the much-needed personal experience narratives and dialogue about the subject for anthropologists, specifically, but, also for others who are sojourning in other countries, cultures, and climes (Irwin 2007).

Coming off of a rough August at home due to factors that are personal and shall remain so, I found it difficult to get excited about coming on this trip away for just over three months. I had a melt-down then and pulled myself out of that just as I was leaving in mid-September. Once I arrived here in Glastonbury, which I have written about and invite you to go back revisit that narrative, my mood lightened considerably as it was so nice to be back here in the beloved country. After that, I also had a whirlwind 10+ days coming up that included spending 5 days in Canterbury and along the southern coast. So, by the time I got back here and ready to dig my heels in, I was well and fully into the Honeymoon phase of my experience. Everyone was glad to see me after more than a year away and I had lots to do with friends. But, those who live here full time have busy lives and plans and families to keep them occupied.

It was at that point that I came face-to-face with the fact that I am in this alone. Now, just to be clear, I am not looking for sympathy or atta-girls or anything like that. What I am doing here is putting into words the processes and outcomes of my path through this project, or as it turns out, projects. In the chart below, you’ll see “the plunge” just after the Honeymoon phase. That is followed by “Initial adjustment.” For myself, I’ve been through the initial adjustment period on several occasions here in the UK. Since I have been coming to Glastonbury every year since 2011, I well understand the food and drink culture, driving on the opposite side



of the road in the opposite side of the car, as well as how and where to shop for everything I need, road rules, and things like tipping in restaurants. For me, then, “the plunge” is combined with “confronting deeper issues.” In my chart, that is stated as “Realization of the enormity of the project(s) and the work involved – being really alone [read: on my own] in this community.” So what does that mean?

Somewhere in my mind, I reckon that I got caught up in thinking that being here for an extended period of time would be like an extended 2-3 week experience which I’ve had each year for the last four. That is except for 2013, when I brought a Study Abroad group from Suffolk County Community College (where I am a Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies), for a 6+ week sojourn. Even then, I was so busy and involved with the students, driving them everywhere we went from Bath to Penzance and back again, and grading their work, answering questions, doing lectures and workshopping information, along with Margaret Meggs (without whom I couldn’t have done), that I didn’t even feel the Honeymoon phase! And, I was never alone. Margaret and I stayed for about 10 days after we put the students on their planes home, but even then, there was no sense of confronting deeper issues as we had friends around almost every day and we had each other. Now, I am not trying to speak for Margaret, but I realize now that in order to dip into those issues and work at making sense of them I need solitude. In point of fact, until this trip, I didn’t even realize that those deeper issues where there. But, of course, they are.

Having realized what I had set myself up for in terms of the work, my brain thereby made “the plunge.” On my chart that is expressed by “Feelings of Isolation and Depression.” One of the women that I have come to depend upon was away for two weeks, another person cancelled our meeting time, and as stated above, everyone else was busy with life in their own ways. I spent many hours in my nest in thought and meditation, depression and anxiety. Now, does that mean I wasn’t working? Mercy no. As Barbara Ehrenreich once said: Just because I’m riding around on a bicycle [appearing pleasant and relaxed I presume] doesn’t mean that I’m not working. She was very busy in her head. Me too. I have nearly filled a notebook with notes, some of which are already here, but some of which have not made it from hand-written form to type-written form. I’m working on that.

I am on the way out of that period, now. I feel more at home and at peace. I have made other friends and acquaintances so that I have more interaction with people. I take advantage of the splendid array of talks and lectures, music, and ritual that is the reason I am in Glastonbury in the first place. Because I have continued to step out, even when feeling depressed and anxious, to pre-set destinations for gathering data, the Abbey and the Tor, I have learned a great many things about what the people here think and feel about their town, what is going on in it, and about the people who come here on a day to day basis. Most will be forthcoming.

At the end of my chart, I have listed “Realization of time coming to an end.” I am certainly not experiencing this yet. I have thought ahead to this piece as I’ve come and gone before, as stated above. I always have a certain trepidation about leaving. But, today, I have 45 days to go. There are so many events coming up . . . gulp . . . there’s that feeling of being overwhelmed . . . that I am literally running from one to the next. Today finds me going to Cardiff, Wales to visit with and interview the lovely and phenomenally talented Gwen Davies who I met as a result of two Glastonbury Goddess Conferences. I decided to go to her in Cardiff as she has a full schedule as well. Pictures from that two-day jaunt will be forthcoming.

So, will my downward sloping feelings reappear? Probably. Is that normal for ethnographic fieldwork? Absolutely. It is where I have found myself and my place here in Glastonbury.

Faery Ball W/ Allen Lee, Art Design Master for the Lord of the Rings films
Faery Ball W/ Allen Lee, Art Design Master for the Lord of the Rings films
Faery Ball w/ Gandalf the Grey!
Faery Ball w/ Gandalf the Grey!