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Deeds, Not Words

Today’s Google Doodle says it all. Alice Paul, a leader in the Suffragette movement of the 1910’s, was born today in 1885. The Suffragette movement can teach us a lot about Inspiring Action. People had been talking about a woman’s right to vote for decades. But these brave women knew that talking was not getting them anywhere. So they took action.

They did all the conventional actions that protests are known for. They marched. They organized. It got them some press. But it also got them ridiculed. Indeed, the name “Suffragettes” was first used in a derogatory way by a journalist, adding “ette” to the word suffrage to feminize the idea of freedom and thereby make it oh so cute. “Look at these adorable little women pretending to want to choose their leaders! Bless their pretty little heads!” But instead of fighting against that ridicule, they embraced it. They even hardened the G and began pronouncing it “suffraGETs” implying that they intended to GET everything they were asking for.

 In 1909, Alice Paul and Amelia Brown took a brave action that they knew would land them in jail. They disguised themselves as cleaners at a banquet for English Prime Minister Asquith and other cabinet ministers. When Asquith stood up to speak, Paul and Brown threw their shoes and broke stained glass windows, screaming “Votes for women!” They were arrested and put in jail, where they began a hunger strike. Their jailers force-fed them with tubes.

The movement began selling a board game based on this story. It was called “Pank-A-Squith” (based on the names of Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst and Prime Minister Herbert Asquith). The goal of the race-style game was to reach the Houses of Parliament, the pinnacle of achievement for the campaign for Woman’s Suffrage. But first you had to get through the dark stuff. Like going to jail. And being force-fed. And laughed at. The game was sold in shops and could be ordered by mail. The proceeds went to the movement.

 

Board games were the social media of the time. Imagine daddy being forced to sit and play a game of “Pank-A-Squith” with his wife and two daughters. “Oh, poor Daddy! You’ve been thrown in jail for asking for your rights again!”

Next time you think your brand is too serious to make something fun or to engage in social media, remember Alice Paul and the Women’s Suffrage Movement. What would they do? Roll the dice. You might just win.

-Tom Christmann, Chief Creative Officer