Actions speak louder in Birmingham

Suffragette activity influences new novel.


100 years ago suffragettes in Birmingham were campaigning for women to be given voting rights. Their slogan was ‘Deeds Not Words’ and they did things such as paint graffiti on the cathedral and set light to the Handsworth Park boat house and Northfield Library. A few of these little known incidents from Birmingham’s history feature in a new novel by local author Katharine D’Souza.

Katharine has lived and worked in the city for over twenty years and says, “The actions of the suffragettes sound shocking, but they felt they needed to do something extreme to make themselves heard. This story looks at how their actions influence a Brummie in the present day to defend a cause she believes in.”

Deeds Not Words features Caroline, a museum curator, who begins to uncover secrets from the past which stir up trouble. She has to decide whether to act or to take the easy option of staying silent. As Katharine says, “I wanted to explore how someone might be heroic in the present day, especially if they were inspired by something a relative had done in the past.”

The industries, museums and libraries of Birmingham form the book’s backdrop, and readers might also recognise parts of Edgbaston, Harborne and the city centre.

“I wanted local readers to feel a sense of familiarity about the story,” Katharine said. “While the book can be enjoyed by people from anywhere, Brummies will get an extra bit of fun from being able to recognise where the action is taking place.”

The story follows Caroline as she runs into an old flame, becomes embroiled in rivalry at work and finds her family’s expectations a burden. As well as including references to suffragette history, the plot looks at how Birmingham’s artistic and industrial heritage remains important today.

Deeds Not Words author Katharine says, “I’m currently working on my third book set in Birmingham in which I turn my attention towards the jewellery trade and feature a hospital in Selly Oak and chocolate making in Bournville.”

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