Votes for Women – Cathleen Sabine Mann

Shell Postcard Suffragettes, Votes for Women, 1908
Shell Postcard, Votes for Women, 1908

To mark the centenary, in 2018, of ‘Votes for Women’ the Shell Heritage Art Collection will be highlighting female artists from our collection who have played strong, leading roles in their professions of commercial and fine art. These women helped to create change within their industry and society as a whole.

The Representation of the People Act 1918 allowed some of the women of Great Britain and Ireland to vote for the first time. The act meant that women over the age of 30 could vote, but only if they were either a member, or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner, or a graduate voting in a University constituency.  The 1928 Act widened suffrage by giving women electoral equality with men. It gave the vote to all women over 21 years old, regardless of property ownership. The call for the vote for women was led by a group of strong, inspiring women known as the Suffragettes.

Cathleen Sabine Mann (1896 – 1959)

Cathleen Sabine Mann. Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London
Cathleen Sabine Mann. Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1896 Cathleen Mann followed in the footsteps of both her parents and became a painter of portraits and landscapes. Her father, Scottish portrait painter Harrington Mann and mother, portraitist Florence Sabine Pasley. Cathleen received painting lessons from her father in his London studio and also the portrait painter Ethel Walker, who would influence Mann for the remainder of her life. Mann studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, London then Paris.

The outbreak of the First World War interrupted Mann’s art career, when she went to work with an ambulance unit. She also assisted others during the Second World War. In an epitaph that appeared in The Times in 1959 Mr H Rowntree Clifford wrote
“Many hundreds of people living in the dock district of south West Ham during the September bombing of 1940 owe their lives to the determination and courage of the late Cathleen Mann. As Marchioness of Queensberry she used her name and the strength of her personality to break through official difficulties and to commandeer transport by both road and rail to carry numbers of helpless and in some cases crippled people to safety. I remember the humble duty she offered to those who were deprived of their families.”

During the Second World War Mann was also selected as an official war artist, painting portraits of officers and allied commanders. Some of these portraits were exhibited in London and America and also reproduced in Time magazine.

Shell Poster 367 West Wycombe
West Wycombe, Cathleen Mann, 1933

Prior to this, during the 1930s, Mann created costume design for British films such as ‘The Iron Duke’ (1935) and ‘Things to Come’ (1937). The design drawings are now held in the Victoria & Albert Museum. In this period Mann also painted the Dashwood Mausoleum for the ‘West Wycombe’ Shell poster (1933) and the ‘Film Stars Use Shell’ poster (1938).


Shell Poster 525 Film Stars use Shell, Cathleen Mann, 1938
Film Stars use Shell, Cathleen Mann, 1938

Mann continued to paint throughout her life with many solo exhibitions to her credit. Mann said that painting ‘was both her work and her recreation’. Her work is on display at the National Portrait Gallery, and during her lifetime was shown at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Musée du Luxembourg, and the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts.


The Times. 10 September 1959.  Miss Cathleen Mann. p. 14.

C Sabine Mann



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