What was a suffragette?
A person who campaigned for the right of women to vote.
Political movement towards women's suffrage began during the war
The term suffragette comes from the word suffrage, which means the
right to vote.
The best known suffragettes were Emmeline and
Christabel Pankhurst a strong mother and
daughter team. They wanted women to have the
right to vote and they were not prepared to wait. In
fact, the Suffragettes started off relatively
peacefully. It was only in 1905 that the
organisation created a stir when Christabel
Pankhurst and Annie Kenney interrupted a political
meeting to ask some of the men if they believed
women should have the right to vote.
The move for women to have the vote
was started in 1897 when Millicent Fawcett
founded the National Union of Women's
Suffrage. Millicent Fawcett believed in
peaceful protest. She felt that any violence
or trouble would persuade men that women
could not be trusted to have the right to vote.
However, Fawcett's progress was very slow.
When it all went WRONG!
Millicent Fawcett’s peaceful attempt of getting the
vote failed despite her converting some of the
members of the Labour Representation Committee.
Most men in Parliament believed that women simply
did not understand how Parliament worked so should
not take part in the electoral process. This left many
women angry so members of the Suffragettes were
now prepared to use violence to get what they
Dying for the Vote!
Some of the suffragettes even went as far as
dying to prove their point. The most known
woman to have done this, is Emily Davison. In
June 1913, at the most important race of the
year the Derby, Emily ran out on the course.
The horse owned by King George V hit Emily
and the impact fractured her skull and she died
without regaining consciousness.
The Suffragettes refused to bow to violence. They burned down churches as
the Church of England was against what they wanted they chained
themselves to Buckingham Palace. Suffragettes were quite happy to go to
prison. Here they refused to eat and went on a hunger strike. The
government was very concerned that they might die in prison governors
were ordered to force feed Suffragettes but this caused a public outcry as
forced feeding was traditionally used to feed lunatics as opposed to what
were mostly educated women. The government responded with the Cat and
Mouse Act. When a Suffragette was sent to prison she would go on hunger
strike as this caused the authorities maximum discomfort. The Cat and
Mouse Act allowed the Suffragettes to go on a hunger strike and let them get
weaker then they were released from prison. If they died out of prison, this
was of no embarrassment to the government. When those who had been
arrested and released had regained their strength, they were re-arrested for
the most trivial of reasons this, from the government's point of view, was a
very simple but effective weapon against the Suffragettes.
In the End!
During World War I, a serious shortage of able-bodied men occurred.
women were required to take on many of the traditional male roles. This led to
a new view of what a woman was capable of doing.
The war also caused a split in the British suffragette movement, with the
mainstream, represented by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's Women's
Social and Political Union, calling a 'ceasefire' in their campaign for the duration
of the war,
while more radical suffragettes, represented by Sylvia Pankhurst's Women's
Suffrage Federation continued the struggle.
Political movement towards women's suffrage began during the war and in
1918, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed an act (the Representation
of the People Act in 1918 granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who
were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an
annual rent of £5, and graduates of British universities.
The right to vote of American women was codified in the Nineteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. Finally, women in the
United Kingdom achieved suffrage on the same terms as men in 1928.