The Suffragettes were a group of (mostly) women who sought the right to vote through organised protest. The Suffragette movement started out as peaceful protest and petitions but then progressed to radical and violent acts and strikes. They were classed by two different groups – suffragists and suffragettes.
Suffragists consisted of many groups of women, they were led by Millicent Fawcett, who formed the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) . Her message was “Why can’t women vote for laws that they have to obey, when they pay tax and works just like men. They wanted women of the middle class who owned property to be allowed the vote. They believed that this could be achieved through peaceful means – non-violent protests, petitions and swaying of the politicians. Fawcett believed that if the women used these peaceful tactics, their goal would be achieved much quicker and easier because they would be seen as intelligent, polite and law-abiding
Fawcett believed that if the women used these peaceful tactics, their goal would be achieved much quicker and easier because they would be seen as intelligent, respectful and law-abiding.
The suffragist group was exclusively middle class people, but some members realised quite early on that they needed the support of women from the working class. Their cause was enticing many women from all social classes, helping to build their voice and giving them an identity which they had previously lacked.
By the turn of the century it was said they many Members of Parliament had been won over, and men were beginning to support their cause. Numerous Bill’s had gained substantial favour of women’s rights, but not enough for them to pass.
The name Suffragette was given by The Daily Mail, and they were born from the suffragist movements. Emmeline Pankhurst nee Goulden was born in 1858 and was the leader of Suffragettes, and after no action from Parliament she took the lead. Her husband Richard Pankhurst was a lawyer and supported the women’s rights movement.
Before Emmeline’s role in the Suffragette movement, she founded the Women’s Franchise League which fought for the rights of married women. But in 1903 she decided to break with the NUWSS and founded a separate union that became known as the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
She believed that it would take a more active organisation, and more young working class women to draw the necessary attention to their cause. The Suffragettes invented the motto ‘deeds not word’, which reflected their change of course and the way that they went about achieving their right to vote.
As time went by more of their ‘deeds’ involved violence, law-breaking, hunger strikes and damage to property. By 1912, violent outbursts were very common and many women had been arrested and thrown into jail. They chained themselves to the parliament gates, broke shop windows, burned down churches, and more. This resulted in them being thrown into prison where they would refuse to eat, and they’d have to force feed them. This became a major issue as time went by.
In 1907, the group split into two and Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel had a feud with the other members of their divided group. Those who left formed the Women’s Freedom League (WFU).
The three groups would often dispute over the correct tactics, but their message was unvarying, and they would often work together.
In 1909, WSPU had a newspaper calle VOTES FOR WOMEN, it was originally published monthly, but eventually it became a weekly publication. It would sell over 20,000 copies per week.
On the 4th June 1913, the King and Queen were attending Derby Day and had a horse running in the race. When the race started, a suffragette by the name of Emily Davison jumped herself under the King’s horse to try and help their cause. People were horrified when they heard this news or saw it.
She died four days later from her injuries, becoming the first and only martyr of the Suffragette cause. A total of 100,000 attended her funeral and it draw global attention to the women’s suffrage movement.
By this time the Suffragettes had more funding the the Labour Party in Enlgand.
In 1914 the First World War began, and almost every single man in the UK enlisted in the army and was shipped off to fight. The women back home took over mens jobs, working in factories to produce weapons and ammunition, on farms helping to produce food and to continue the porsperity of their business and much more.
In 1918 a Bill was passed that allowed certain women over the age of 30 to vote. In 1925 the law recognised a mothers rights over her children, and in 1928 women were given the same voting rights as men.
Rights for women to vote in other countries around the world:
1893 – New Zealand
1902 – Australia
1906 – Finland
1913 – Norway
1917 – Russia
1918 – Austria, Germany and Poland
1920 – USA (White women only)
1932 – Brazil
1934 – Turkey
1944 – France
1945 – Italy
1949 – China and India
1953 – Mexico
1971 – Switzerland
1974 – Jordan
1976 – Nigeria
2003 – Quatar
2015 – Saudi Arabia
2017 – Vatican City is the only country in the world that doesn’t allow women to vote.
So without the Suffragettes and their supporters, many women today might not be able to vote and the freedoms they enjoy today.