The Suffragette movement Some helpful hints. Overview The Suffragettes was a name given to members of The Women's Social and Political Union. This was a pressure group which campaigned for women to be given the vote between 1903 and 1918. It was not the only women's pressure group demanding reform. Origins of the Movement The political ideas of the French Revolution and of writers such as Thomas Paine had led to the development of the Radical Movement in Britain to campaign for universal male suffrage. This had been partially successful with the 1832 Reform Act, and the subsequent Reform Acts. This had led some middle and upper class women begin to consider the possibility that women could be given the vote. Led by Millicent Fawcett The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies 1897 The Suffragists Committed to using peaceful, rational argument to persuade men to give women the vote As a result got nowhere fast Emmeline Pankhurst Educated in the Radical political tradition from an early age. Became involved in the suffrage movement but was disenchanted with the lack of success. Founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903 ~ dedicated to ‘deeds, not words’ The Women’s Social and Political Union Initially this used the same tactics as the suffragists, namely pamphlets, letters to newspapers, public meetings, collecting petitions and advertising. They attempted to engage with the main Political Parties to get them to promote political reform however the Parties either did not believe in the ideas (Conservatives) or did not feel they could take the gamble (Liberals). The WSPU started to become more confrontational with the Political Parties in an attempt to get them to cooperate. A quick note about Political Parties at this time At this time there were only two main Political Parties: the Conservatives [sometimes called the Tories] (Right Wing); the Liberals (Centre). The Labour Party (Left Wing) had only just started, did not have many MPs and had no experience of Government. 1912 ~ a move to militancy and violence In 1912 the Liberal Prime Minister Asquith had agreed to sign legislation, if it had passed, would have given women approximately the same voting rights as men had been given in 1832. At the last moment he changed his mind because he feared that women would turn against the Liberals in the forthcoming election. As a result the WSPU felt betrayed and concluded that they now had to move to direct action to demonstrate to the Public and politicians that they were serious and that they were not going away. The tactics which the Suffragettes now used included: • chaining themselves to railings heckling at political meetings demonstrating and then resisting arrest Smashing windows Setting fire to pillar boxes Defacing public monuments Attempting to detonate bombs All of these were designed to gain media attention and keep their issue in the public eye. • Direct Action Reaction to the campaign of militancy Initially the campaign of violence turned people against the ideas of the Suffragettes, and they were strongly contrasted with the peaceful Suffragists ~ not lawabiding, too emotional and irrational. The campaign also split the WSPU with many more moderate members, including two of Emmeline’s daughter’s, leaving the organisation. The Cat and Mouse Act 1913 When sentenced to prison the Suffragettes went on hunger strike to force the authorities to given them better conditions. The Government responded in two ways: forced feeding of prisoners(by inserting a tube down their throats and into their stomachs; the Cat and Mouse Act 1913 which allowed for the release of seriously ill Suffragettes and their re-arrest when they were recovered. The Suffragettes were able to make good propaganda use of this and public opinion started to turn against the Government Emily Davison A committed Suffragette • Stepped in front of the King’s race horse at the Epsom Derby 1913 • Died 4 days later of her head injuries. • To this day it is not clear whether Davison planned to kill herself (she had a history of attempted suicide) or it was an accident. • Due to the popularity of the King, and the Public’s love of animals, this action led to further criticism of the Suffragettes. • Suffragette propaganda The Suffragettes made expert use of propaganda using especially posters • They pioneered many of the visual techniques which would later be used in World War I propaganda and post-War advertising. • Anti-Suffragette propaganda This tended to focus on the impact on the family and on the natural order of things which votes for women would have. • The War Years 1914-1918 With the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914 the WSPU called a ‘ceasefire’ and started to co-operate with the Government, helping with recruitment of men into the armed forces and women into war work. • A more extreme splinter group split away and formed the Women’s Suffrage Federation under Sylvia Pankhurst's leadership. They continued the militant campaign whilst The Suffragist Movement continued to lobby Parliament for political change. • The War, particularly once conscription was in place, removed unprecedented numbers of men from British society. Women moved into this roles, filling everyday jobs as well as war-work such as munitions factory workers. This demonstrated not only their ability to cope and make a significant contribution to society, but also gave many economic independence for the first time. • Votes for women By the end of the War the Coalition Government had realised that giving women the vote was not only accepted by the people but was also desirable because whoever did this could gain their support. 6th April 1918 the Representation of the People Act was passed which gave women over 30 who met the ownership of property qualification the vote (this still not the same as men) November 1918 The Eligibility of Women Act allowed women to stand for election to Parliament. 1928 The Representation of the People Act granted the vote to all men and women over the age of 21.