The Suffragists

Many years passed without significant change until the Reform Act of 1832 when Henry Hunt proposed a political franchise that recognised equality for men and women which gave them the opportunity to vote. He was defeated, however middle class men were granted access into the parliamentary system. (Simkin, 2015) Chartism was the response to the … Read more

Women’s rights in Canada

The rights that women enjoy in Canada today are connected to the efforts and contributions of the suffragette movement dating back to the early 1900’s. The role of women in society has evolved tremendously over the years and this can be directly associated with the duties they performed during World War I and II, the … Read more

What reasons are there for women getting the vote in 1918?

During the 19th century many laws were passed which made Britain more democratic by empowering men, but women were never given the right to vote in elections. Most men, including those in government, believed that women were uneducated, unexperienced, indecisive, juvenile and understood little about the world of politics, economics and business. In the eyes … Read more

Women’s suffrage

The beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign might appear to the lay man as an opportunity for the female sex to have a voice owing to the fact that she was the first queen regnant in a hundred and twenty-three years of monarchy in Great Britain. Never the less this voice applied solely to the queen … Read more

Suffrage Movement in the United States and Britain

In regard to the British Suffrage Movement, similarly to The Civil Rights Movement, collective action and common purpose is also displayed. The NUWSS, the suffragists, led by Millicent Fawcett were a non-violent group that focused on lobbying members of Parliament to bring about legislative changes while the more aggressive WSPU, the suffragettes, led by Emmeline … Read more

Emmeline Pankhurst

This source has been extracted from the memoirs of a well- known suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst . It covers the subject of militancy within the suffragette movement in the nineteenth century, by discussing the letter burning protests. This was a time in which women felt, was completely male dominated and therefore, they began to stand up … Read more

How women got the right to vote

In 1918, the Representation of the people act gave women over the age of 30 who owned land, were married to a land owner or were in local government the right to vote. In the 19th century women were treated poorly in comparison to men and were expected to lead different lives. Very few women … Read more

Women’s right to vote pre and post civil war, & the 19th amendment

The emergence of women in the political sphere heightened during the Civil War. With both the abolitionist and temperance movement gaining political momentum, women in the United States sought to further intensify political activism, shifting the attention onto themselves. The fight for suffrage stemmed from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 ultimately elevating the women’s … Read more

Splits within the women’s suffrage movement

Introduction The women’s suffrage movement and the abolitionists used to work together towards the same goal: suffrage and enfranchisement, or in other words full citizenship. But after the Civil war there was a split both within the women’s movement and between the abolitionists and the woman’s suffrage movement. Part of the women’s movement gave up … Read more

About the suffragettes:

You walk into the tight booth, shifting around a bit to reach for a ballot. You write your name quickly, and scan the small sheet. You find what you’re looking for, and check “Female”. You smile slightly, knowing it wasn’t always this way, and it had taken the dedication and passion of many strong women to make selecting “Female” an option that wouldn’t immediately send you to jail. The many women, like Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony, whose work made this possible had fought through many trials and tribulations, from the President denying support, to being force fed and tortured in jail. But, in the end, they prevailed, and their efforts will leave a permanent legacy of strength, sisterhood, and justice.

One of the many important make-or-break moments for the suffragist movement was when Susan B. Anthony and other female delegates from the US attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840 in London, but found out that the women weren’t allowed to participate. They even had to sit in separate seats where it was ensured they could only watch and listen, but not take part. On pages 21-23, it was told what followed; “All at once, Elizabeth Cady Stanton saw something she had never seen quite so clearly before: In the eyes of the world, I was not as I was in my own eyes, I was only a woman.” The book goes onto to say “And to be a woman in 1840 was to be less than a man. Socially less, politically less, and perhaps most of all, legally less.” This event was a turning point for another suffragette, Lucretia Mott, who went on to be a close friend and colleague of Stanton. It is quoted her experience “unleashed her; thereafter she did not attempt to hold back either anger or commitment.” The convention and the discrimination that took place there sparked the beginning of a movement, and added fuel to the fire that was their resolution to hold a convention and form a group to advocate for and promote women’s rights. Without this happening, it may have taken many more years for the suffragettes to come together and help pass the 19th Amendment.

Another primary event was the imprisonment, torturing, and force feeding of the suffragettes. Suffragettes were taken to jail because of their protesting, but they had prepared for this, and knew what to do. They refused to eat and went on a hunger strike. This move found enough sympathy with those supporting their plight, and the British authorities let them go free after 5 days. In November of 1909, Alice Paul was arrested again, but by then, the jailers had a new tactic of their own. If the women we allowed to continue their strikes, it could be dangerous for them, because the suffragettes were willing to die for their cause, since they knew it would bring more attention and light to the movement. Those at the jail realized that if the women became martyrs for their cause, it would paint them in a bad light, and garner more support for the cause, which they were deeply against. They decided that the best option was the forcibly make sure they wouldn’t die, so force-feeding was the route they chose. Alice Paul described the harrowing experience on pages 186-187 in excruciating detail as “One of the doctors stood behind & pulled my head back till it was parallel with the ground. He held it in this position by means of a towel drawn tightly around the throat & when I tried to move, he drew the towel so tight that it compressed the windpipe & made it almost impossible to breathe—with his other hand he held my chin in a rigid position. Then the other doctor put the tube down through the nostril. When they have finally secured you in this position you can scarcely budge.” As a further thought, the books continues by saying that “The tube would rarely go in correctly the first time, and sometimes it would take a half-dozen tries before it did. Once in place, the doctors would pour a mixture of milk and eggs down the tube. Paul was “fed” like this twice a day for nearly a month, permanently damaging her health.” If this hadn’t happened, the support from sympathizers never would’ve been gathered, and thus less awareness. What happened in those days showed the cruel lengths people were willing to go to prevent the suffragettes from having the same rights as they did.

Finally, Alice Paul meeting Lucy Burns was also a crucial happening to the movement. The two women met while detained together in a London police station after being arrested for protesting for a meeting with the British prime minister at the time, H. H. Asquith. He had heard about the protest, and had sent a massive police barricade outside the Parliament building to obstruct them. The suffragettes that had been sent were told he had refused to meet, and that they should just turn back and accept it. They did the exact opposite, and instead tried to force their way in. The police showed no empathy, and opted to instead use a terrifying show of police brutality. Alice Paul later describes the horror on pages 182, “The suffragettes threw themselves against the lines of police & forced their way through once or twice only to be captured in a few minutes. Behind them was the crowd yelling & shouting & pushing them on but afraid to take any part for fear of being arrested. The police grabbed the suffragettes by the throats & threw them flat on their backs over & over again.” Paul was arrested for her part, and while at the station, she spotted a woman wearing an American flag in her lapel. She introduced herself to the woman, Lucy Burns, and thus began a long friendship. Over the 18 months of apprenticeship to the Pankhursts, a pair of prominent suffragettes, and as the book says is on page 183, “…they grew incredibly close.” They worked together unwaveringly during the last years of the battle for suffrage, “…making sacrifices and taking risks that even Stanton and Anthony had avoided.” In this way, Paul and Burns exemplified and continued the radicalness that fueled Stanton and Anthony.”

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