Pathe Film Clip of Emmeline Pankhurst
The Suffragette Movement
In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Socil and Political Union, along with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. They wanted women to have the right to Vote and the Union became better known as the Suffragettes.
'Suffrage' means the right to vote and the National Union of Women's Suffrage had been was founded earlier in 1897 by Millicent Fawcett. Millicent believed in peaceful protest and patient logical debate.
Although the Suffragettes started out peacefully the going was slow, by 1905 Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney interrupted a political meeting and asked Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Grey if they believed women should have the right to vote. When the men did not answer, the two women got out a banner with the slogan 'Votes for Women' on it. The women were arrested for causing an obstruction and refused to pay a fine, preferring to go to prison instead to highlight their cause. This kind of behaviour was unheard of at the time and really caused a stir, however the women refused to bow down.
Others opposed to the movement were the Church of England and so the women burnt down churches, the Royal Family was also seen to be against women having the right to vote and so the women chained themselves to the railings outside Buckingham Palace. Shop windows were broken in London's Oxford Street and boats were hired to sail up the Thames, where abuse was shouted through loud hailers at Parliment. Paintings in galleries were slashed and post boxes set alight. Women refused to pay taxes and Politicians were attacked on their way to work and had their houses fire bombed.
Suffragettes happily went to Prison where they went on hunger strikes, however they were then force fed. This caused a public outcry as force feeding was reserved for the treatment of lunatics and these were mostly educated women.
The government responded with the Cat and Mouse Act, which allowed the Suffragette to go on hunger strike without being force fed, until becoming on the point of collapse and so weakened that she was unable to continue protesting. The Suffragette would then be released from prison before dying from starvation, which saved the government from embarrassment. Those that did recover were then re~arrested for the most trivial of charges so that the whole process could start again.
Emily Davison at the Derby
The Suffragettes took even more extreme measures to further their cause, when in June 1913 Emily Wilding Davison died when she threw herself at the King's racehorse during The Derby.
Many men asked the question, that if an educated woman such as Emily could do this, then what might a lesser educated woman do ? How could they possibly be given the right to vote ?
In August 1914 at the start of World War One, Emmeline Pankhurst instructed Suffragettes to support the government and the War effort as a sign of patriotism by stepping into those roles left behind by men who had gone to war.
By 1918 selected women over 30 years old got the vote and in 1928, all women over 21 years old win the vote.