Discussion : Movement for women in 1912

“Is not a woman’s life, is not her health, are not her limbs more valueble than panes of glass? There is no doubt of that, but most important of all, does not the breaking of glass produce more effect upon the government?” (Emmeline Pankhurst, Movement for women speech 16 Feb 1912) what are your views and opinions on this??

Quote taken from Suffragettes and their movement for women in 1912

Here is a bit of background information (the following information is taken from wikipedia. the original page is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragette )

“Suffragette” is a term coined by the Daily Mail newspaper as a derogatory label for members of the late 19th and early 20th century movement for women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom, in particular members of the Women’s Social and Political Union. However, after former and then active members of the movement began to reclaim the word, the term became a label without negative connotations. It derives from the term “suffragist,” which proponents of women’s “suffrage,” or right to vote, originally adopted. They wanted to be involved in the running of the country and they wanted to be treated as equals to men.

Suffragist is a more general term for members of suffrage movements, whether radical or conservative, male or female. In Britain, “suffragist” is generally used solely to identify members of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.


The members of the suffrage movement were mostly women from middle class backgrounds, frustrated by their social and economic situation and seeking an outlet through which to initiate change. Their struggles for change within society, along with the work of such advocates for women’s rights as John Stuart Mill, were enough to spearhead a movement that would encompass mass groups of women fighting for suffrage. Mill had first introduced the idea of women’s suffrage on the platform he presented to the British electorate in 1865. He would later be joined by numerous men and women fighting for the same cause.

New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant women the vote; in 1893 all women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in parliamentary elections.

The Suffragists were members of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, which was founded in 1897, formed of a collection of local suffrage societies. This union was led by Millicent Fawcett, who believed in constitutional campaigning, like issuing leaflets, organising meetings and presenting petitions. However this campaigning did not have much effect. So in 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst founded a new organisation, the Women’s Social and Political Union. Pankhurst thought that the movement would have to become radical and militant if it were going to work. The Daily Mail later gave them the name ‘Suffragettes’.

A few historians feel that some of the suffragettes’ actions actually damaged their cause. The argument was that the suffragettes should not get the vote because they were too emotional and could not think as logically as men; their violent and aggressive actions were used as evidence in support of this argument.

Early 20th century

Memorial edition of The Suffragette newspaper dedicated to Emily Davison
1912 was a turning point for the Suffragettes in the UK as they turned to using more militant tactics such as chaining themselves to railings, setting fire to mailbox contents, smashing windows and occasionally detonating bombs . This was because the current Prime Minister at the time, Asquith, nearly signed a document giving women (over 30 and either married to a property-owner or owning a property themselves) the right to vote. But he pulled out at the last minute, as he thought the women may vote against him in the next General Election, stopping his party (Liberals) from getting into Parliament/ruling the country.

One suffragette, Emily Davison, died after she tried to throw a suffragette banner over the King’s horse, Anmer at the Epsom Derby of June 5, 1913. Many of her fellow suffragettes were imprisoned and went on a hunger strike as a scare tactic against the government. The Liberal government of the day led by H. H. Asquith responded with the Cat and Mouse Act. When a Suffragette was sent to prison, it was assumed that 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 and weaker. When the Suffragette was very weak, they were released from prison. If they died out of prison, this was of no embarrassment to the government, however, some Suffragettes who were especially weak were force fed with tubes which went down their throats and into their stomach. This meant that none of those who were released died but they were so weak that they could take no part in violent Suffragette struggles. When those who had been arrested and released had regained their strength they were re-arrested for the most trivial of reasons and the whole process began again. This, from the government’s point of view, was a very simple but effective weapon against the Suffragettes.

Nevertheless, protests continued on both sides of the Atlantic. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns led a series of protests against the Wilson Administration in Washington that referred to “Kaiser Wilson” and compared the plight of the German people with that of American women.

During World War I there was a serious shortage of able-bodied men, and 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 WSPU 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.

The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, which had always employed ‘constitutional’ methods, continued to lobby during the war years, and compromises were worked out between the NUWSS and the coalition government. On 6 February, the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed, enfranchising women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications. About 8.4 million women gained the vote.[9] In November 1918, the Eligibility of Women Act was passed, allowing women to be elected into Parliament. The Representation of the People Act 1928 extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21, granting women the vote on the same terms as men.

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One Response to Discussion : Movement for women in 1912

  1. Donna Parker says:

    It is a shame that a hundred years later, family courts all over the country still treat women and children like a man’s chattel.

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