Suffragettes and Suffragists

GCSE History - the suffragettes versus the suffragists, including key dates.

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Suffragists

National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS)

Founded by Millicent Fawcett in 1897.

Joined together many societies, all campaigning for female suffrage. Men were allowed to join - and many did.

Their aim was to get women the vote.

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Suffragettes

Women's Social and Political Union (NUWSS)

Founded by Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst in 1903.

Started brand new society, which as strictly women-only - Christabel in particular was very anti-men.

They did not only campaign for the vote. Although that was their main aim, they wanted women to achieve social and political equality with men.

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Campaign Methods

The NUWSS (suffragists) campaigned peacefully, mainly using propaganda such as leaflets, newsletters and demonstrations to spread the word. They organised peaceful rallies and marches and wrote letters to MPs requesting the vote.


The WSPU (suffragettes) campaigned violently. They too used propaganda, meetings and leaflets but they also smashed windows, sat in on Liberal meetings, and chained themselves to railings. Some attacked pieces of artwork (for example, 'Slasher Mary') and they destroyed letters and burnt houses.

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Reaction

The reaction to the suffragists was one of ignorance. Many people were unaware even that people were campaigning for the vote. Those that were aware generally accepted that the campaign was taking place, but saw no reason to take it seriously.

People hated the suffragettes for their violent campaigns and arson attacks. Arrests were common, and when the suffragettes went on hunger strike, the government instructed the prison warders to force-feed. Force-feeding was brutal, and it won the suffragettes many supporters. The government then introduced the "Cat and Mouse" Act. They released prisoners to regain their health and then re-arrested them to finish their sentence once they had recovered.

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