Votes for Women: Suffragists and Suffragettes

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Women and The Right To Vote

In the 19th century, women had very few rights, although they had gained some equality in education, law and local government, they remained without the vote in general elections. This was because at the time the majority of people saw politics as a man's area, ands should that it should be kept that way. 

During the 1800s, there were very few campaigners for woman's votes, so their protests had very little impact, and they were seen as a joke. Their tactics included handing out flyers and going on marches. 

Eventually, after several years of protests with no results, some women began to argue the only way to get their case across was to introduce more militant action. 

The Suffragettes Begin

The National Union of Woman's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), was created when several regional woaman's suffrage groups merged together in 1897. This organisation was lead by Millicent Fawcett, and peacefully campaigned for the vote, were also prepared to work with politicians to acheive their goal. Their forms of protest included writing letters to MPs and newspapers, making leaflets and holding peaceful demonstarations and marches.  

By the start of the 20th century, the Sufragists had still not achieved their goal, as they had not been getting much publicity. Soon many suffragists became impatient with peaceful protest, which had so far proved to be unsuccessful. Emmeline Pankhurst and her 2 daughters eventually broke off from the NUWSS and formed the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). The WSPU's motto was "Deeds, not Words", and its members became known as the Suffragettes. This term was coined by the Daily Mail, so people would not confuse their organisation with the more peaceful Suffragists. 

The WSPU's tactics were to do whatever it takes to get publicity, and this included disrupting political meetings, chaining themselves to gates and railings, and destroying property, for example stting post boxes alight. These actions put thier cause on the front pages of newspapers and caused great publicity for their campaign. 

Developments in 1906-1908

In 1906, after the Liberal party won the general election, many people believed women would aquire the vote, as many Liberal MPs supported the cause, however this did not occur. The governent said that this was as there were more important matters to handle. 

During this time, protest in both the WSPU and the NUWSS became more focused and frequent, to gain more support. These methods icluded:

  • Leaflets being given out. To get them to as manyt people as possibl;e, the WSPU even dropped them from airships.
  • Newspapers written by suffragettes were produced. The most popular of which was called, Votes for Women. 


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