At about the beginning of the 20th century many western democratic countries allowed women the vote. New Zealand had already led the way by giving Women the vote in 1893, which was followed Australia, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and even Russia. The male dominated establishment in these countries were happy to give women the vote without too much argument. This didn’t happen in Britain, the establishment strongly resisted enfranchising Women and this resulted in conflict and violence as Women end up becoming militant terrorists to fight for their rights.
[Sylvia Pankhurst]The Feminist movement started early in Britain with the publication of; “A Vindications of the Rights of Women” by Mary Wollstonecraft in 1792. Then in 1832, Mary Smith a property owner, petitioned Parliament for the inclusion of propertied women for the right to vote. She was simply laughed out of the House of Commons.
The Feminist movement through campaigning quietly accomplished a lot during the 19th century. Schools to educate girls were opened, and Women were able vote for town councils, and some became town mayors like Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. But voting for Parliament was still denied them. To campaign for this, the Female Political Association was created, founded by the Quaker, Anne Knight, but their patient and reasonable efforts yielded little results and some Women decide that more direct action was need, these Women were led by Emmeline, Christabel, and Sylvia Pankhurst.
Emmeline Pankhurst was born in 1858 and her father had radical political beliefs and campaigned against slavery, while her mother was a Feminists and introduced her daughter to this cause, taking her to Feminist meetings. Where she once heard the famous American Feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton speak. When she grew up Emmeline married the lawyer Richard Pankhurst, he was a committed socialist and a strong advocate for Women’s rights. He helped draft the Women’s property bill that was passed by Parliament in 1870. Together they had four children, Chistabel, Sylvia, Frank and Adela. Both parents were committed to Women’s rights, and helped form the pressure group, the Women’s Franchise League in 1889. Emmeline became a Poor Law Guardian in 1895, working with the inmates of local workhouses, there she became deeply shocked by the misery she witnessed, and was particularly concerned by the way the Women were treated. This reinforced her desire to campaign more strongly for Women’s rights as she became disillusioned with existing Women’s political organizations.
Then in 1898 her husband Richard died, this meant Emmeline had to find a job to support her family and took a job as the Registrar of Births and Deaths in Rusholme. Yet she still found time to care for her family and continuing to fight for the cause of Women’s rights. At first Emmeline put her energy in helping the cause of poor working class Women, but her eldest daughter Christabel disagreed. She pragmatically pointed out that they would have far more success if they appealed to wealthy Women as they were educated, had far more influence, and it was their money that were financing Feminist groups. She won over her mother but was opposed by her sisters Sylvia and Adela, who believe that they should continue to put their efforts in helping the cause of working class women.
Christabel Pankhurst decided their tactics wasn’t getting enough attention; as their rallies and speeches were hardly reported by the press. She realised the shock value of respectable Women becoming victims of male brutality, so she masterminded a strategy of violence, so women would be jailed and become martyrs. She started this herself, on 13 October 1905, when she and Annie Kenney attended a political meeting. When Sir Edward Grey, a Liberal Politician got up to speak, Annie Kenny shouted out; “Will the Liberal Government give Women the vote?” This resulted in stewards and plain-clothes policemen trying to remove the Women from the hall, both Women strongly resisted and fought and struggled against the men. They both ended up being arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, Christabel was also charged with kicking Inspector Mather, hitting him in the mouth, and spitting in the faces of Mather and Superintendent Watson. This incident was so extreme, that it was reported in the newspapers and this helped recruit more members to the Feminist cause.
Christabel Pankhurst was inspired to become a Feminist in 1901 by Eva Gore-Booth who was trying to persuade working class women in Manchester to join the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Christabel was very impressed with their arguments and decided to join the campaign. She also tried to follow the footsteps of her father and studied for a law degree, she obtained her degree in 1907 but her gender prevented her from doing what she wanted; and that was becoming a barrister.
At the time the Pankhurst were also worked to support the new Labour party but Christabel also disagreed with this, as she clearly didn’t trust male left-wing politicians. She reasoned that the failure of the suffrage movement had thus far been its inability to make any appreciable impact on public opinion. She believed that it was useless to expect any backing from left-wing politics as they didn’t have a stake in the enfranchisement of about two million middle and upper class women, who would presumably vote either Liberal or the Conservatives. She claimed it would be better to not back any political party, but to attract funds and backing from wealthy Women on a sex-war basis. To campaign at all major political meetings and use mass-demonstrations against political parties, either to sponsor a Women’s suffrage law, or to expose its refusal to do so. This she hoped this would force the anti-suffrage politicians out in the open, and show their hostility to Women’s rights. This will prove to Women there was a real sex-war against Women, by men. Which will galvanise more Women to join them in fighting for Women’s rights. She again won over support from her mother, with this argument, but not Sylvia and Adela who continued supporting the labour party.
The London Daily Mail ridiculed the more militant Women and called them "suffragettes", and the name stuck, and feminist Women in Britain became proud of being called Suffragettes. On 19 February 1906 an envoy of 300 Women argued with the British Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. He agreed with everything the Women said to him, but then told them frankly they he was going to do nothing about it. The reason he gave, that such a proposal would split the Liberal Party, (the ruling party at the time). He then urged them; to go on pestering and exercise the virtue of patience. This so infuriate the Women than many decided a change of tactics was needed, as reasonable and sensible behaviour didn’t seem to be getting them anywhere.
The Suffragette movement was then spit apart; the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, continue the policy of quiet and reasonable campaigning. But the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst wanted more direct action, with the slogan, “deeds not words”. The Pankhurst females were very fashionable, well-dressed, high-society Women who used their feminine charms to get what they wanted. Not the sort of people, you would think, who would be leaders of a militant and violent organisation.
Because by this time, the press barons of Britain had a strict policy of not reporting any of the Suffragette meetings, or printing any article or letter written by a Suffragette, this made it very difficult for them to get their message out to the people. In response the Pankhursts decided on a policy of “press-baiting”. On 9 March 1906 thirty women went to 10 Downing Street and to try and see Campbell-Bannerman, and after waiting an hour they were asked to leave. Irene Fenwick Miller then rapped on the door and Mrs Drummond opened it and rushed inside. Both Women were arrested. Annie Kenny then jumped on the roof of the Prime Minster’s car and began to address the crowd. She was pulled down and also arrested. But the three Women were released without charge, because the Prime Minster did not press charges.
On the 25 April 1906 Kier Hardie, the leader of the Labour party presented to the Parliament a Resolution; “That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that sex should cease to be a bar to the exercise of the Parliamentary franchise.” Twelve members of the WSPU were in Ladies’ Gallery to witnessed it, but as they feared, the anti-Suffragist MPs began to ‘talk it out’. When the time limit of the debate was coming to an end, the Women became angry and shouted out their displeasure from the Gallery. The police evicted them and the Resolution was talked out. The Labour party at the time supported the Suffragettes and the WSPU, but they were disturbed by the increasing militancy of the Pankhursts and in 1907 the WSPU split from the Labour party.
On 23 October 1906 the Suffragettes again invaded Parliament, but only thirty were admitted into the lobby. There they started a noisy protest and ten of them were arrested. At their trial, the Women refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the court, claiming it was carrying out solely man-made laws, and made no attempts to defend themselves. They were found guilty, and ordered to a agree to keep the peace for six months, they refused, and were imprisoned for two months. Adela Pankhurst was one of the ten who were imprisoned.
On 13 February 1907 the WSPU organized a march from Caxton Hall to Parliament, after a brief speech by Mrs Pankhurst 400 Women began marching to Parliament led by Charlotte Despard. When they neared Parliament there way was barred by the police, but the Women refused to back down and tried to break through the police lines. For several hours the Women hurled themselves again and again against the police lines until 15 Women managed to break through and reached Parliament, but were promptly arrested. Fifty-one Women were finally arrested including Charlotte Despard, as well as Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst.
The violence of these demonstrations upset many Women in the WSPU and in 1907 a breakaway organization was created under the leadership of Teresa Billington-Greig and Charlotte Despard These Women protested against what they saw was the Pankhurst’s extreme militancy and authoritarianism. Then Sylvia and Adela Pankhurst also split with their Mother and their Sister Christabel. Sylvia forming a rival socialist Suffrage organisation in London’s East End. Adela meanwhile suffered from bronchitis and after being imprisoned a number of times and working hard organizing the WSPU in Yorkshire, she dropped out through exhaustion. After going back to university to study, she travel to Italy and then later immigrated to Australia.
Yet in spite of prominent Women dropping out of the WSPU there were always others to take their place. Many who were willing to die for Emmeline Pankhurst and worshipped her as superhuman. In the next seven years these Women were bullied, mocked, brutalised, rolled in mud, insulted, imprisoned, force-fed, pelted with rotten eggs, tomatoes, pepper, spat at and often beaten up To the Women who became frighten by these attacks from men, Emmeline Pankhurst said; “Pray to God, my dear – SHE will hear you!”
In 1908 Herbert Asquith the new Prime Minster asked for proof that Women really wanted the vote. Christabel decided to organized demonstrations to prove that they did. Another march was made on Parliament and 48 Women were arrested one of them being Emmeline Pankhurst. On 19 March 1908 7,000 suffragettes filled the Albert Hall, Mrs Pankhurst wasn’t expected to speak because she was still in jail, but the government decided to release her early, which allowed her speak at the end of the meeting.
Then on 19 March, the more moderate wing of the Suffragette movement showed what they could do. 30,000 people marched in Hyde Park for Women’s votes led by people like Bernard Shaw and Keir Hardie, as well as the wives of many famous men, it was estimated that between 250,000 to 500,000 people witnessed this march, but they were dismissed by the papers as, ‘curious onlookers’. In the end, this mass demonstration failed to move the government, who chose to ignore this mass demonstration, and so increasing the frustration of the WSPU.
Christabel forced the police to arrest her, on 8 October 1908 by producing a pamphlet that read; “Votes for women, men and women. Help the suffragettes, to rush the house of Commons”. She then showed this pamphlet to the police, who saw this as an incitement to attack Parliament, and a few days later they arrested Emmeline and Chrisabel Pankhurst as well as Mrs Drummond. That evening 60,000 people gathered at Parliament Square, but were met by 5,000 constables who cordoned of the square, the Suffragettes then tried to force themselves past police lines. In the ensuring battle, 24 Women and 13 men were arrested and 10 people were taken to hospital.
Then on 29 June 1909 Emmeline Pankhurst tried again to speak to the Prime Minster, and went with a group of only 8 Women, but at the door to the Commons she was told that the Prime Minster wouldn’t see her. She became angry at this and when the police tried to push them away, Mrs Pankhurt struck Inspector Jarvis three times in the face. He told her that; “she was striking him for a purpose, and that he would not be perturbed”. Mrs Pankhurst then gave him two very much harder blows and another Woman knocked off his hat. The police were then forced to arrest them. Emmeline Pankhurst was repeatedly imprisoned and inspired other Women to follow her example of civil disobedience. In one 18 month period, she endured 10 hunger-strikes.
[Emmeline, Christabel, and Sylvia Pankhurst]
The Suffragettes being mostly middle-class or upper-class women, the authorities treated them well in prison, giving them the cells reserved for middle and upper-class people. But with the increasing numbers of Suffragettes now coming into prison the authorities change the way they treated the Women and put them in the normal cells used by working class prisoners. These were damp and musky cells with no heating and filled with rats.
Marion Wallace on 2 July 1909 protested against this treatment by became the first hunger striker, when she was put into jail for painting Suffragette slogans on the wall of a Church. After refusing all food for ninety-one hours, she was released from prison. This quickly caught on, and other Suffragette Women also done the same. The authorities reacted by the policy of forced feeding, hoping that the act having a pipe forced down their throats, and forcing food into their stomachs would discourage the Suffragette Women, but they resolutely continued their hunger strikes. Knowledge of this leaked out to the press and once reported, caused a public outcry, as forced feeding was seen as a form of torture. This was because the prisoner had to be forcefully restrained and the pushing of a pipe down a persons throat was very painful and degrading. Public opinion was now very much on the side of the Suffragettes, more than 150 councils passed resolutions supporting the enfranchisement of Women and even Conservative MPs joined in the protest in Parliament. Yet the government under Asquith still refused budge.
Asquith himself became the target for many Suffragette attacks. As he was leaving Lympne Church, on the 5 September 1909, three Suffragettes Jessie Kenny, Elsie Howey and Vera Wentworth hit him repeatedly. They tried to approach him later on that day on a golf course but were driven away, by his daughter. Then that evening two stones were thrown through a window of the house in which Asquith was dining. Then on 17 September when Asquith spoke at Bingley Hall, no Women were admitted, but two Suffragettes, Mary Leigh and Charlotte Marsh with axes climbed onto the roof of a nearby house. They then chopped slates off the roof and threw them at the police and Asquith’s car. The police tried to get them down by turning a hose on them, but they refused to budge. Finally the police had to climb on the roof themselves to apprehend them. Meanwhile a Suffragette crowd gathered below, and Mary Edwards, was arrested for assaulted several policemen. She then smashed windows in the police station she was sent to. Other Ministers were also attacked, like Wilson Churchill, who was attacked by Theresa Garnett at a railway station with a riding-switch.
Emily Wilding Davison in November 1909 tried to resist forced feeding by barricading herself in her cell, at Strangeways Prison. They tried to dislodge her by turning a hose on her, but she refused to give in. Finally they had to break into her cell. The Home Secretary then ordered her release.
The Suffragettes also began to set alight post-boxes burning all the letters inside. In Newcastle 2,000 letters were damaged, but perpetrators done this in secret and escaped arrest. Mrs Pankhurst make it public that she disapproved of this; saying that all Suffragettes should openly take responsibility for the damage they had done. Other Suffragettes went into breaking windows of public and private buildings. One of the most spectacular incident, was when 150 well dressed Women produced hammers from their handbags and proceeded to break shop-windows in London on Oxford Street, Regent Street and the Strand. Emmeline Pankhurst, was one of the women arrested for this incident. To escape arrest Christabel Pankhurst fled to France where she was able to continue to organize the WSPU without fear of being put into prison.
The government then seemed to have caved into the mounting public pressure, with a promise of a new law. In 1910 the Concliation Bill was drafted in Parliament. The Suffragettes thinking they had won, suspended all militant action for nine months, but the new law was voted out. Feeling betrayed the Suffragettes continued there fight. Then in 1913 the Franchise Reform Bill was created but that was thrown out because of bureaucratic slip-up. The Suffragettes now started to get really angry. “Destructive militancy, now broke out on an unparalleled scale”, wrote Sylvia Pankhurst.
The first incident of arson was done by Ellen Pitfield, whom was dying of cancer. She set light to basket of wood shavings in the General Post Office, and then threw a brick through a window to attract attention to what she had done. So the fire was quickly put out before it done too much damage. At her trial, she was so ill, she had to be carried into the court, she was put in prison for six months and died shortly after coming out. Other Suffragettes followed this lead. Mary Leigh was a very active militant she had already been arrested nine times and had spent 15 months in jail. In Dublin she threw a axe into the carriage in which Asquith had been riding. Then that same evening she and Gladys Evans tried to set fire to the Theatre Royal, where Asquith had just seen a performance. The two women ignited the curtains behind a box, threw a flaming chair down into the orchestra, and set off small bombs made of tin cans. They did not try to evade arrest, and were subsequently sentenced to five years in prison. Both Women then went on prolonged hunger strikes, with the unpopularity of forced feeding, the authorities released them after 16 weeks and the cases against them were allowed to drop.
Because of this, the government changed their tactics introducing what was called; ‘The Cat and Mouse’ act. In 1913 the government passed a law where a hunger-striker could be released from prison, but then be re-arrested when they become stronger again. This act was used on Emmeline Pankhurst when she went on hunger strike.
The fire bombing continued: Emily Davison burnt five rooms of a house belonging to Lloyd George, (The Prime Minster of Britain during the First World War). His speeches were also interrupted by the Suffragettes and he was to remark: “I have no desire to speak by gracious permission of Queen Christabel.”
November 18, 1913 became a day called “Black Friday” as crowd of Women led by the Emmeline Pankurst tried to storm Parliament but were held back by the police, the Women did not give in. They fought a brutal battle with the police for six hours and the police eventually had to arrest the rioters. But the Home Secretary at the time, Wilson Churchill, made the decision not to prosecute, for fear it would inflame even more riots.
[Black Friday, Novenber 18th, 1910. Emmeline Pankhurst and Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson more in depution to the House of Commons.]Then the next Tuesday, Prime Minister Herbert Asquith announced that no other suffrage bill would be considered. This caused another riot, what the press called, “The Battle of Downing Street”, where 185 women were arrested. What shocked the whole nation was that the Women who fought the police were, middle-class and upper-class Women. The WSPU then issued a statement; “As the Prime Minster will not give us the assurance that women shall be enfranchised next year, we revert to a state of war”.
The WSPU now become increasingly militant. Both public and private property was destroyed. Some of the actions were very petty like stomping on flower beds, pouring acid onto golf courses, breaking street lamps, burning rags pushed into letterboxes, envelopes containing red pepper and snuff sent to every cabinet minister, slashing cushions on train seats, throwing rocks at Parliament buildings and houses of MPs, chaining themselves to railings outside Parliament and Downing Street, cutting telephone wires and blowing up fuse boxes. But other actions were far more serious; Like burning down sports pavilions, and setting fire to public and private houses, placing bombs near the Bank of England and in Churches, slashing thirteen pictures in the Manchester Art Gallery and a package containing sulphuric acid was sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it burst into flames when opened.
Fortunately no one was killed in these many acts of violence, except one. Emily Davison, at a race meeting at Tattenham Centre, threw herself under the King’s racehorse toppling both horse and rider. This caused a riot and by the time Emily Davison body was taken to hospital, she was dead. She then become the first and only martyr to the Suffragette movement. Whether she intend to kill herself or not, is in dispute, but the Suffragettes reacted with this news with increasing violence. In the following month A Boathouse, a cricket pavilion, a racecourse stand, a laboratory, churches, houses and even a castle were bombed, or set on fire, causing considerable damage.
Unfortunately these many acts of violence began to turn the public against the Suffragettes, and the newspapers took the opportunity to attack them. The words "militant suffragettes” was changed to “criminal suffragettes” and later “mad suffragettes”. The Suffragettes were called both ‘crazy’ and ‘frenzied’ when a clockwork bomb was found at St Paul’s Cathedral. As the campaign continued the Daily Express even went as far as calling Suffragettes the "anarchists", and called for the deportation of the suffragettes, and claimed them to be like "housebreakers, White slave dealers and murderers". While in Parliament, the opponents of the Suffragettes claimed the terrorist actions of women activists, were a very good reason why women should not get the vote. Christabel Pankhurst hit back in a series of articles about white slavery and ‘the great scourge’ of venereal disease. She claimed that most of the male population had been effected by this disease, thus presenting men as the source of sexual poison. Extreme militancy, she claimed, was justified as a ‘surgical operation’ to cleanse society of this menace.
The Suffragettes became angry about their treatment from the press. In one incident; a Suffragette came to office of the editor of the Belfast Evening Telegraph, and knocked him down with one blow. When bundled out of his office she went to the office of the editor of the Belfast Newsletter and assaulted him as well. The Government and Suffragettes were now at loggerheads, with neither side prepared to back-down. The violence continue into 1914, and Sylvia Pankhurst wrote. -
"The destruction wrought in the seven months of 1914 before the War excelled that of the previous year. Three Scotch castles were destroyed by fire on a single night. The Carnegie Library in Birmingham was burnt. The Rokeby Venus, falsely, as I consider, attributed to Velázquez, and purchased for the National Gallery at a cost of £45,000, was mutilated by Mary Richardson. Romney's Master Thornhill, in the Birmingham Art Gallery, was slashed by Bertha Ryland, daughter of an early Suffragist. Carlyle's portrait of Millais in the National Portrait Gallery, and numbers of other pictures were attacked, a Bartolozzi drawing in the Doré Gallery being completely ruined. Many large empty houses in all parts of the country were set on fire, including Redlynch House, Somerset, where the damage was estimated at £ 40,000. Railway stations, piers, sports pavilions, haystacks were set on fire. Attempts were made to blow up reservoirs. A bomb exploded in Westminster Abbey, and in the fashionable church of St George's, Hanover Square, where a famous stained-glass window from the Malines was damaged ... One hundred and forty-one acts of destruction were chronicled in the Press during the first seven months of 1914."
Although Sylvia Pankhurst still remained a member of the WSPU her disagreement with her mother and sister over it’s tactics and aims, led to them expelling her from the organization in 1914.
The government and the press tried their best to cover-up the extent of Suffragette violence. For instance; when Mary Richardson destroyed Velázquez' Rokeby Venus in London’s National Galley with a meat cleaver, the National Gallery tried to suppress all knowledge. They managed to repair the painting and tried to conceal the fact it was badly damaged, even to this day in the 21st century they still will not acknowledge that this happened. Mary Richardson was a very active militant and was arrested nine times in two years, and went on hunger-strike and was forced fed. She smashed windows at the Home Office and Holloway Prison, bombed a railway station and set fire to a country house. She was also with Emily Wilding Davidson when she was killed, and was badly beaten-up by the angry crowd afterwards. Men also helped and supported the Suffragettes and took part in many of their demonstrations, but again this fact has been ignored by official history.
Then the First World War started in August 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst was in prison at the time and on hunger-strike. The British government struck a deal with her, to release all Suffragettes and drop all charges, if she would call off the terror campaign. She agreed, and Christabel came back from France and both women decided it was important to help Britain in the war effort. As explained by Christabel-
“War was the only course for our country to take. This was national militancy. As Suffragettes we could not be pacifists at any price. Mother and I declared support of our country. We offered our service to the country and called upon all members to do likewise. As Mother said, ‘What would be the good of a vote without a country to vote in!’. She called for wartime military conscription for men, believing that this was democratic and equitable, and that it would enable a more ordered and effective use of the nation’s man power.”
So while Emmeline and Christabel in Britain were calling for conscription, in Britain Adela in Australia was campaigning against this. Like Sylvia she was a pacifist and she was threatened with jail for repeatedly defying a ban on public gathering and finally sentenced to prison after leading a demonstration in Melbourne against the high price of food. The government offered to release her if she promised to not speak again in public, she refused and served her full prison sentence. She then married a fellow activist to prevent herself from being deported.
Christabel Pankhurst put her war efforts into touring USA and tried to convince the American public to enter the war with the Allies. Then when the Russian Tsar was overthrown in the first Russian Revolution Emmeline Pankhurst journey to Russia to dissuade them from dropping out of the war, and stand up against the Bolsheviks whom were campaigning to make peace with Germany. (Which they done after the second Russian Revolution). The energy and effort the two women put into helping the war effort didn’t go unnoticed. As Sylvia was to write-
“Christabel received the commendation of many war enthusiasts. Lord Northcliffe observed that she ought to be in the Cabinet. Lord Astor told me, when I happened to be seated beside him at dinner, that he had received two letters from her; he had sent one of them to the War Office, the other to the Minister of Blockade. Undoubtedly he was much impressed by their contents.”
They even become friends and allies of Lloyd George, (who became Prime Minister in the second half of the war). Whom Christabel once regarded as the most bitter and dangerous enemy of Women before the war. Sylvia continued working for the rights of working class Women and being a pacified, as always, disagreed with her mother and sister. Conscription was also the policy of the Conservative party and Emmeline found herself campaigning for conscription alongside conservative politicians whom she became friendly with, and eventually joined the conservative party.
With most of Britain’s young men fighting in the trenches, there was a shortage of people in the factories to produce the weapons and ammunition they needed. Women were recruited and showed they were more than capable of doing ‘men’s jobs’. In 1917 Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women's Party. The party advocated equal pay for Women with men, equal marriage and divorce laws, the same rights of guardianship of children as their husbands, and equality in education, health services, opportunity in the professions, and in the public services. Though they also advocated policies such as the abolition of the trade unions, showing how far they had come from their left-wing roots. This party was too far ahead of it’s times and some of it’s policies were only started to realised from the 1960s and even today in the 21st century Women are still paid less than men overall.
After the war, the government used the work Women done in factories and the farms as an excuse to give Women the Vote. Though some MPs admitted the truth like Lord Crewe, who; "warned the House that if the vote was refused to women the old violent atmosphere of the question would return." Yet the government still patronised Women, by first only allowing Women over 30 to have the vote. Christabel took this opportunity to stand for Parliament in both the 1918 and 1919 elections for the Women’s Party but was defeated both times. Then unfortunately the Women’s Party died, it required the next generation of Women to continued to campaign for Women’s right as strongly as the Pankhurst’s, but this didn’t happen until the 1960s.
With the incredible amount of violence caused by the Suffragettes it was a surprise that only one person got killed. This is due to the restraint and responsible behaviour of the Women. When throwing rocks and bricks through windows, some Suffragettes would tie a string to them, so the missile wouldn’t go further than the window, and injure anyone inside the building. The Women were also given lessons on how to break windows safely without hurting themselves and others. Even though the Suffragettes used bombs and set fire to buildings. They ensured that either no-one was in the building at the time, or if there were, they themselves raised the alarm.
So although the Suffragettes ended up becoming a terrorist group, the care and attention the Women took, ensured there was no causalities to other people. This is in total contrast to male dominated terrorist groups. If we look at the I.R.A. and the Protestant, Basque and Islamic terrorist groups we find a total disregard for human life. Emmeline Pankhurst made it clear that their attacks was aimed at property and the Suffragette Women had the self-discipline and concern for human life to ensure none of their bombs or arson attacks, didn’t kill or badly injured anyone.
After the First World War, Emmeline spent several years in the USA and Canada lecturing for the National Council for Combating Venereal Disease. When Emmeline returned to Britain in 1925 she joined the Conservative Party and was adopted as one of their candidates in the East End of London. Sylvia Pankhurst, who still held her strong socialist views, was appalled by this decision.
The reason for Emmeline Pankhurst’s defection could be that the Liberal government that strongly opposed the Suffragettes, were the main Left-wing party of the time. Christabel clearly didn’t trust the motives of left-wing politicians and this also become the view of her mother. Emmeline still campaigned against the government, after the war, to lower voting for Women from 30 to 21 the same as for men. In 1928 the government finally gave in, and done this, and Emmeline died the same day, her life’s ambition finally achieved.
In 1921 Christabel went to live in the United States where she became a prominent member of Second Adventist movement. She lectured and wrote books on the Second Coming. Then returned to Britain in the 1930s but left for the USA at the start of the Second World War. She died in the USA in 1958.
Sylvia Pankhurst on the other hand, was a activist for the Labour Party, and defied the conventions of the time, by becoming a unmarried mother. Something greatly disapproved of, by her mother and Christabel. Sylvia Pankhurst was a prolific writer, she owned and edited a weekly paper called, “The Women’s Dreadnought” where she made it clear, where her views and opinions were different from the WSPU. She renamed it, “The Worker’s Dreadnought” after women got the vote. She founded and edited four newspapers, wrote and published 22 books and pamphlets and countless articles, she was a founder and tireless activist in a variety of women’s, labour movement and international solidarity organisations. She was a deeply committed anti-racist and anti-fascist.
She then became involved in the fight for Ethiopia’s independence when Italy under Mussolini, conquered it in 1935. She created a new weekly paper called, “New Times and Ethiopian News” and sold it in West Africa and the West Indies. She continued this campaign when Britain took control of Ethiopia during the Second World War. Her campaign was so much appreciated by the Ethiopians that in 1960 at the age of 74, she was invited to live in their country, which she accepted. She died four years later and was given a state funeral in Ethiopia. Sylvia Pankhurst has remained a controversial figure in the British Feminist movement. The irony is, that her Mother and Sister ended up becoming part of the British establishment, in spite organizing a terrorist campaign against the state. A statue of Emmeline Pankhurst was erected outside of Parliament and later a plaque to Christabel Pankhurst. Yet there is no mention of Sylvia Pankurst contribution, in spite of her being a more reasonable individual. Some British Feminists have written books and article praising Sylvia Pankhurst and attacking, what they see as the betrayal of working class Women, by her Mother and Christabel.
In Australia Adela Pankhurst became involved supporting Unions and was a founding member of the Australian Communist party, but soon became disillusioned with it and spent the rest of her life a anti-Communist. In 1928 Adela founded the Australian Women's Guild of Empire which raised money to relieve suffering among working class women. She toured industrial areas, speaking at factories and workplaces on the need for industrial co-operation. In her view, the correct response to the Depression was to increase efficiency and raise productivity. Her administrative skill, eloquence and anti-communism attracted large numbers of middle-class supporters. The guild provided a motor car to enable her to extend her message to a wider audience. Braving picket lines to speak against strikes, she often met a hostile reception. Support for the Australian Women’s Guild dropped away, but Adela became worried by Australia’s increasing trade reliance on USA, and thought that Australia should trade more with their Asian neighbours like Japan. She even travelled to Japan and became a guest of the Japanese Government. The result was, that she was interned by the Australian government during the war, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. After the war she dropped out of public life and died in 1961.
In between organizing the WSPU with her daughter Chrisabel and being so many times in prison, Emmeline Pankhurst still found time to sail across the Atlantic to give support to the Feminists in the United States. She said as a way of introducing herself to America Women: “I dare say, in the minds of many of you–you will perhaps forgive me this personal touch–that I do not look either very like a soldier or very like a convict, and yet I am both.”
Women’s suffrage started well in USA, when the state of Wyoming enfranchised Women in 1869. This was followed over 25 years later by Colorado in 1893, Utah and Idaho in 1896, then over ten years later by Washington in 1910. Like in Britain, the Feminist movement in USA was reasonable in their demands and even though they were achieving results, the pace of change wasn’t fast enough for many Women.
While studying at the School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in London, the American Alice Paul, joined the WSPU and her activities resulted in her being arrested and imprisoned three times. Like other suffragettes she went on hunger strike and was forced-fed. Alice Paul returned home to the United States and in 1913 she joined with Lucy Burns and Olympia Brown to form the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage (CUWS) and attempted to introduce to American Women the militant methods of the Pankhursts. This included organizing huge demonstrations and the daily picketing of the White House. Over the next couple of years the police arrested nearly 500 women for loitering and 168 were jailed for "obstructing traffic". Alice Paul was sentenced to seven months imprisonment, but after going on hunger strike, she was released.
This clearly worried the US government who didn’t want an extreme Suffragette terrorist group operating in their country. In January, 1918, Woodrow Wilson announced that Women's suffrage was urgently needed as a "war measure". The House of Representatives passed the federal woman suffrage amendment 274 to 136 but it was opposed in the Senate and was defeated in September 1918. Another attempt in February 1919 also ended in failure. This seem to be following the British experience of Women’s suffrage proposed laws being continually defeated, but in the next year there came a breakthrough. In May 1919 the House of Representatives again passed the amendment (304 to 89) and on 4th June 1919 the Senate finally gave in and passed it by 66 to 30. Canada and most European countries followed suit between the two, world wars. It could be that, looking at the experience of Britain, these countries didn’t want a home grown suffragette terror group starting in their countries.
Emmeline Pankhurst believed strongly that Women’s behaviour was morally superior to men’s. Claiming, that the whole point of getting the vote, was to enable Women to use this superiority to curb male sexual excess, civilise public life and elevate the whole of the human race onto a higher sphere of existence.
The Women’s vote has failed to curb male sexual excess in Britain, but it had some clear influences in the way government’s behave. After the Second World War, it was assumed by everyone that Prime Minster Churchill would win the next election. He was after all, a very successful war Prime Minster and to capitalise on this, he encouraged war heroes to be candidates for the Conservative party. So he was very shocked and surprised when the opposing Labour party won by a land-slide. The reason for this, was that the Labour party had a radical programme of social reform, with the ‘welfare state’ and free medical treatment. Something that greatly appealed to female voters.
This influence of Women voters is hard to assess, but it is clear, throughout Europe, political parties have had to create policies, to care for the poor, disabled and sick to win votes from Women. Creating more caring societies in the Western world.