Imagine a United Kingdom when only half the population could have any say in the running of the country? Imagine that this half were the male population. Sound bizarre? Well, it was not that long ago that this was the case.
Women have always been classed as below men. Adam came before Eve, and this is how society has portrayed women ever since.
What and who were the Suffragettes?
The word “suffrage” means the right to vote in a political event or discussion. The women suffragettes were women who believed it was their right to vote in political elections in the UK.
They were popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. They were started by Milicant Fawcett who founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage in 1897 which was originally meant to be a peacefully movement.
Emmeline Pankhurst then realised that Fawcett’s movement was not working and so founded the Women’s Social and Political Union. A more violent alternative.
What did they do?
They protested peacefully, but it was not making much difference. So in 1905, Christabel Pankhurst (Emmeline’s daughter) and another women Annie Kenney, interrupted two Liberal politicians at a Liberal Political party meeting.
From then on, women were imprisoned for various other acts of demonstration and political protests. Awful conditions were endured in these prisons – women were force-fed by prison doctors and were forced to pay fines.
Emily Wilding Davison
In 1913, the most famous act of suffrage came at the Epsom Derby, a horse race just outside London. King George V’s horse was racing in one of the races. When the horses came around the final bend, a woman stepped out and was knocked down. This lady was well-known Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. She died a few days later of her injuries.
It is not known what her purpose was – witnesses say she had a Suffragette scarf that she could have been wanting to tie around the King’s horse’s neck.
She became a martyr for the Suffragette cause.
First World War
The Suffragettes stopped their protests when Britain entered into the conflict. It helped their cause as all the fit and able men joined up to fight in the war, and the women took over their jobs back home.
In 1918, the Representation of the People Act came into force, meaning that women over the age of 30 would be able to vote in political elections.
In 1928, the Equal Franchise Act came into force. This meant that women over the age of 21 were allowed to vote.
It was thanks to the Suffragettes, that women today are freely allowed to vote in UK General Elections.