Book #33

The Suffragettes

A potted history of the women who pioneered feminism and changed the world.

This is an inspiring collection of documents on women’s fight for the vote. Speeches, political papers, posters, articles, and propaganda were all included - showing both sides of the argument.

I was surprised by some of the documents - particularly those detailing the reasons behind the anti-suffrage movement. Their justifications seemed laughable to me, and yet, in that time, they would have seemed reasonable.

They call it ‘justice’ and ‘equality’. It is nothing of the kind. It is the subjection of man to woman, turning the order of nature upside down. It is contrary to common sense, to experience, and to history. Men in all ages have had to do the brunt of the world’s business, and ought to govern.

The order of nature, indeed.

That there were women who agreed with these notions, and vehemently denied they wished to vote, even forming a league to prevent it, was utterly astonishing to me; that they believed there were women’s roles and men’s roles, separate to each other, was difficult to fathom.

Emmeline Pankhurst’s Freedom or Death speech at Hartford is included, and it makes for some seriously stimulating reading. In defence of the suffragettes being labelled as militant, she presents an analogy of a quiet hungry baby, and a loud, screaming, hungry baby. She asks which one you feed first. 

Once they are aroused, once they are determined, nothing on earth and nothing in heaven will make women give way; it is impossible.

Some of the actions taken by the suffragettes were ones I’d never heard of, and of which were simply genius. The best was the defacement of the penny coin; branded with the term ‘VOTES FOR WOMEN’. These were circulated around the country for years, and banks chose not to recall them due to the low value of copper in the coin. What a way to spread a message. 

Although a very small, yet absorbing, amount of information on the movement, I’ve come away filled with a militant strength to read more about how my rights were achieved by these strong and palpable women. It’s important to remember the fight, and also that it’s not yet over; that although progress is being made (slowly) in my country and culture, women the world over are still experiencing horrific oppression. We should be motivated by the work of the suffragettes, and roused into action to prevent any and all injustices we encounter.

I, for one, am roused.