This post was most recently updated on January 10th, 2018
It is less than a hundred years since the suffragette movement and the right to vote being extended to English women on the same terms as men. The suffragettes had a prominent profile in the struggle – but who were they, and what was their real legacy?
[A single page version of this post is available here >>> The Suffragette Movement: Its Deeds, Campaigners and Legacy (Single Page)]
Thirst for Change
The movement to extend the franchise to women had begun to take shape in 1897 when the campaigner Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage. New Zealand had given the right to vote to women over the age of 21 four years earlier and South Australia had followed suit in 1895, but there was still no sign of change in Britain.
Millicent’s patient arguments that women held responsible roles on school boards, that they employed men who had the vote whilst they did not, and that they had to pay tax and were subject to the same laws as men, converted a handful of politicians – but progress was slow.
In 1903, frustrated by the failure of reasoned arguments to change the status quo, political activist Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union. This, she was clear, was to be an organisation dedicated to “deeds not words”. The suffragette movement was born.