Women’s Suffrage

Arguments For Women’s Suffrage

  • Goal: Gain the woman’s right to vote as it is given to the man (not to extend the vote to everyone)
    • Social reform
  • Women are exploited in work, but destitute without it. They have occupations that are socially accepted and limiting such as a governess or a seamstress. So, they want an education, political influence, and opportunity.
  • The unmarried: In 1851, 42% of women between 20 and 40 were considered spinsters. This happened because there was a higher population of women than men and men die earlier than women. In 1897, there were 1,200,000 more women than men. If a woman was not married, it was her father’s responsibility to care for her for the rest of her life. From 1871-91, 13 of out every 100 women did not marry.
  • Taxation without representation echoes throughout England. If Americans fought for it, women should, too.
  • The highest authority of England was a woman, but women were unsuitable for politics. Queen Victoria became Queen at age 18 in 1837. She married Prince Albert in 1840 and was widowed in 1861.
    • Queen Victoria, however, did not support women’s rights.
  • Many women were actually working in mills and factories, proving that they are capable of “rough work.”
  • Women were active in local government
  • Gifted women are frustrated with a useless life

Arguments Against Women’s Suffrage

  • “Votes for women indeed: we should be asked next to give our votes to our horses and dogs.”
  • It was believed that voting was unfeminine and unnatural for women because they were unsuited physically and mentally for politics and assumed that women were too fine for rough work
  • Women were “hysterical” and thus unstable
  • Though women were active in local government, that wasn’t as important as national government
  • Women were biased toward religion
  • Women were too dependent
  • If women were granted the vote, they could work their way into Parliament
  • Women would slack on their obligations
  • Militant suffragettes enforce notion that women were unfit to vote
  • Many were confused by the logic of suffragettes that attacked their friends in Parliament

Suffragists vs. Suffragettes

Suffragists

Suffragists were considered constitutionalists. They wanted to make reform through the government and peaceful protest.

  • Tactics:
    • Public meetings
    • Speakers tour the country
    • Pamphlets/ Letters to the press/ articles in periodicals
    • Make “known friends” in parliament
    • Trying to pass a private member’s bill through Parliament

Suffragettes

Suffragettes were militant, which essentially means that they broke laws. Their motto was “deeds, not words.” Militants were willing to destroy things, but not harm people. They wanted to draw attention to their cause by breaking laws that women had no say in, display the governments inability to enforce laws, and pressure the government to give them what they wanted. They had no faith in private member’s bills. After 1912, suffragette violence no longer aided their cause because the public was antagonized and the government could not be coerced. The term was stuck on them by the male press as a derogatory name.

  • Tactics:
    • Get supporters voted into office (easier during by-elections)
    • Heckle
    • Stone throwing (Begins in 1909)
      • Their objectives were to symbolically break the windows of the government and to cut short struggles with the police.
      • They wrapped stones in paper to avoid injury and sometimes tied the rocks to a string for retrieval.
    • Smashing shop windows
    • Arson (1913-14)
      • Includes a church, railway, pier, timber yard, and a voluntary hospital
    • Hunger striking (Begins in 1908)
    • Propaganda
      • Panko, or Vote for Women (card game)
      • Suffragettes in and out of Prison (like Snakes and Ladders)
    • Avoiding census (1911)
    • Throwing pamphlets from hot air balloon

Side Notes

Early supporters tried to make political pressure for better society, but by the 20th century suffragettes became obsessed.

Other aspects of feminism were kept separate from the suffrage movement such as education.

The suffrage movement was not tied to any of the political parties, but would eventually be supported by the Labour Party.

The suffragettes dressed their best when they protested, whereas the suffragists dressed down. This was rather problematic because it supports the idea of feminine dress. Suffragettes believed that they were portraying that women could be politically active and still be feminine. Suffragists wanted to show the world that they did not need to dress to appeal to men.

Societies

  • National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (1897)
    • Led by Lydia Becker and Millicent Fawcett
    • Constitutionalist movement (suffragists)
  • Women’s Social and Political Union- (1903)
    • Led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel
    • Militant (suffragettes)
  • Women Writer’s Suffrage League (1908)
    • Founded by Bessie Hatton and Cicely Hamilton
    • Wrote, collected, and published the AFL’s plays.
  • Actresses Franchise League (1908)
    • Founded by Bessie Hatton and Cicely Hamilton
    • Open to anyone involved in theatrical profession
    • Aimed to use theatre as educational medium for women’s enfranchisement
  • Women’s National Anit-Suffrage League
    • Did not want to be in men’s “work-a-day world”
    • Liked protection of separate sphere
    • Women should be active in community affairs
    • Neither supported nor condemned militancy
  • Numbers:
    • 1897- 16 constituent societies
    • 1903- 16
    • 1909- 70
    • 1911- 305
    • 1913- 400+

The increase is due to the National Union’s involvement.

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