Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Suffragettes


marc glorieux
 Share

Recommended Posts

What was the position taken by the suffragettes about WW1 ?

Anybody can give me a briefly information about their possible activities and actions during the war?

Thanks

Marc

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The suffragette movement benefited from women taking over what had been exclusively male employment. They were also involved in agitating for better pay for women doing heavy work. e.g. munitions factories. The raison d'être of the suffragette movement however was held up, as it was recognised that no moves to extend suffrage to women would take place while the war was on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am reading 'It's a long way to Tipperary' British and Irish nurses in the great war.

Emily Pankhurst said at the beginning of the war 'Our battles are practically over, we confidently believe. For the present at least our arms are grounded. For directly the threat of foreign war descended on our nation we declared a complete truce from militancy.'

Mandy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Mandy. It may interest you to know that the truce was not welcomed by all groups in the broad movement. Some thought that the war presented opportunities to apply pressure to the government. One of my grandmothers was heavily involved and was very scathing in her opinion of Mrs Pankhurst and those who felt like her. There was a similar dilemma for those who sought independence for Ireland. Some putting their struggle on hold and others of course, taking a different view. In this case leading to the Easter Uprising.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The suffragette movement benefited from women taking over what had been exclusively male employment. They were also involved in agitating for better pay for women doing heavy work. e.g. munitions factories. The raison d'être of the suffragette movement however was held up, as it was recognised that no moves to extend suffrage to women would take place while the war was on.

This should say women's movement. They did not really benefit as their organisation ceased to exist after the outbreak of war. They were leaders without an army. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst became hawkish supporters of the war and did a great deal of speaking for the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee early. Emmeline had hated the Germans for a long time as she was sent to study in France when a young woman and her French friend told her about the German occupation of 1870-1. The suffragettes (WSPU) did not agitate on women's social issues. This was the 'suffragist movement' of Millicent Fawcett (NUWSS) and Sylvia's Pankhurst East End Federation of Suffragettes, which had split from her mother's organisation.

The women's vote was only held up in the sense that a 1915 peactime general election would probably have produced some kind of official commitment from all three political parties. Arguably the suffragettes had delayed some kind of women's vote. The argument had been won by 1900 (WSPU founded 1903). The key was to persuade a male Parliament to pass a law. Suffragette militant tactics put the issue higher up the political agenda but their violent campaign 1912-14 against property was never going to persuade a legalistic PM in H.H.Asquith. Behind the scenes the NUWSS was slowly changing minds by persuasion.

The war, however, did bring (some) women the vote in 1918 but not because of the popular myth of women's wartime contribution. In 1916 it was possible that the war might end and there would be the general election postponed by the conflict. Many men who had served overseas would lose their right to vote under the one year residential qualification. So Asquith set up the Speaker's Committee which realised that universal manhood suffrage and qualification changes needed some kind of move on the women's vote. So women over 30 were tagged on. Because it was cross-party and reported to the new Lloyd George government the latter agreed to legislate in 1918. The crucial deal was between Lloyd George and the NUWSS which accepted that part of a cake was better than no cake at all. The WSPU were left rather isolated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks all for the information, but I have 2 other questions about the suffragettes

1. What was the mostly social status of the suffragettes?

2. Was the” March of the Women “ from Ethel Smyth

- A popular song in this time?

- Again taken in use after the war (for other periods of struggle for women rights (for example in the years 1960)

Marc

Link to comment
Share on other sites

s

1. What was the mostly social status of the suffragettes?

Hello Marc,

Just stumbled upon this topic! My knowledge of it is only very sketchy, but I would say your first question is incerdibly difficult to answer without generalising hugely. I think women of all ranks and classes participated in the movement, on such a vast scale. That said, the question of female suffrage probably didn't even occur to the lowliest of the working class, who, particularly at the time of war, no doubt had enough on their minds! They also probably knew very little about the fundamental political questions, in an era when far fewer people knew how to read or write.

In 1913, the Cat and Mouse Act was introduced to counter the influence of suffragettes. Basically, it was used to ensure they were not permitted to become heroes in the eyes of the public. Use of it was widespread during the First World War. My personal view of it is that it was appallingly cruel.

Here is a link you can follow to find out the basics on the Cat and Mouse Act:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The social status varied. The NUWSS (Suffragists) was the much bigger organisation, however the breakaway WSPU (Suffragettes) were founded on wider 'womens issues' in addition to the vote and actively recruited amongst the working classes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The social status varied. The NUWSS (Suffragists) was the much bigger organisation, however the breakaway WSPU (Suffragettes) were founded on wider 'womens issues' in addition to the vote and actively recruited amongst the working classes.

The leadership of both movements was very middle class and above. Only Annie Kenney of the WSPU leadership had a working class background. The NUWSS were the same. To be an activist was difficult for working class women in both organisations - need for 'uniform' in the colours was expensive, membership fee, meetings held when working class women were in the factories etc. Both tried to mobilise working class support e.g. Annie Williams, WSPU Cardiff organiser from 1912-1914 held lots of meetings in the valleys, including Miners Fed branches. The NUWSS had a positive polic towards working class women after its electoral deal with the Labour Party in 1912 - its idea of associate membership where the working class woman only had to fill in a form with no fee was making progress by 1914. But the shining light has to be Sylvia Pankhurst who founded the East London Fed of Suffragettes to work amongst working class women

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alan - quite right to correct my vagueness. The leadership was undoubtedly 'above' working class for the most part. My comment on the variations of class was intended as a comment on membership and support generally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am reading 'It's a long way to Tipperary' British and Irish nurses in the great war.

Emily Pankhurst said at the beginning of the war 'Our battles are practically over, we confidently believe. For the present at least our arms are grounded. For directly the threat of foreign war descended on our nation we declared a complete truce from militancy.'

Mandy

Mandy,

Emily Pankhurst must have had a change of mind, ( a woman's perogative). Whilst going through the local paper archives for 1914-1918 came across an entry which said she was arrested for demonstrating (1916) in the Village of Creswell- Derbyshire and was taken before the Magistrates at Chesterfield.

Regards Cliff.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Could I point out that there were two different organisations. The oldest, founded in 1897 and founded by Millicent Fawcett, was the National Union of Womens Sufferage Societies (NUWSS) This was a moderate, non-violent organisation, which sought to persuade rather than take direct action. They accepted men as members and called themselves Sufferagists.

Emmeline Pankhurst's organisation - she was never called Emily - was the the Women's Social and Political Movement. This was founded in 1903 and was a breakaway movement from the NUWSS who felt that direct action was more likely to bring results than the more passive stance taken by the NUWSS. The WSPU referred to themselves as Sufferagetts. Both these organisations agreed to support the government during the war. In particular, Pankhurst even went so as as to organise recruiting drives,l particularly to get women into munitions factories.

TR

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Could I point out that there were two different organisations. The oldest, founded in 1897 and founded by Millicent Fawcett, was the National Union of Womens Sufferage Societies (NUWSS) This was a moderate, non-violent organisation, which sought to persuade rather than take direct action. They accepted men as members and called themselves Sufferagists.

Emmeline Pankhurst's organisation - she was never called Emily - was the the Women's Social and Political Movement. This was founded in 1903 and was a breakaway movement from the NUWSS who felt that direct action was more likely to bring results than the more passive stance taken by the NUWSS. The WSPU referred to themselves as Sufferagetts. Both these organisations agreed to support the government during the war. In particular, Pankhurst even went so as as to organise recruiting drives,l particularly to get women into munitions factories.

TR

The NUWSS adopted that name as a federation in 1897 but its antecedents go back to city-based suffrage groups from c1870, particularly Manchester.I do not think that for the long time they called their organisations 'suffragette' and 'suffragist' as these terms were coined by the press. WSPU = Women's Social and Political UNION. The WSPU was not a breakaway movement from the NUWSS although many of its members had been members of the earlier groups. It was a protest movement against the attitude of the labour movement to women's suffrage and the slight deriving from the building of a memorial hall to Richard Pankhurst, Emmeline's husband. It was not founded as a 'direct action' group. Founded in October 1903 its first militant act was by Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney at a male only Liberal meeting during the 1906 election campaign. Arguably Christabel was the real founder of direct action as both women were ejected and that would have been it but she....

1. spat at a policeman thus committing a technical assault

2. refused her mother's offer to pay a fine and used a short sentence as a propaganda coup.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...