to Feminine Achievements, by Joan and Kenneth Macksey

From:    Ted Powell
Subject: Militant Suffragettes

The following is from The Guinness Guide to Feminine Achievements, by Joan
and Kenneth Macksey, 1975, ISBN 0 900424 31 1, pp 84-5:

The most militant of suffragettes was Emmeline (Emily) Pankhurst (British,
1858-1928). Let down first by the Liberals and then by the Labour Party,
both of which she had supported in turn, she was already politically
disillusioned by 1903 when she and her daughter Christabel Pankhurst
(British, 1882-1960) formed the non-party Women's Social and Political
Union (WSPU) in Manchester -- mostly from mill girls -- and became engaged
in the first act of physical aggression in the struggle for the vote at
the hands of Liberal Party supporters during a meeting in Manchester in
1905.  Sir Edward Grey had expounded on the intentions of the Government
about to be formed and at question time Christabel Pankhurst and Annie
Kenney (British, 1879-1953) asked what its intentions were over votes for
women.  Grey ignored them (he had answered all other questions but thought
this one not `a fitting subject').  The women unfurled banners and asked
again.  They were seized, kicked down the gallery stairs, then thrown
bodily from the hall, suffering physical injury.  Outside they held a
protest meeting, were arrested for obstruction and, upon refusal to pay
their fine, sent to prison, the first of many prision sentences to be
served by suffragettes in England.  This episode was given world-wide
newspaper coverage: it also provoked a wave of bitter violence from the
frustrated WSPU Party whose motto became `Deeds not Words'.  In 1906 they
moved to London and started a deliberate policy of sensationalism.  They
chained themselves to the railings of the Prime Minister's residence,
harangued the terrace of Parliament from the river, broke windows -- and
one woman, Emily Davidson (British) threw herself in front of the King's
racehorse in the 1913 Derby and was killed.  Women in prison went on
hunger strike and were forcibly fed.  Mr Asquith parried and
procrastinated about the [suffrage] Bill throughout, while, in 1913, his
Government passed the so-called `Cat and Mouse' Act -- officially called
the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Act.  Imprisoned
suffragettes who went on hunger strike would be released when in danger of
death but, as soon as they were strong enough, would be rearrested to
continue their sentence.  This frequent and repetitive starving to near
death permanently undermined the health of more than one woman.  On the
other hand the depredations of the militants turned many previously
sympathetic people against the women ...


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