Tuesday 6 February 2018

Suffragettes get the vote.

One hundred years ago today women first got the vote, quite an achievement and looking at it in retrospect it seems quite extraordinary they didn't have it in the first place. Their struggle started in 1866 when it was considered odd that women should even want the vote, after all their husbands were quite capable of taking care of any matters of a political nature.

A woman's role was child rearing and household responsibilities and I have to admit even now this seems fairly sensible for I am delighted to say I am unable to give birth, a task I am more than happy to forego. As for household chores, I am unable to cook, sweating over a hot stove is not for me and as for cleaning I can just about manage if the item to clean is a motorcar. I am more than happy to leave all these tasks to my delightful wife, this says more about my incompetence to do the tasks than anything else, I have to admit.

In 1897 the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies was formed mostly to no avail as all the bills for suffrage were defeated in parliament which led to the formation in 1903 of the Women's Social and Political Union led by Emmeline Pankhurst, their motto being "deeds not words." Initially they were a non violent organisation but gradually they became more militant, chaining themselves to the railings in Downing Street and to statues in the House of Commons.

Initially they were predominantly upper class but as time went on they realised they needed the help of the working class and of men, although there was considerable anti suffrage feeling from many men who must have thought these women were getting ideas above their station.

By 1909 the WSPU had branches all over the country and their newspaper called Votes for Women sold 20,00 copies a week however they were being put in prison on a regular basis as their protests escalated.

The most famous of these must have been when, on Derby Day in 1913 Emily Davison threw herself in front of the Kings horse and was trampled to death, there was some suggestion that she didn't mean to kill herself and merely wanted to place a suffragettes scarf in the horses bridle, which I think is true.

The suffragettes and their male supporters were treated abysmally in prison and went on hunger strike leading to them being force fed but gradually they were getting the message across, helped by the fact that their services were needed when the First World War started.

You have to admit they played a straight bat during the hostilities and gave valuable service in factories and as nurses etc, even to the point of not protesting during the war which must have gained them respect, I would have thought.

Finally after a long and hard fight on 6th February 1918 the Representation of the People Act was passed which allowed women over the age of 30 who owned property to vote, which was a step in the right direction and eventually with the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 women over 21 finally gained the same voting rights as men.

It's rather a shame that having gained the vote they are faced with such a mediocre bunch of candidates from any party to choose from, even a man has trouble choosing and we used to be the ones who would take care of matters of a political nature! 


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