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Did the militancy of the Suffragettes hinder the cause between 1905 to 1914?

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Introduction

Did the militancy of the Suffragettes hinder the cause between 1905 to 1914? The exact development of militancy, is rather clouded, because the term 'militant' became an elastic concept that changed its meaning between the mid C19th to the early C20th. Previous to 1905 Women had only used subtle tactics, such as letter writing, public speaking and publishing provocative articles. Such tactics had not attracted much attention to the cause, though this was not the case with so-called "militant" tactics. The first 'militant' activity occurred in 1905, with Christabel Pankhurst calling out 'votes for women' at a meeting attended by a cabinet minister. This practice continued until c. 1910, with women being banned from most public meetings, due to the constant heckling and calls of 'votes for women'. Gradually the "militant tactics" began more violent, progressing from heckling at meetings to firebombing buildings belonging to political opponents to the cause. These tactics did however provoke a media response. ...read more.

Middle

However this stalemate was broken with the declaration of war in 1914. Before the use of militant tactics, a theory held amongst most MPs, that there was no real "evidence" that women wanted the vote. The use of militant tactics destroyed this theory, in the most public way available in those days - the press. Suffragettes were arrested at any gatherings that threatened to be less than totally peaceful, though before 1910, they offered no resistance when arrested, instead being victims to the brutality of the police. An example of this police brutality is "Black Friday", when a suffrage demonstration was halted by the police, and the ensuing riots saw many suffragettes being injured at the hands of the police. The media portrayed this as injustice to women. This created a bad image for the government, also seen with force feeding and the "cat and mouse act". Although some of the women were arrested on "Black Friday", none were prosecuted, as the government was afraid to prosecute out of fear of further demonstrations. ...read more.

Conclusion

Within 15 years of the change from subtle to militant tactics success was gained in the form of the Reform Bill. In conclusion, the militancy of the suffragettes did hinder the cause from 1905 to 1914, but at the same time it also helped it. The militant tactics served an invaluable purpose; without it, the government could have (and did, before 1913) stated that there was no real "evidence" suggesting that women even wanted the vote. The militant tactics destroyed this theory. By destroying property, staging demonstrations, and creating riots, the militants kept "the cause" constantly in the papers and constantly an issue, keeping the question fresh in the minds of both the public and Parliament. The militant tactics of the suffragettes is the main factor women's suffrage was achieved by 1918; although before the war, the militant tactics angered many, and seemed as if it would delay the enfranchisement process, it was necessary to threaten the government out of a stalemate and into a state of action. The women of England, using militant tactics, threw off Victorian ideals, created a new identity and a new place in society for themselves. ...read more.

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