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The suffragettes and suffragists

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Introduction

The Suffragettes and Suffragists In the 19th century women had no place in national politics. They could not stand as candidates for Parliament. They were not even allowed to vote. It was assumed that women did not need the vote because their husbands would take responsibility in political matters. A woman's role was seen to be child-rearing and taking care of the home. The movement to gain votes for women had two wings, the suffragists and the suffragettes. The suffragists had their origins in the mid 19th century, while the suffragettes came into being in 1903. In 1897, various local women's suffrage societies formed the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, under the leadership of Millicent Fawcett. The NUWSS wanted the vote for middle class property-owning women. They believed they would achieve their end using peaceful tactics - non-violent demonstrations, petitions and the lobbying of MPs. Fawcett believed that if the organization was seen to be intelligent, polite and law-abiding then women would prove themselves responsible enough to participate fully in politics. ...read more.

Middle

Many suffragettes committed acts of violence to keep the 'Votes for Women' campaign in the public eye. Members of the WSPU were responsible for breaking the windows of 10 Downing Street, burning buildings and damaging paintings in public galleries. They were often prepared to go to prison for their cause or even put their own lives in danger. Suffragettes were quite happy to go to prison. Here they refused to eat and went on a hunger strike. The government was very concerned that they might die in prison thus giving the movement martyrs. Prison governors were ordered to force feed Suffragettes but this caused a public outcry as forced feeding was traditionally used to feed lunatics as opposed to what were mostly educated women. The government of Asquith responded with the Cat and Mouse Act. When a Suffragette was sent to prison, it was assumed that she would go on hunger strike as this caused the authorities maximum discomfort. ...read more.

Conclusion

The suffragist's effectiveness was nothing compared with the suffragettes. The only similarities of the two wings were they consisted of only women and they both wanted 'the women's vote'. In my opinion I think that the actions of the WSPU, while attracting huge amounts of publicity, had the opposite effect intended. The public began to disapprove of the suffragettes as well as there cause. Opponents of women's suffrage in Parliament used the terrorist actions the women were using to their advantage in debate, citing the insane actions as a very good reason why women should not get the vote. I think that the Suffragettes extreme actions only delayed the votes for women. In August 1914 Britain and Europe plunged into World War One. The whole suffrage movement immediately scaled down and even suspended some of their activities in the face of a greater threat to the nation. The work done by women in the First World War was to be vital for Britain's war effort. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act was passed by Parliament. ...read more.

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