• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

WSPU. By the time war broke out in 1914, women's suffrage had still not been won. Some historians argue that this was due to the militant and ultimately violent action used by Emmeline Pankhurst's WSPU;

Extracts from this document...


By the time war broke out in 1914, women's suffrage had still not been won. Some historians argue that this was due to the militant and ultimately violent action used by Emmeline Pankhurst's WSPU; yet others believe that the WSPU's campaign played a major part in helping women finally acheive the vote on the same terms of men by 1928 as it was seen as a catalyst. Substantial sets of evidence - both long-term and short-term - can be used to back up both views. This shows that the WSPU's lack of success could prove that its tactics hindered the women's campaign, but was not fully responsible as there are other reasons. Emmeline chose to pioneer the WSPU movement as she felt that if women were relying on the NUWSS alone, there would be no further progress; she wanted women to make a bigger stand to attract more attention which she believed would help them win the vote. However, with the Union's motto already stating "Deeds, not words", this could have easily led the public - especially MPs - into thinking that the movement would use violence ('deeds') to acheive women's suffrage as opposed to 'words', i.e. compromising with the government. Despite up until 1912 the WSPU's action was considered not extremely violent, in Manchester - where the many-year campaign stemmed - many MPs amongst a good proportion of the public already saw the movement as militant, especially in comparison to that of the original NUWSS alongside smaller movements that had been forming ever since the 1860s. ...read more.


Alongside this, Sylvia furthermore had political views that were connected more with the NUWSS: '..in contrast to them she retained her interest in the labour movement.' [Sylvia Pankhurst, Wikipedia]. If the Pankhurst family could not even agree, then the people who witnessed this would be inclined not to. I feel that the period between 1912-14 showed the bitterness between the 'suffragettes' and the government at its height as a result of the WSPU's behaviour. Even though Emmeline Pankhurst had said that she 'allow(ed) my members to act...on their own free will' ['Votes for Women' Belinda Hollyer], members became so dedicated to Emmeline's cause that they became martyrs. This period would have been all the more ideal for the members of the WSPU to reduce its militant tacticts - for instance arson attacks - as, although the government had still not granted women's suffrage, evidence could suggest that they were somewhat more willing to compromise. For example, when martyrs refused to eat or drink when send to prison, 'the Cat and Mouse Act' was introduced to stop the perpetual force-feeding and allow members to recover. Nevertheless, the women were still willing to die for their cause, which not only made them look hysterical, but also ironically made them look even weaker than if they had simply not have been arrested in the first place. Lastly, although the WSPU did not just involve violence in their campaigns at first - for instance processions - it did attract large crowds, but this did not necessarily imply that they were supporters, or even sympathetic! ...read more.


It wasn't until a good few months into 1915 that a meeting was held for he and Emmeline to discuss the WSPU's action - progress was very slow. Even Queen Victoria was against the WSPU's notion, stating that women are '...what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations.' It is believed that Queen Victoria never became in favour of the movement. In conclusion, after weighing up both sides of the argument, I believe that the perception that the militancy of the WSPU resulted in a greater hinderance to the women's struggle to gain the vote by 1914 to quite an extent. Indeed, 'militancy attracted publicity' [B. Whitefield, 'The Extension of the Franchice]; however, many other historians such as 'Liddington suggests that the militant acts 'only attracted public interest, never mass support'' [H.L. Smith, 'The British Women's Suffrage Campaign']. This is a key point to consider when regarding the impact of the WSPU's militancy during that period. Over 1,000 'suffragettes' were imprisoned in relation to the WSPU's demand for the extension on women's franchise. Even though on the one hand it attracted some sympathy, statistics like these prove that women were living up to their stereotype, and thus secured a justified argument that women belong in "seperate spheres": the men connected with politics, work and war; the women in their domestic sphere to raise their children and support their husbands. This hugely contentious issue is still as controversial as ever when debating whether the main reason for the WSPU's lack of success by 1914 was because of the movement's militancy. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level British History: Monarchy & Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level British History: Monarchy & Politics essays

  1. It was the militant suffragette campaign, more then any other factor that led to ...

    AJP Taylor said, "War smoothed the way for democracy - it is one of the few things to be said in its favour." For while World War One forced the issue of female suffrage off the political agenda for the duration of the hostilities as the whole nation's efforts were concentrated on winning the war.

  2. How important were the Women's Suffrage Campaigns in the decision ot grant women the ...

    Bills were rejected, and in the 2nd Conciliation Bill, MPs voted against enfranchising women. Also, without having the support of Asquith, Prime Minister at the time, the Suffragists were never going to be able to gain women the vote before 1914.

  1. Do Historians agree that the WSPU was an elitist, anti-male organisation?

    The WSPU had also shown signs that they didn't care whose support they had in particular, as long they had the support (was the primary aim). This factor was supported when the WSPU had used 'military tactics', the result was that working class women turned their women on the organisation.

  2. How Significant Was WW1 In Bringing About Votes For Some Women In 1918?

    However, this is not the only factor that contributed to the vote for women being granted. The pre- war campaign began in 1860 when the campaign for female suffrage started; this raised the question of votes for women earlier than it would have been without it.

  1. Free essay

    Did the WSPU help or hinder the struggle for women's rights?

    This gives the impression that the WSPU and the NUWSS were very separate groups however on some mass rallies etc they in fact worked together. Early on in the WSPU campaign they raised the public profile of the Suffrage effort by holding large peaceful protests which were entirely legal.

  2. Free essay

    Why, between 1903 and 1914, did the women's suffrage movement fail to achieve its ...

    the one thing they wanted the most was not going to happen for them, they want the vote. They had achieve great thing before 1914, but to then not the greatest, they wasn't the right to vote which lead to the women's suffrage movement.

  1. The changing position of women and the suffrage question. Revision notes

    who was or was not a prostitute and thus many innocent young women were arrested and forced to undergo a medical examination and many lost their jobs, or even committed suicide as a result. * The attempt to extend the provisions of the acts to all prostitutes in the land

  2. The changing position of women and the suffrage question

    select few schools were established which educated girls past ?how to run the house?, e.g. the Camden school ? which was able to offer scholarships and reduced fees for able girls from poorer families. In 1867 all examinations were opened to girls.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work