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The Suffragettes and Suffragists

By Yann, published on 17/08/2019 We Love Prof - IN > Academia > History > All About the Suffrage Movement

“We too often bind ourselves by authorities rather than by truth.” -Lucretia Mott

To go against the grain, take a stand, be outspoken, and make a notable difference requires courage and confidence. The women who boldly fought during the suffrage movement had all of those characteristics.

Learning about historical heroes such as the suffragists and suffragettes inspires all to make a change in their lives no matter how small or insignificant it may be. 

Therefore, without further ado, in today’s article, all interested readers can learn about one of the most significant movements in human history that affected the UK and other regions positively: women’s suffrage. 

What is the Difference Between a Suffragette and Suffragist?

suffragists vs. suffragettes The suffragists were forceful and passionate yet respectful. (Source: BBC)

When a pupil decides to study more about equality for women and the suffrage movement around the world, there are two distinct but similar sounding words that come up: suffragist and suffragette.

Those previously mentioned words sound the exact same, therefore; what is the difference between a suffragette and suffragist?

To better understand the terminology used in the suffrage era, it is essential to have a slight understanding of the turbulent time it was for women in the late 1800s and early 1900s. During the period known as the suffrage change, women across the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe were fighting for the right to vote.

Many united women created groups to rally other women together and brainstorm strategies that would eventually result in women’s equality. 

Early hell-raisers, as male government officials would like to call them, were known as suffragists. The suffragists fought hard and long to raise awareness for women’s rights all over England, Ireland, and Wales. Although early suffragists never achieved their goals in gaining the right to vote, their respectful yet forceful campaigns have inspired women for decades.

The suffragists gained many supporters which lead to other groups such as the well-known Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The WSPU was initially led by Emmeline Pankhurst who influenced her followers, known as the suffragettes, to develop more aggressive methods to gain the attention of government officials.

The suffragettes and WSPU’s motto in 1905 was “deeds over words.”  

The suffragettes are well-known in history as being persons who wanted to be heard and have their well-deserved petitions become a reality. Recognised as being more militant, the suffragettes were involved in events such as chaining themselves to railings or fences, disrupting public meetings, and vandalising property owned by the state.

The extremist efforts of the suffragettes led to all women over the age of 21 receiving the right to vote. 

Therefore, before concluding this section, it is important to state that the main difference between suffragists and suffragettes lies in their approach to addressing serious women’s rights. The suffragists were more peaceful while the suffragettes were infamous for being hostile. However, their purpose was the same: garnering the right to vote for women.

Interesting Facts: The Woman Suffrage Movement

There have been fascinating moments in history that have shaped the contemporary world and the women’s suffrage movement is no different.

While the dates of the start of the suffrage movement may differ according to each country and historian, in the United States the women’s suffrage movement was thought to have started in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 when the first women’s rights convention was held. Nevertheless, according to British sources, in 1832, Mary Smith petitioned an MP to have a voice in the elections of parliament.

The women who pioneered the women’s suffrage movement were strong-willed, determined, and eager to see better conditions for women politically. 

It is important to mention that women’s suffrage movement has been credited as being the “most significant achievement of women in the progressive era.” 

Equal rights for women was necessary since the beginning of time. For example, the right to vote is a fundamental privilege owed to every citizen for various reasons such as the fact that it increases civic consciousness and cooperation and acceptance of laws and policies.

While many determined women tried to attain the right to vote in the Second Reform Bill when working-class men achieved their rights to voting, it was not until 1918 that married women over the age of 30 were permitted to vote in elections.

How was voting for women granted in Great Britain? 

Women from distinct walks of life known as the suffragists and suffragettes fought hard to guarantee women’s right to vote and there were many other achievements for women during this era.

For example, as a result of the positive press during the women’s suffrage movement, females began to attend further education courses and attain degrees in previously male-dominated sectors such as health sciences, law, and business. Also, women were starting to earn more money than before in many professional sectors.

Also, it is important to state that although the women’s suffragette movement predominantly occurred in specific areas of the world such as Europe, North America, and Oceania, there have been suffrage changes and campaigns all over our planet. The following are some interesting facts about the worldwide women’s suffrage movement:

  • New Zealand becomes the first country to grant equal voting rights to women in 1893,
  • In 1913 Norway grants women full suffrage,
  • Germany permits women to vote during public elections in 1918 after World War One,
  • In 1920, after an amendment in the United States, full women suffrage is granted across all States,
  • In July 1928, The Representation of the People Act entitles everyone over the age of 21 to freely vote in Great Britain.

Learning about the suffrage movement and how the right to vote was fought encourages all to take fuller advantage of their rights as citizens.

Notable Victories From the Suffragette Movement

voting is a right The right to vote is a basic human right owed to all people no matter the gender or race. (Source: Bloomsbury Policy Group)

Since women fought so hard to receive justice and equal voting rights in the UK during the suffrage era, there are so many noteworthy victories that can be observed. Nevertheless, it is best for suffrage movements to be divided between specific periods; therefore, we will consider important events from the 19th century and the 20th century.

19th Century Suffrage Moments

The following are the best moments of the suffrage movement in the 19th century:

  • 1500 Signatures: when the suffragists, early fighters in the UK for women’s rights, meant business, they seriously meant business. For example, in 1866 a petition was signed by 1500 people to influence government officials to add women to the Second Reform Bill. The Reform Act of 1867 was a document that became law and finally made legal the act of voting for working-class men. After the 1500 signatures were shown to MP John Stuart Mill, he presented the women’s petition to the House of Commons. Although their petition was rejected, it created a lot of momentum for women’s rights at the time.
  • Millicent Fawcett Leads NUWSS: the minor developments associated with the suffrage movement motivated many women to participate in earning women their equal and deserved rights. Therefore, many all-female groups were started in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. However, it was at the end of the 1890s that Millicent Fawcett led the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) with the goal of uniting many smaller groups to create a more lasting impact.

Memorable Moments of Women’s Suffrage in the 20th Century

The 20th century was when the most significant moments of the women’s suffrage movement took place. The subsequent events are worthy of study and celebration:

  • Emmeline Pankhurst Arrives on the Scene: in 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) is formed in Manchester at the home of Emmeline Pankhurst. The WSPU invites and encourages the emergence of the suffragettes and their more aggressive techniques. The suffragettes mostly led by Pankhurst are involved in events such as crashing political gatherings and performing in loud protests.
  • Representation of the People Bill: when World War One commenced in 1914, the suffragette movement was put on hold until further notice. Nevertheless, after the war, in 1918, great news abounded for all since The Representation of the People Act was approved and voting rights to married women over the age of 30 were granted; this opened the way for progress in 1928 when all women over 21 years of age were allowed to vote.

Who Were the Women Leading the Suffrage Movement in the UK?

The Powerful Emmeline Emmeline Pankhurst was a fierce and powerful advocate for the woman’s suffrage movement. (Source: The Independent)

Women all over the world make a difference each day by their nurturing hands, vibrant exuberance, determination, and long-suffering. Nevertheless, there are some women who have dedicated their lives to advocating change.

Fantastic females such as Maya Angelou, Queen Elizabeth I, Rosa Parks, Anne Frank, and Mother Theresa are role models for young girls who seek excellence. 

Without further ado, the following are some of the most important women who dominated the social scene in England during the suffrage movement:

  • Emmeline Pankhurst: one of the most militant champions of the women’s suffrage movement was Emmeline Pankhurst. She founded the WSPU and fought for women’s rights for over 40 years. She finally saw women’s full equality in the voting franchise the year she died in 1928. Emmeline Pankhurst left an undeniable mark on modern history and was named one of TIME magazine’s most important people of the 20th century.
  • Millicent Fawcett: known by many in Great Britain as a British intellectual, political leader, activist, and writer, Millicent Fawcett spend the latter part of her life fighting tirelessly for the voting rights and equality of women. In 1897, she united many women’s groups and became the president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), a position she held until 1919. Fawcett was milder and more respectful towards government entities about women’s rights, yet she lived long enough to experience the moment in 1928 when women had finally gained voting equality in the UK.
  • Emily Wilding Davison: while many women campaigned for justice and used aggressive tactics to be heard and noticed by important figures, Emily Wilding Davison remains one of the most passionate advocates of women’s rights during the suffrage era. She was arrested nine times and went on hunger strikes seven different times to get publicity for her cause and fight for justice. Nevertheless, Wilding Davison is best known for jumping in front of King George V’s horse at the 1913 Derby; this event has been viewed by many as a political protest. Thousands of people attended Davison’s funeral.
  • Dora Thewlis: one of the youngest suffragettes, Thewlis was only sixteen when she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1907. She was arrested for being part of a group that plotted to break into the House of Commons and made media headlines all over the UK. She was dubbed the nickname “Baby Suffragette” by the judge at her court appearance. Her family was in complete support of her and the suffragette movement. It is important to mention that although young, Thewlis inspired many young girls to fight for what is right no matter the cost.

Many women made the suffrage movement of primary importance in their life. Learning about how all can make a difference inspires young girls and boys all over the world to do what is right no matter the consequences.

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