100 Years of British Female Suffrage ~
Last week, we celebrated the centenary since (some) British women finally gained the right to have a political voice - what an event!
In 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst wrote “Men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it. They have decided that it is entirely right and proper for men to fight for their liberties and their rights, but that it is not right and proper for women to fight for theirs.” While the struggle for female suffrage may seem like distant history, the centenary is a cause for both celebration and reflection on the parallels that still apply today.
First, the importance of speaking up. Protest has always been such a powerful tool - women turned to militant-style tactics to attract attention to their cause. While the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies faction used peaceful methods, the Women’s Social and Political Union held firmly the belief in “deeds, not words.” These protest tactics were most commonly used in the years leading up to the First World War, when suffragettes went on hunger strikes, chained themselves to railings and heckled government meetings- tools which are still powerful today.
Second, the suffragette movement went far beyond national boundaries. British women were not in isolation in their fight for the vote; women across the Commonwealth, Asia and the United States also faced parallel challenges. The exchange of ideas between women’s suffrage activists on an international level were facilitated by forums such as the Paris Peace Conference and the International Women’s Suffrage Alliance, which held regular conferences and was founded by British suffragist Millicent Garrett Fawcett along with others.
Finally, women’s right to vote in the U.K., granted by the 1918 Act, also enabled them to run for political office for the first time. A century later, as TIME recently reported, a record number of women are currently running for office in the U.S., politically energized since Trump’s election in 2016. #Empowered!