CATS: Feminism (Ongoing)

Suffragettes were members of women’s organizations in the late-19th and early-20th centuries which advocated the extension of the “franchise”, or the right to vote in public elections, to women. It particularly refers to militants in the United Kingdom such as members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Suffragist is a more general term for members of the suffrage movement.

The term “suffragette” is particularly associated with activists in the British WSPU, led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, who were influenced by Russian methods of protest such as hunger strikes. Although the Isle of Man had enfranchised women who owned property to vote in parliamentary (Tynwald) elections in 1881, New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant all women the right to vote in 1893 when women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in parliamentary elections. Women in South Australia achieved the same right and became the first to obtain the right to stand for parliament in 1895. In the United States, white women over the age of 21 were allowed to vote in the western territories of Wyoming from 1869 and in Utah from 1870, but by 1903 women in Britain had still not been enfranchised and Emmeline Pankhurst had decided the movement would have to become radical and militant if it was going to be effective. The campaign became increasingly bitter with property damage and hunger strikes being countered by the authorities with jailing and force feeding, until it was suspended due to the outbreak of war in 1914.

Women in Britain over the age of 30, meeting certain property qualifications, were given the right to vote in 1918, and in 1928 suffrage was extended to all women over the age of 21. Opinion amongst historians today is divided as to whether the militant tactics of the suffragettes helped or hindered their cause. LINK

 

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