The people belonging to the WSPU, otherwise known as the Suffragettes, as well as their predecessors, the NUWSS, are two of the main reasons behind women in the UK being given the right to vote.
The Suffragists (NUWSS) were the original fighters for the vote. Mainly made of middle class women, these people had become frustrated with their lack of rights and the constraints forced upon them by men, as well as the treatment which they received as ‘second class’ citizens. Peaceful and determined, they campaigned for suffrage through methods including posters, letters to newspapers, and meetings for those who wanted to be involved. Their more passive approach was less controversial than the later methods employed by the WSPU, and while perhaps not particularly attention grabbing, these people (both men and women) made a significant contribution to the campaign for the vote.
The Pankhursts, more specifically Emeline, though originally members of the Suffragists, became disillusioned with its antics. They felt that a more aggressive and radical approach was required in order to force politicians to take notice. This group was comprised of both men and women, and was far less peaceful than the NUWSS. Setting fire to post boxes and golf courses, damaging public property, attacking prime ministers were all a part of their campaign. Not to mention actively attempting to get arrested, and the brave actions of Emily Davidson, the WSPU’s first martyr. She threw herself onto a race course and was killed in the fight for women’s suffrage. Some may say she took the campaign too far, but if it were not for the government’s refusal to allow women a basic right, she would never have been there in the first place. These methods not only drew both positive and negative attention to the cause, but they forced the government to take aggressive action, creating sympathy for the Suffragettes. While in prison, the women refused to eat in protest. The government force fed them, much to the public’s disgust. Being far more attention seeking, it is the WSPU who is most commonly remembered for making a difference in gaining the vote for women. They changed the lives of UK women for ever, and should be remembered only with respect and gratitude for the sacrifices they made, in order to benefit generations of women to come.
The women who were involved in both the NUWSS and the WSPU are a true inspiration to me and many other women. They gave so much. Imagine how brave a person would have to be in order to face nationwide criticism and condemnation, jail, violence, and even death. That’s how courageous those women were. I genuinely wish I could go back in time, and join them. I hope I would have had the guts to fight for justice, and conquer all fear of consequence, in order to create a better country.
What makes me sick however, is the fact that these women even had to fight for the vote. Surely its a basic human right to be allowed to elect your own representatives, especially in a democratic country? These women should not have had to fight for equality, they should have had it. But fight they did, and women all over the world are still fighting for equality. And one day, they will win. I admire each and every person who fought for the vote. They partook in the great campaign for equality, and what’s more, they succeeded. They are proof that victory can be accomplished, if you just fight hard enough and long enough. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.