In her talk Judith Barrow covers the struggles that women had to endure to achieve full equality regarding suffrage; the right to vote. And she explains how the 1918 Representation of the People Act seemed a major victory for the suffragist movement, but why there were women who still saw the act as a betrayal.
Includes readings from her novel “A Tiny Hundred Threads”
Yn ei haraith bydd Judith Barrow yn trafod y brwydrau bu’n rhaid i ferched eu goddef er mwyn ennill yr hawl i bleidleisio. Bydd hi’n egluro sut y gwelwyd Deddf Cynrychiolaeth y Bobl yn 1918 yn fuddugoliaeth enfawr i etholfreintiaeth ond paham roedd menywod yn ystyried y ddeddf yn frad.
The move for women to have the vote really started in 1897 when Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage. She believed in peaceful protest.
However, Fawcett’s progress was very slow and in 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. They wanted women to have the right to vote and they were not prepared to wait. The Union became better known as the Suffragettes. Members of the Suffragettes were prepared to use violence to get what they wanted and were quite happy to go to prison.
From 1909 the women, demanding the status of political prisoners, began to refuse food. The government’s response was to forcibly feed them but became concerned that the women might die in prison; thus giving the movement martyrs. But then Asquith responded with the Cat and Mouse Act. This allowed the Suffragettes to go on a hunger strike but when very weak they were released from prison. If they died out of prison, this was of no embarrassment to the government. And, because of the state of their health, the women were unable to take part in the struggles. However, as soon as they regained their strength, they were re-arrested for the most trivial of reason and the whole process started again. This, from the government’s point of view, was a very simple but effective weapon against the Suffragettes.
But then Britain and Europe was plunged into World War One in August 1914 and, in a display of patriotism, Emmeline Pankhurst instructed the Suffragettes to stop their campaign of violence and support in every way the government and its war effort.
The work done by women in the First World War was to be vital for Britain’s war effort. It was this that many believe, was the turning point and the 1918 Representation of the People Act seemed a major victory for the suffragist movements.
But this wasn’t the whole truth and many saw the act as a betrayal; it still classed them as second-class citizens to men. The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave all men over the age of 21 the right to vote (and aged 19 if the men had been on active service in the armed forces – an important point to note!)
Women only achieved full equality regarding suffrage in 1928.
Dame Millicent Fawcett is to be the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Parliament Square. The equal rights campaigner, who dedicated her life to getting the women’s vote, will stand alongside Sir Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela. Theresa May has said Dame Millicent “continues to inspire the battle against the injustices of today. It is right and proper that she is honoured in Parliament Square alongside former leaders who changed our country. Her statue will stand as a reminder of how politics only has value if it works for everyone in society.”