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Suffragettes: the feminist heroines of the first democracies

Suffragettes: the feminist heroines of the first democracies

May 24, 2022

In order to understand the present, we must delve into the past and the first movements that started the movement from despotism to a time when there is much more equality. In the case of gender equality, the first people to push for change were the suffragettes , representatives of one of the first forms of feminism.

But ... who exactly were the suffragettes and what did they defend?

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What are the suffragettes?

The suffragettes or "suffragettes" in English, were a political-social group that emerged at the end of the 19th century and was consolidated at the beginning of the 20th century. In its beginnings it was headed by the famous Emmeline Pankhurst (1858 - 1928), atypical figure since its inception, fleeing the traditionalist feminine laminate (that is, in part, because it did not receive a "princess" education, as historians point out, but was raised and educated in the bosom of a family claiming civil rights).


It is therefore a political and social movement of organized women that during the nineteenth century they maintained a political pulse with the authorities of male-dominated England, in a context in which women routinely experienced sexual abuse in their jobs on the part of the masters, they were denied the right to study and the husband had the power to punish his wife as he saw fit.

Roughly, Suffragettes distance themselves from conventional peaceful demands or by word to take action: "Deeds, not words" (Facts, not words).

This motto was led by this movement on a permanent basis, suggesting acts that would attract the attention of the British authorities. Well, this guideline was taken to the letter, and therefore the pressure exerted by this political group became impossible to ignore.


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Inspiration and political references

Like any great important and influential figure in history, Emmeline Pankhurst received from childhood a vindication and conscience education with social progress. These values ​​were noted in the movement that he led.

The suffragettes were motivated by the feminist magazine "Women's Suffrage Journal", founded in 1870 by Lydia Becker and Jessie Boucherett. Considered the first activists for the rights of women, Emmeline and her mother Sophia Jane they met Lydia Becker at a meeting that dealt with women's suffrage . "From that meeting I left convinced of being a committed suffragette," said Pankhurst.

Another turning point for the movement of the suffragettes was the fact of seize the values ​​of the French Revolution with a small nuance : equality. Any claim for civil and human rights, protests or other similar demands, were intended exclusively for man, denounced the movement.


Modus operandi of the suffragettes

The rights of women's suffrage date from the beginning of the 19th century, but it was not until the middle of this period that the suffrage movement did not settle in England (around 1855 approximately). Imitating any other type of protest policy, at the beginning the movement was articulated peacefully and democratically, introducing amendments in the English Parliament to expand women's rights .

It was at the end of the 19th century when the Suffragists decided to take another path. When a petition was rejected in the House of Commons by the deputies John Stuart Mill and Henry Fawcett, the famous "Ladies Petition" to change the word "man" to "person" when referring to suffrage, the National Society for the Suffrage of Women was created by the aforementioned Lydia Becker.

The revolution in the streets

After unfulfilled promises, deceptive laws and institutional disregard for everything that had been claimed to date, the first public incidents are recorded by the hand of the suffragettes: uproar, disturbance of order, urban violence, property damage and even some other act terrorist against the finance minister, David Lloyd George, in his own mansion.

One of the victims belonging to suffrage, Emily Wilding Davison, was martyred in 1913 when she assaulted King George V's horse to show him the flag of his organization and give voice to his discontent. "A tragedy would prevent thousands to come," Emily defended until her death.

The legacy of the first feminist struggle

Thanks to the busy but successful career of the suffragettes,several of the greatest achievements in women's rights have been achieved . Everything changed in 1928, when the right to women's suffrage was approved. Later, the entrance of the students to Universities like Oxford or Harvard would be accepted, inclusion of the deputies in the European parliaments, protagonism in the world of the cinema with films that remember the fight of the suffragists.

Another of the major achievements of the movement is the union achieved at the class level, thus absorbing another issue worthy of vindication. Women workers in factories, servants of the nobility and women of that same nobility, fought side by side for a common goal: "freedom or death," as one of the other slogans of suffrage would say.


Diane Atkinson: "Rise Up, Women! The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes" | Talks at Google (May 2022).


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