Votes for Women!

I’ve just finished a fascinating book, The Militant Suffragettes, by Antonia Raeburn. Given my occasional feminist ramblings, it’s shocking that my knowledge of the Suffragettes was basically gleaned from a couple of novels and Mary Poppins, but this book filled the void (not sure if it’s still in print though). Amazing to think that it’s less than a century since women got the vote in the UK (women, if you don’t vote EVERY time you have the opportunity, you should be ashamed of yourselves!) The book is largely based on interviews, letters and diaries and is sufficiently detailed and historical, but it reads like a novel – absolutely fascinating, and I couldn’t put it down! What particularly impressed me is the amount of damage women did to themselves in the name of suffragism. Yes, they did damage some property etc (window-smashing was particularly popular) but they went on hunger- and thirst-strikes; they were force-fed, they (in the case of Emily Wilding-Davison) threw themselves under horses and died. They chained themselves to railings, were assaulted by the police, and so on. And it struck me that, in a period when morally if not legally women were still seen as the property of men, it was a particularly apposite protest, to damage themselves (or allow themselves to be harmed) in their cause, since to men this would seem to violate a sacred image. Furthermore, it demonstrated their bravery and fitness for the vote, since they conducted their schemes as a war, and went into battle like any man. Yes, I’m aware of the arguments that they were a bit demented in allowing themselves to be harmed, and in their window-smashing etc, but looking back now, doesn’t it seem that any protest was right? Imagine if women still didn’t have the vote!

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