Civic Imagination

Emmeline the Suffragist

A huge step towards gender equality was made in Britain in 1928: women were given the right to vote, equally to men. But that didn’t come without a struggle. Beginning in the late 18th century, a sense of injustice brought bands of women together forming the first groups fighting for women’s suffrage. These groups are a key part of British history and gender equality. One of the women was Emmeline Pankhurst - a key player in the suffrage movement. Pankhurst was a strong woman, founding the highly influential WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union) and the movement was driven almost mostly by this group, who chose to use physical actions rather than peaceful protests: “Deeds not words”. Pankhurst herself, and the group, were heavily criticised for this by many (including the government) and they were dismissed for being ‘crazy women’ types, but the more they were ignored the harsher their protest actions were. With groups of women taking matters into their own hands, through attacking property and law breaking leading to imprisonment is now in hindsight a huge and momentous leap for the suffrage movement. The history of Britain was incredibly influenced just by the extreme actions, and these small groups became more widespread and more well known.

I heard about this story for the first time as a child in primary school, learning about it at around the age of 9 and I still remember being so shocked that it was something that had to be fought for. As a child, I couldn’t comprehend why women would ever not be allowed the same things as men. So as I’ve grown into the feminist I am today, in a world that still lacks equality, I can think back to this story and think to myself, things will change. The sense of strength in women resonates with me personally, and is evidence that equality can be reached one day, one step at a time. It is a story I do share often, especially during political happenings. During elections, I will bring up the suffrage movement and our right being fought for if people don’t want to vote. I will bring it up if people claim women are weak. I will bring it up because this story drives me to be an active feminist.

This story is highly inspirational - it is a huge historical example of the mobilization of people to tackle a governmental injustice.

Suffrage, vote, women, feminism, equality

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