The Suffragette movement was a women’s activist organisation that campaigned for votes for women in the early 20th century. The women all came together under the united banner “Votes for Women” and fought tirelessly for the right to take part in public elections. Founded by three sisters, Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst in 1903 the Suffragettes believed in direct action and were often caught up in civil disobedience. They used direct and violent tactics such as hunger strikes, terrorism, arson and even bombing! The name “Suffragette” came from a newspaper reporter for the Daily Mail who in 1906 coined the phrase from “Suffragist” a word meaning anyone who advocates for voting rights.
The extreme and fanatical tactics employed by the Women were beyond what most ladies of the time were comfortable with and included, heckling politicians, storming parliament, chaining themselves to railings, and smashing windows, as well as the arson attacks and bombings mentioned earlier! Many of the women wanted to change the way their violent demonstrations were carried out and begged the three sisters to employ much more peaceful methods of achieving their goal of votes for women. Possibly by using Crochet Blanket Kits they wanted to produce practical, beautiful blankets, cushion covers, hats and scarves that could be sold and the profits used to support the women’s cause.
The women who did take part in the more violent protests were often sexually assaulted and attacked by the Police and then imprisoned! When locked in their tiny cells the women often went on hunger strike but were then force-fed. Many women died during the skirmishes and demonstrations, including Emily Davison who was killed at the 1913 Epsom Derby, when she ran in front of the King’s horse. Eventually, in 1928, ten years after women over the age of thirty years old were given the right to vote, all women over the age of twenty-one were included in the Representation of the people (Equal Franchise) Act and allowed to vote. Of the three sisters, Emmeline Pankhurst was the one who fought the hardest, and travelled the most, giving speeches throughout Britain and the United States. Possibly her most passionate and famous address, delivered to the people of Connecticut in 1913 was called “Freedom or Death”!