My new book has been plotted, written and is now under going a rigorous edit. Set in the 1890’s in an East Anglian village, it combines fact and fiction with a large dose of mystery and a generous sprinkling of genealogy. This illustration gives a teaser of the back theme.
TFW (working title) will be published later on this year. In the meantime, the kindle version of Vote for Murder is on sale in the UK at just 99p. Suffragettes, secrets and sleuthing – what’s not to like…
Download Vote For Murder Amazon Kindle here
On 2 Jul 1928, women over 30 were finally given the right to vote. This victory was hard won. One way or another, women had been campaigning for the right to vote since the early 1830’s with the first suffrage societies formed in the 1860’s.
Throughout that time, action was taken through peaceful lobbying. It was not until the turn of the century when the first women’s suffrage bill was defeated that the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was formed. Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters were active members of the WSPU and their frustration with the system lead them to violent protest. Their supporters were labelled with the derogatory term ‘suffragette’ by an unsympathetic media; a name they chose to embrace. Whether by the conviction of the suffragettes or the tenacity of the suffragists, women achieved the right to vote in the UK, partially in 1918 and fully in 1928.
Next week, we face the third of only 3 UK wide referendums. The referendum gives an opportunity for the entire electorate to vote on a specific issue, in this case whether we leave or remain in the EU. Referendums are rare and we may not see another for many years. However you vote, be mindful that the ability to exercise a choice was denied to many of our ancestors. So take the opportunity to do what they could not. Come rain or shine, go out on Thursday and make your vote count.
When women got the vote
- 1893 New Zealand
- 1902 Australia
- 1906 Finland
- 1913 Norway
- 1915 Denmark
- 1917 Canada
- 1918 Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia
- 1919 Netherlands
- 1920 United States
- 1921 Sweden
- 1928 Britain, Ireland
- 1931 Spain
- 1934 Turkey
- 1944 France
- 1945 Italy
- 1947 Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan
- 1949 China
- 1950 India
- 1954 Colombia
- 1957 Malaysia, Zimbabwe
- 1962 Algeria
- 1963 Iran, Morocco
- 1964 Libya
- 1967 Ecuador
- 1971 Switzerland
- 1972 Bangladesh
- 1974 Jordan
- 1976 Portugal
- 1989 Namibia
- 1990 Western Samoa
- 1993 Kazakhstan, Moldova
- 1994 South Africa
- 2005 Kuwait
- 2006 United Arab Emirates
It is interesting to read reports of early attempts to promote the case for women’s suffrage. In this extract from the Bury Free Press, July 1871, Millicent Garrett Fawcett argues against multiple reasons given by men (and anti-suffrage women) against emancipation. She counters all arguments rationally and eloquently, but forty years later the government of the day still refused to grant votes to women.
“Mrs Fawcett, who, on presenting herself, was loudly cheered, then proceeded with her lecture, which was a resume and refutation of the argument used by the opponents of women’s rights to the franchise in the House of Commons on the second reading of the Woman Suffrage Bill.
These arguments she enumerated as follows: That women were represented already, that to give them votes would be to give two votes to their nearest male relation, or to their favourite clergyman; that it would occasion domestic broils; that it would destroy family government, which was necessarily despotic; that women were intellectually inferior to, and physically weaker than men, and therefore ought not to have the franchise; that home was woman’s sphere, that women were superior to men, and would be deteriorated by contract with the ruder life of men; that the line must be drawn somewhere for if women got votes they would demand to be admitted to Parliament; that women did not want votes; that women were by nature conservative; that women could not be soldiers; that the deference and courtesy now shown to women would be lost; that women suffrage would be destructive of the foundation of society, and obliterate the distinctions of sex; that the Bible said nothing about it; that reason must prevail; that authority was against it.
To each of these objections Mrs Fawcett replied seriatim, and concluded by contending that the suffrage was not only woman’s right, but that woman, man and society would be improved by her possessing it. She was much cheered, and received the thanks of the meeting, as did Sir R Murchison for giving the use of the theatre.
Women’s suffrage was newsworthy and accounts of suffragette militant exploits were often reported nationally, usually negatively. The cruel treatment of those suffragists engaged in acts of peaceful protest is often conveniently forgotten. The two accounts below, taken from The Framlingham News, portray the shocking treatments suffragettes were subjected to in the course of their fight for the vote.
Mrs. Despard and Miss Margaret Sidley, who visited Maidstone in the Suffragist van on Wednesday evening, were subjected to brutal treatment. They had announced an open-air meeting, and a crowd of 3,000 assembled. The Suffragettes were received with showers of granite chippings with which the road was being repaired. A stone struck Mrs. Despard on the forehead, inflicting a nasty abrasion. She pluckily mounted a chair and faced the crowd, who pushed her off the chair and smashed it. When the van arrived the suffragists abandoned the attempt to speak, and barricaded themselves within.
Deliberate attempts were then made to over-throw the van, which was pushed uphill and allowed to descend by its own momentum. Only by the narrowest shave was disaster averted. The windows of the vehicle were smashed, the tailboard was wrenched off, rotten eggs and other missiles were flung, the imprisoned ladies being kept in a state of terror. At length the police intervened, and amid much booing the van was driven away.
Framlingham Weekly news 8th March 1913
In Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon Mrs. Flora Drummond and several other members of the women’s Social and Political Union were made the object of hostile attentions of a huge crowd and were persistently pelted with pieces of turf.
Members of the crowd sang, danced, waved sticks, cheered and hooted in turn, and the statements of the speakers were greeted with cries of “You ought to be tarred and feathered,” and other similar taunts.
One suffragette was struck in the eye and another in the mouth. Mrs. Drummond’s hat was disturbed with a walking-stick, which became entangled in her hair.
Another speaker had a fierce tussle with a member of the audience who attempted to board the platform. Later the same woman injured her wrist in a tug-of-war for possession of a spectator’s stick.
At the close a formidable rush was broken by the police escort.
On Sunday afternoon an attempt by suffragettes to hold a meeting on Wimbledon Common led to disorderly scenes.
After the speakers had vainly endeavoured for half an hour to obtain a hearing, amid the blowing of motor horns and the singing of popular songs, the crowd closed in on the platform, the suffragettes were dragged off and despite efforts of the police to protect them, three of the women were knocked down.
An exciting scene was witnessed in Oxford-street on Saturday afternoon, when two suffragists, who during the morning had been playing a piano in the West End, were attacked by a couple of men, and in the skirmish which ensued the piano organ was upset and considerably damaged.
The women, both of whom are London members of the Women’s Social and Political Union, were engaged in the week’s self-denial campaign, which opened that day, and were thus engaged with the object of gathering funds on behalf of their union.
In the face of such hostility, it is easy to imagine why some women felt they could not expect to advance their cause through peaceful demonstration.
When war broke out in 1914, all militant suffragette action ceased. From that point, all focus was on the war effort. The following extract is typical of the patriotism of both suffragists & suffragettes.
Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser 15 October 1915
The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies
(Non-Party and Non-Militant)
Contains over 602 Societies and 16 Federations
Mrs. Fawcett L.L.D
Miss Druce, Thornhill, Sevenoaks
At this crisis the N.U. has suspended political activities in order to utilise its large organisation for the relief of distress caused by war. It desires to illustrate the truth that Suffragists desire duties rather than rights, and that their ideal is the service of humanity.
It is fascinating to read historical newspaper accounts of women’s emancipation which expose attitudes markedly different than those today. Two contrasting newspaper articles about liberal politicians show remarkable differences in values, from which today’s politicians could draw a lesson. The first article, reported in The Bury & Norwich Post 14 June 1898, shows a politician with considerable personal integrity, prepared to leave the Liberal Union due to their opposition to the “modest and reasonable” wish for women to have the vote. He felt unable to serve an organisation with values so incompatible with his own.
Mr Jacob Bright on Liberalism and Women’s Suffrage
“A Cowardly and ungenerous Attitude”
The treasurer of the Manchester Liberal Union has received from Mr. Jacob Bright, formerly for many years MP for Manchester, a letter giving the reasons for not renewing his subscription of £50 to the Union. Mr Bright writes: “Ever since I entered political life I have advocated the claim of women to Parliamentary representation. For the last thirty years my wire, my sisters, my nieces and almost without exception, the women connected with my family, have given much labour to the cause of the enfranchisement of their sex. I have never been satisfied with the attitude of the Liberal party towards this question. I think it has been and is a cowardly and an ungenerous attitude. I see that the hesitation, not to say hostility, with which certain leading liberals treat a claim so moderate and reasonable is seriously undermining the very foundations of the Liberal creed. Considering the length of time which has elapsed since the principle and taxation and representation should go hand in hand was established, it is only just that women should be at once admitted to their share in the government of the country as they contribute to maintain. For these reasons I have reluctantly decided that until Women’s Suffrage is seriously adopted and pressed forward as a measure of immediate Liberal policy any means at my disposal must be given to those who at great personal cost and labour, are advocating a reform which I hold to be essential.
Jacob Bright’s support for the cause is strikingly different to that of Herbert Asquith.. This may be due, in part, to the change from the peaceful tactics of the suffragists to the law-breaking of the suffragettes over the intervening years. The attitude of Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith following the second reading of the conciliation bill was reported in the Framlingham Weekly News 6th April 1912. The conciliation bill, narrowly defeated by 14 votes, would have given voting rights to about a million women. It was reported that, upon defeat of the bill, politicians leapt to their feet waving papers and handkerchiefs, cheering enthusiastically. The vote was opposed by Winston Churchill and, of course, Herbert Asquith, amongst others. Asquith stated that his opposition was based on the one word, “sex.”
He said, “As a student of history and of political life, there is, in my opinion, a natural distinction of sex which admittedly differentiates the functions of men and women in many departments of human activity. That differentiation ought to continue to be recognised, as it always has been, in the sphere of Parliamentary representation.”
Asquith was the target of many Suffragette attacks, during one of which the Downing Street windows were broken. He fundamentally disapproved of militant action and it was not until 1917 when women ceased militancy to concentrate on the war effort, that he came around to the idea of women gaining the vote. Women over 30 or women householders over 21 were finally granted the vote by the last serving Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, in 1918.