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After centuries of second-class status, women crashed into the twentieth century with new verve. Victorian feminists had battled to become doctors, attend university, and gain basic property rights, but despite more than thirty years of campaigning, they were still far from winning the vote.

With the founding of the Women's Social and Political Union in 1903, the "suffragettes" were born and the "Votes for Women" fight began in earnest. In February 1907, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, organised its first national demonstration. The close of the decade was to witness the first suffragette hunger-strike and the introduction of the horrific practice of force feeding.

But the decade saw other exploits, from the first women to drive cars and fly planes to new developments in business and science. Childbirth was made safer with midwives regulated for the first time, and children were better served with the first school clinics and school meals. By 1909, Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who had qualified as Britain's first doctor, was the nation's first woman mayor while Marie Curie had been honoured as the world's first woman Nobel laureate, for her work on radioactivity and the discovery of radium.

1900

Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1942), garden designer and horticulturalist publishes Home and Garden.

  

1902

Rags to riches hotelier, Rosa Lewis (1867-1952), buys her own hotel, The Cavendish, in Jermyn Street, London.

  

1902

Beatrix Potter(1866-1943), children's book illustrator and hill farmer, publishes her first book Peter Rabbit.

  

1902

A delegation of women textile workers from Northern England present a 37,000 signatory petition to parliament demanding votes for women.

  

1902

The Midwives Act is passed. This establishes the Central Midwives Board which, for the first time, regulates midwives' training and practice.

  

1902

Australia gives votes to women.

  

1903

The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) is founded in Manchester by Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia.

  

1903

A secretary, Dorothy Levitt, shocks conventional society when she becomes the first woman to take part in a public motor car race.

  

1903

Marie Curie (1867-1934) is the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. This is for her work on radioactivity and the discovery of radium.

  

1903

Mary Howarth is the launch editor of the Daily Mirror, a paper aimed specifically at women.

  

1904

The social reformer Dame Henrietta Barnett (1851-1936) has the idea for Hampstead Garden Suburb.

  

1904

The electrical engineer and suffragette, Hertha Ayrton  (1854-1923) becames the first woman to read a paper on her work at the Royal Society, the world's oldest scientific academy.

  

1904

The pioneer of repertory theatre, Annie Horniman (1860-1937), opens her first theatre, the Abbey Theatre, in Dublin.

  

1904

The suffragette Dora Montefiore (1851-1933) refuses to pay her taxes until women are given the vote.

  

1905

Queen Maud, daughter of Britain's King Edward VII, becomes the first Queen of Norway

  

1905

Baroness Bertha von Suttner, who initiated the Nobel Peace Prize, is the first person to win it.

  

1905

On 10 October, Christabel Pankhurst  (1880-1958) and Annie Kenney (1879-1973) are the first women to be arrested in the fight for the vote.

  

1906

The term "suffragette" is used for the first time, by the Daily Mail.  It was intended as a derogatory name for women in the WSPU.

  

1906

Under the new Provision of School Meals Act, free school meals are introduced into schools for the first time.

  

1906

The philanthropist, Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906), is buried in Westminster Abbey, the last person to be interred there.

  

1906

On 19 May, a delegation of women from both the WSPU and the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) meet with the Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman.

  

1906

The National Federation of Women Workers is set up by Mary MacArthur.

  

1906

Finland is the first country in Europe to give votes to women.

  

1907

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) opens her first school for the under-fives in Rome.

  

1907

In February, the NUWSS, led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett ( 1847-1929), organises its first national demonstration. It becomes known as the Mud March because of the terrible weather at the time.

  

1907

Emmeline Pethwick Lawrence (1867 - 1954), with her husband Frederick, launch Votes for Women, the suffragette newspaper.

  

1907

The Women's Freedom League is formed when Teresa Billington-Grieg, Charlotte Despard and others break away from the WSPU.

  

1907

The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) is established to nurse soldiers at field hospitals in times of war.

  

1907

Under The Qualification of Women Act, women can be elected onto borough and county councils and can also be elected mayor.

  

1907

Florence Nightingale  (1820-1910) is awarded the Order of Merit.

  

1907

The great ballerina Anna Pavlova (1882-1931) gives the first ever performance of The Dying Swan from Swan Lake. more ballet

  

1908

On 17 January a handful of suffragettes chain themselves to the railings of 10 Downing Street. The WSPU also introduce their stone-throwing campaign. Emmeline Pankhurst is imprisoned for the first time.

  

1908

The pioneering doctor, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson  (1836-1917) is the first woman to be elected mayor, of Aldeburgh in Suffolk.

  

1908

The parachute stunt artist Dolly Shepherd (1887-1983) successfully attempts the first mid-air rescue.

  

1908

Margaret McMillan (1860-1931), the educational pioneer, opens the first school clinic in Bow, East London.

  

1909

In July, Marion Wallace Dunlop becomes the first imprisoned suffragette to go on hunger strike. As a result, force-feeding is introduced.

  

1909

Frenchwoman, Madame La Baronne de la Roche becomes the first fully qualified woman pilot.

  

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