The Suffragettes

In 1903, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU – the Suffragettes) was formed, led by Emmeline Pankhurst. It was run by Mrs Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel.

Suffragettes showing civil disobedience: Chained to a fence, setting fires, disrupting horse races and protesting.

The Suffragettes believed in civil disobedience. They:

  • disrupted Parliament
  • chained themselves to railings
  • broke windows
  • burned down churches
  • held huge marches and demonstrations
  • attacked politicians
  • set post-boxes on fire
  • slashed paintings
  • went on hunger strike when arrested

Emily Davison threw herself under the king's horse in the 1913 Derby race. In 1913, Emmeline Pankhurst declared that the WSPU were 'guerrillists', who would destroy anything other than human life to get the vote.

The Suffragettes, however, had not won the vote by 1914:

  • Many bills were presented to Parliament between 1900 and 1914, but they were all defeated.
  • In 1910, the Men's National League for Opposing Women's Franchise merged with the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League to form the National League for Opposing Women's Suffrage. It published the Anti-Suffrage Review, which said that women were not fit for government and that Suffragettes neglected their families.
  • In 1914, when the war broke out, Emmeline Pankhurst stopped the campaign and urged women to support the war instead.