Suffragette

"A woman seeking the right to vote through organized protest."

Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst, prominent members of the WSPU

The Suffragette cause was taken up by the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a large organisation in Britain, that lobbied for women's suffrage led by militant suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

Emmeline Pankhurst was the most prominent of Britain's suffragettes.

Portrait badge of Emmeline Pankhurst (c. 1909) sold in large numbers by the WSPU to raise funds

Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913) died after throwing herself in front of the King's horse at the Derby

Memorial edition of The Suffragette newspaper dedicated to Emily Davison

Today I would like to remember the women who fought for our rights as women to vote! The women who starved for us. The women who were beaten mercilessly for us! The women who were brave enough to stand up even in the face of fear! These women are why I have the life I have today!

Throughout the woman's suffrage movement, many tactics were employed in order to achieve the goals of the movement. Throughout Britain, the contents of letter boxes were set alight or corrosive acids or liquids poured over the letters and postcards inside, and shop and office windows were smashed with hammers. Telephone wires were cut, and graffiti slogans began appearing on the streets. Places that wealthy people, typically men, frequented were also burnt and destroyed while unattended so that there was no risk to life, including cricket pitches, golf courses and horse racing tracks.

In the early-20th century until the First World War, approximately one thousand suffragettes were imprisoned in Britain. Most early incarcerations were for public order offences and failure to pay outstanding fines. While incarcerated, suffragettes lobbied to be considered political prisoners; with such a designation, suffragettes would be placed in the First Division as opposed to the Second or Third Division of the prison system, and as political prisoners would be granted certain freedoms and liberties not allotted to other prison divisions, such as being allowed frequent visits and being allowed to write books or articles. Because of a lack of consistency between the different courts, suffragettes would not necessarily be placed in the First Division and could be placed in Second or Third Division, which enjoyed fewer liberties.

Poster by "A Patriot", showing a suffragette prisoner being force-fed, 1910.

Memories of Winson Green Prison September 18, 1909; Illustration from Mabel Cappers WSPU prisoners scrapbook

Suffragettes in prison clothing after their release, 1908. Wearing their prison numbers on badges, they wave joyfully to the crowds. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

UK WSPU Hunger Strike Medal 30 July 1909 including the bar 'Fed by Force 17 September 1909'. The Medal awarded to Mabel Capper records the first instance of forcible feeding of hunger striking Suffragette prisoners in England at Winson Green Prison in Birmingham.

Nineteen-year-old Fay Hubbard selling suffragette papers in New York, 1910

Suffragettes were members of women's organisations in the late-19th and early-20th centuries which advocated the extension of the "franchise", or the right to vote in public elections, to women. It particularly refers to militants in the United Kingdom such as members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). "Suffragist" is a more general term for members of the suffrage movement, particularly those advocating women's suffrage.

ONE hundred years have come and gone since suffragettes achieved what seemed impossible at the time - equal votes for women.

The suffragettes' relentless battle led to women finally achieving the right to have their say. Read on to discover more about their monumental fight...

Charlotte Despard, second from right, leads a suffragette march by the National Federation of Women Workers in Bermondsey, London

Tess Billington carries a banner inscribed with the suffragette slogan 'Votes For Women' during a demonstration in the Ladies Gallery in the House of Commons, London

But there were also moderate women's groups who campaigned for the right to vote in a more peaceful manner, known as suffragists.

The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, led by Milicent Fawcett, helped to build the legal support for women.

Voting rights timeline

  • 1832 Mary Smith presents the first women's suffrage petition to Parliament. In the same year, The Great Reform Act specifies that only "male persons" can vote - despite some women with property being able to vote before that

  • 1865 The issue of parliamentary reform declined with the Chartists, and only returned when MP John Stuart Mill stood for office showing support for female suffrage

  • 1867 Mill presents the Second Reform Bill to Parliament. It fails, but the National Society for Women's Suffrage is formed in the same year

  • 187 The Married Women's Property Act allows married women to own their own property. Previously, when women married, their property transferred to their husbands

  • 1881 The Isle of Man grants votes to women

  • 1884 An amendment to the Third Reform Bill to give women the vote is rejected

  • 1897 The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) forms with more than 20 national societies in support. The party is led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, based in Gower Street, central London

  • 1903 Emmeline Pankhhurst found the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst. The group's tactics diverged from the NUWSS, and included hunger strikes, throwing stones, smashing windows and a