The term suffragette comes from the word "suffrage" which means "right to vote" and was established around 1897. At first, it was a peaceful movement that failed to attract much attention and when protesting, the Parliament stated, "women would not understand how politics worked so they cannot vote".
Furious with this, Emmeline Pankhurst (above) and her daughters started the Women's Social and Political Union in 1903. This Union became known as the "suffragettes", and unlike the earlier movements, they used violence. They smashed windows, burned down churches, bombed houses of politicians, vandalised golf courses (as Valentine tried to do) and even threw themselves infront of the King's horse (this unfortunately killed Emily Davidson in 1913). These violent acts were not very persuading as the men thought, "if this is what educated women do, what might a lesser educated women do? How can we trust them to vote?"
When the First World War broke out, there was a serious shortage of men and women were required as replacements in the work force. This led to the new view that women were capable of doing work outside the house. However, the war caused a split in the suffragette movement. Emmeline and her daughter Christabel instructed the suffragettes to stop their violent campaigns and support Britian patriotically, but the more radical suffragettes, such as the Women's Suffrage Federation, continued their fight.
Political movement towards the suffragettes advanced as the war began and women proved themselves worthy by working and contributing to the war effort at home. In 1918, the Parliament passed the Representation of the People Act which granted the vote to wives of householders, women over the age of 30 who were householders, women who occupied property with an anual rent of £5 and university graduates.
Ford Madox Ford and the Suffragette Movement:
- In 1911, Ford declared that he was a supporter of the suffragette movement: "Personally, I am an ardent, I am an enraged, suffragette".
- In 1912, Ford wrote a pamplet titled: "The Monstrous Regiment of Women" for the women's freedom league.
- He also wrote many anonymous articles for the leader of the Womens Social and Political Union.
- Ford was greatly influenced by Violet Hunt, who was a member of the Women Writer's Suffrage League and lectured on the cruel treatment suffragettes were going through in prison (i.e., being force-fed when they went on hunger strikes).