My name is Suzanne Keyte and I am an archivist and social historian. My passion is the suffragette movement and the struggle for women to gain the vote in the UK. One hundred years ago in Britain the women of this country did not have the vote. In 1918, some women achieved the vote - graduates and wives of husbands with property but it wasn't until 1928 that all women achieved the vote on an equal status with men. It took a group of very determined women to put women's suffrage on the political agenda and I think these amazing women should be better known and their achievements celebrated.
The subject is barely covered (if at all) in school history lessons and rarely as part of history degrees at University. I want to change that by bringing suffrage history to more people's attention. It is a fascinating and exciting period of history that changed women's lives forever. The women on this page were some of the most influential and famous of the suffrage campaign and deserve to be remembered for the role that they played in the campaign to achieve votes for women.
Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) is undoubtedly the figure most associated with the women's suffrage movement in the UK. In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), an all-women suffrage organisation and adopted the slogan "deeds, not words." The WSPU perpetuated some of the most extreme and militant acts during the campaign for women's suffrage, and she was arrested and imprisioned on several occasions. Sadly, she died just two weeks before the Parliamentary act which granted universal female suffrage became law in 1928.
Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913) will always be remembered as one of the most militant suffragettes. She was arrested and imprisoned nine times, including for a violent attack on a man she mistook for David Lloyd George. During many of these prison terms she went on hunger strike and was force-fed. In June 1913, she was trampled trying to attach a WSPU ribbon to the King's horse during the Epsom Derby, and passing away four days later, she became the first martyr of the suffragette movement. Her funeral in London was organised by the WSPU and attended by tens of thousands of supporters.
Emily Wilding Davison
Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929) campaigned tirelessly for votes for women but only believed in using constitutional lawful means. She was known as a suffragist rather than a suffragette and was leader of the non-militant National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) from 1907-1919. This organisation later becomes the Fawcett Society which still campaigns for the rights of women today.
Charlotte Despard (née French) (1844-1939) was born into a wealthy family of Irish descent, and turned her back on her background to become a Poor Law reformer, pacifist and suffragist. In 1906 she joined the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) under Millicent Fawcett but frustrated at the lack of progress, she moved to the more radical Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). However, she did not agree with the autocratic way that the WSPU was run by the Pankhursts and in 1907 formed the Women’s Freedom League (WFL) with seventy other disgruntled members of the WSPU. The Women’s Freedom League opposed violence and instead used non-violent forms of protest such as non-payment of taxes and demonstrations.
Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958), was co-founder of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and the daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and sister to Sylvia Pankhurst and Adela Pankhurst. Christabel was born in Manchester into a comfortable middle-class home and obtained a law degree from the University of Manchester but as a woman was not allowed to practice law. Christabel and her mother Emmeline became frustrated at the lack of progress towards women’s suffrage by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and in 1903 they established the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).