Suffragettes by Frank Meeres
The recent film, Suffragette, inspired me to dig a little deeper into the background of this nation-changing movement. The film, of course, was a fictional account featuring imaginary characters (mostly), and worthy though it was, it did not capture the complexity and longevity of the movement that had lasted over half a century.
The movement began as early as 1865, but it took many years before it gathered momentum in the early 20th century. Emmeline Pankhurst is widely regarded as the most notable figurehead, but many would say there were others (less well known) who were more capable and worthy of recognition. Among them were Emmeline’s own daughters, Christabel, Sylvia and Adela, and they weren’t always in tune with their mother’s vision of the future of the movement. Sylvia, in particular, became her mother’s most severe critic, and wrote a damning posthumous biography which proved especially influential in later interpretations of Emmeline’s life.
The first country in the world to grant the vote to women was New Zealand, in 1893, but Britain was not going to be influenced by an immature democracy in a former colony. Nor was she influenced by being pre-empted by Finland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the US……and many other countries around the world. As one of the world’s oldest democracies, Britain had too much staid tradition to overcome…….and it took a world war and the liberation of women in the industrial workplace to see it nudging forward towards the inevitable.
Suffragettes by Frank Meeres is a succinct overview of the movement, not overly concerned with academic scholarship, but vivid enough in its detail to make the reader feel they have a greater understanding of the suffragette movement.