On this centenary anniversary of partial suffrage – the 1918 Representation of the People Act only gave some women the vote – we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who fought for our eventual right to vote.
Whether the women (and men) were paid up members of unions and societies or were financially incapable; whether they attended protest marches and rallies or instead had to stay at home or work; whether they chained themselves to railings, threw stones and were imprisoned or campaigned lawfully – every single person who raised their voice and demanded that women be given the right to vote, has our gratitude. We never take our rights for granted and we admire the courage and sacrifice of all who campaigned.
Edith New was a particularly active member of the WSPU between 1907 and 1909 when she committed several illegal and militant acts. This included smashing windows at Downing Street alongside Mary Leigh, one of the first instances of this type of vandalism during the campaign. She had, until this point, been a law-abiding teacher and described herself as ‘of a peaceful disposition’ commenting that she admired and respected the bravery of her (much more militant) comrade, Mary Leigh. On her release from prison, she is quoted in Votes for Women: “She had been ablaze with indignation, and she was sure many others felt equally strongly. She was only sorry that they could not resent it in a way that hurt their enemies still more.”
She was right, millions of others in the UK did feel similarly ablaze and they fought long and hard so that women would have a democratic voice, and they hoped that this would spill into other areas of life and society. Their spirit and determination continue to inspire us wherever we see inequality and injustice and empower us to speak our truths.
Well done Sister Suffragette!