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Copy of The Suffrage Movement

Questions to ponder whilst you read…

  • To what extent did the suffrage movement represent the interests of all women? (Think about its class and race politics especially.)
  • To what extent was the campaign for the vote part of a broader movement for social change?
  • Was militancy an elitist tactic? If so, why?
  • How great a threat to the social order did the suffragettes represent?


Preparatory Activity

Jot down your thoughts in response to the following:

  • What were your perceptions of the suffragettes before you did the reading for this week?
  • Were you taught about them at school, if so how?
  • How have you seen represented in popular culture?
  • Did the readings for this week challenge your preconceptions at all?

Core Reading

S.S. Holton, Feminism and Democracy: Women’s Suffrage and Reform Politics in Britain 1900-1918 (1986), chapter 3, [digitised, a good place to start]

J. Purvis, ‘The prison experiences of the suffragettes in Edwardian Britain’, Women’s History Review 4 (1995), 103-33

Further Reading

J. Liddington, One Hand Tied Behind Us: The Rise of the Women’s Suffrage Movement (1978) [The classic book on working-class women's involvement]

Jill Liddington, Rebel Girls (2009)

J. Purvis, ‘Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), Suffragette Leader and Single Parent in Edwardian Britain’, Women’s History Review 20:1 (2011) 87-108

M. Joanou & J. Purvis, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: New Feminist Perspectives (1998)

S.S. Holton, Suffrage Days: Stories from the Women’s Suffrage Movement (1996) [chapter 5] digitised

L. Schwartz, 'A Job Like Any Other? Feminist Responses and Challenges to Domestic Worker Organising in Edwardian Britain', Special Issue 'Historicising Domestic Labour: Resistance and Organising', Eileen Boris and Premilla Nadasen (eds.), International Labor and Working Class History 88 (Fall 2015), 30-48.

*L.Schwartz, Feminism and the Servant Problem: Class and Domestic Labour In the Women’s Suffrage Movement (2019), chapter 2 [ebook in library]

S.S. Holton, ‘Silk dresses and lavender kid gloves: the wayward career of Jessie Craigen, working Suffragist’, Women’s History Review 5:1 (1996), 129-50

A.V. John, ‘Radical reflections? Elizabeth Robins: the making of suffragette history and the representation of working-class women’, in Owen Ashton, Robert Fyson and Stephen Roberts (eds.), The Duty of Discontent: Essays for Dorothy Thompson (1995)

Most of the above deals with the question of class, which has received much more historiographical attention that the race politics of the suffrage movement. In addition to the reading on feminism and imperialism last week (especially Antoinette Burton's Burdens of History) you should read:

Sumita Mukherjee, Indian Suffragettes:Female Identities and Transnational Networks (2018)

L. Schwartz, ‘The Politics of Remembering the Suffragettes’, Revue Francaise de Civilisation Britannique 23:1 (2018), 1-9 [open access]


‘Imprisonment of Teresa Billington for alleged assault…’ from Women in the National Archives Collection HO 45/10345/141956 [download]

‘Suffragists: Outrage at the National Gallery’, from Women in the National Archives Collection, AR1/38 [download]

‘Suffragists: Descriptions and Photographs’, from Women in the National Archives Collection, AR1/528 [download]

Mapping Women's Suffrage

‘Song Sheet sold by the East London Federation of Suffragettes’ (nd), MRC MSS.240/R/5/5/4 [MRC document available digitally]

Caroline E. Martyn, ‘Women in the World’ (July 1895) [MRC document available digitally]

Lily Gair Wilkinson, ‘Woman’s Freedom’ (1914) [MRC document available digitally]