Pub­lic per­cep­tion of suf­fragettes

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - FOCUS ON -

The ti­tle of the ledger from which the new Ances­try data­base is drawn sim­ply reads ‘Suf­fragettes. In­dex of Per­sons Ar­rested 1906-1914’. At that time, the term ‘suf­fragette’ con­jured up a cer­tain per­son­al­ity: a pas­sion­ate but prob­a­bly hys­ter­i­cal ac­tivisst who be­lieved in ‘Deeds, not Words’ and squ­uan­dered her fem­i­nin­ity for the sake of votes for women.

Con­tem­po­rary car­toons (as seen right) of suf­fragett­ess showed deeply unlovely ladiees shak­ing their fists or bran­dish­hing their brol­lies at in­no­cent male passsers-by. One com­men­ta­tor, a Mr Too­ley froom Guernsey, be­lieved all suf­fragettes be­lon­nged to “a cer­tain class of woman, who by her dis­or­gan­isedd and fool­ish move­ments ex­preesses a stub­born re­sis­tance to the lawws of na­ture and the will of God”. He wasnn’t alone. Even those con­vinced that woomen should join the elec­torate were wary of the dan­ger­ous tac­tics of thhe mil­i­tant suf­fragettes, who were in the mi­nor­ity of suf­frage cam­paign­ers, but whose in­flu­ence over the press and pub­lic was al­most over­whelm­ing.

Most peo­ple clam­our­ing for votes for women dur­ing the pe­riod cov­ered by the Ances­try data­base called them­selvess suf­frag­ists rather than suf­fragettes.

Be­cause suf­frag­ists were non-mil­i­tant, they are un­likely to hhave found their way into po­lice cus­tody – aand there­fore onto this list – buut their work in per­suad­ing their fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and coun­try that women were ra­tio­nal and re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens was in­valu­able.

It is im­poor­tant not to for­get the ‘law-abid­ing’ cam­paign­ers like Mil­li­cent Fawceett and the mem­bers of the Na­tion­aal Union of Women’s Suf­frage Soc­ci­eties. In their way, they were ju­ust as in­flu­en­tial as the suf­fraggettes.

Suf­fragettes were of­ten de­picted as hys­ter­i­cal

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