Votes for women
The twentieth century will, without doubt, be viewed by historians as the Woman’s Hour. A girl born in 1899, had little chance of evading the role that was considered her destiny - to marry young, stay at home and raise a family. Still, only the privileged few, whose fathers or husbands were enlightened enough to permit it, got foot on the ladder of opportunity. In the early part of the century the suffragists argued powerfully, but peacefully for the vote.
It was the suffragettes who would really make a difference. The term was first employed in the Daily Mail on the 10th January 1906 and by March of that year it was in general use as a means of differentiating the militant campaigners of the Women’s Social and Political Union from the suffragists. The WSPU was formed in Manchester in 1903 by a small group of women led by Emmeline Pankhurst. When a London office was opened in 1906, her daughters Sylvia and Christabel joined her as leaders of a movement which dedicated itself to securing the vote for women to enable them to take full part in the democratic process. They were to achieve this by any militant means, drawing the line at any threat to human life. So they would break windows, throw stones, burn slogans on putting greens, cut telephone and telegraph wires, destroy pillar boxes and burn or bomb empty buildings. Emily Wilding Davison was the martyr of the movement, prepared to give her life for women’s rights. Like many of the arrested suffragettes she went on hunger strike in Holloway prison and in 1912 she tried to kill herself by leaping over a stair railing there. Her death came a year later when, with the WSPU flag sewn into her coat she threw herself in front of the King’s horse at Epsom and died from her injuries. Her coffin, draped in the suffragette colours of white, green and purple, was followed by 2000 uniformed suffragettes. On 6 February 1918, the British parliament passed an important law. This law gave women in Britain the right to vote for the first time.
1944 Education Act
In the family, wives and mothers wanted a renegotiation of the old order. They argued for a form of democracy at home where rights and responsibilities would be equally shared. In the work place thay wanted equal rights, equal opportunity and equal pay. For a girl born in 1950, there was, for instance, no equal access to education.
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20th Century Britain - The Women Hour
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