Would You Have Made a Good Suffragette?

Have you ever heard of Millicent Fawcett or Emmeline Pankhurst? The classic film of Mary Poppins might trigger your memory. Mrs. Winifred Banks introduces her ‘Sister Suffragette’ song near the beginning of the film. Suffragettes were brave women who fought for women’s right to vote. You may see Mrs. Banks’ ‘VOTES for WOMEN’ sash, symbolizing the three major colors of the suffragettes: white for purity, green for hope, and purple for dignity.

  1. Suffragettes in the U.K. chained themselves to parliament buildings, suffered through hunger strikes in prison, vandalized countless public places, stood up to their husbands who demanded they stay home, and faced public ridicule all over the country.
  2. They never backed down from arguing that:
    • If women obey laws, they should be a part of making those laws.
    • If women pay taxes just like men, they should also have the same rights as men.
    • If wealthy mistresses employed household workers who could vote, then they should be able to as well.
  3. In the U.K., they never gave up fighting for their rights, even though it took 31 years. The movement for women to have the right to vote started in 1897 by Millicent Fawcett, who believed in peaceful protest. As for Emmeline Pankhurst, she started her own Union in 1903 that was prepared to use violence.
    • United Kingdom Women of property over the age of 30 gained the right to vote in 1918. They achieved full equality regarding suffrage in 1928.
    • United States Wyoming Territory was the first legislature to grant women the right to vote in 1869. However, it wasn’t until 1920 that the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granted all American women that right. The Congressional Union, founded by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, greatly contributed to developing the 19th Amendment.
    • Canada Women could vote in federal elections regardless of the provincial laws as of 1918. Emily Murphy and Nellie McClung were leaders of the feminist cause in Western Canada.

In Mary Poppins, as Mrs. Winifred Banks sings about “political equality and equal rights with men” she also states that “our daughters’ daughters will adore us!” This statement is definitely true. These women deserve a lot of credit for what they’ve accomplished. Without these suffragettes, we women wouldn’t be where we are today.

**If you are interested in visiting a historical landmark of the suffragettes, consider seeking out Millicent Fawcett Hall in Westminster, London. It was built the year of Millicent’s death in 1929, and is currently owned by Westminster School, being used as the location of their drama department.

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