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Transcript

The Suffragettes

United Kingdom

Italy

United States of America

France

Spain

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The Suffragettes mouvment started in United KIngdom. They were women who made part of the ‘Votes for Women’ campaign that had long fought for the right of women to vote in the UK. They used art, debate, propaganda, and attack on property including window smashing and arson to fight for female suffrage. They were called "Suffragettes" from the word "Suffrage" which means the right to vote in parliamentary and general elections.

The Sufragettes in Great Britain

Who started the Suffragette movement? Emmeline Pankhurst, her daughters Christabel, Sylvia and Adela Pankhurst, and a small group of women based in Manchester founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903. The WSPU aimed to ‘wake up the nation’ to the cause of women’s suffrage through ‘Deeds Not Words’. This was the beginning of the Suffragette movement as we know it.

What did the Suffragettes do? In 1906, the Women’s Social and Political Union relocated their headquarters to London. This transformed the suffrage movement, and for the next 8 years, the Suffragettes' fight to win the vote became a highly public and, at times, confrontational struggle. Both salaried and volunteer office staff at the WSPU organised fund-raising events, demonstrations and produced the weekly newspaper Votes for Women, which had a circulation of 22,000 by 1909, to raise awareness of the suffrage cause. The WSPU had 90 branches across the United Kingdom but London remained the chief area of support with 34 local offices. By basing its headquarters in London meant the Suffragettes could protest where the government was situated. They maintained a constant presence in Whitehall, petitioning Downing Street, heckling MPs and chaining themselves to government buildings.

But what were the consequences of their action?

As the campaign became increasingly militant, over a thousand Suffragettes, including Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel, Sylvia and Adela, received prison sentences for their actions. Many Suffragettes were sent to Holloway Prison in North London where they protested against the refusal to treat them as political prisoners by going on hunger strike. In response, the government introduced a policy of force-feeding. When force-feeding failed, the British government passed a law that was referred to by the Suffragettes as the Cat and Mouse Act in 1913. This was a law that allowed hunger-striking Suffragettes to be released from prison when they were weakened, but only 'on licence'. Once their health have been restored, or they reappeared in public taking part in militant Suffragette actions, they would be re-arrested and returned to prison. This idea of the law allowing for prisoners to be let go only for the police to catch them again, just as a cat plays with a mouse, inspired the name.

In 1869, a new group called the National Woman Suffrage Association was founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. They began to fight for a universal-suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The campaign for women’s suffrage began in earnest in the decades before the Civil War. During the 1820s and '30s, most states had extended the franchise to all white men, regardless of how much money or property they had. At the same time, all sorts of reform groups were proliferating across the United States—temperance leagues, religious movements, moral-reform societies, anti-slavery organizations—and in many of these, women played a prominent role. Meanwhile, many American women were beginning to chafe against what historians have called the “Cult of True Womanhood”: that is, the idea that the only “true” woman was a pious, submissive wife and mother concerned exclusively with home and family. Put together, all of these contributed to a new way of thinking about what it meant to be a woman and a citizen of the United States.

The Suffragettes in the USA

This animosity eventually faded, and in 1890 the two groups merged to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the organization’s first president. By then, the suffragists’ approach had changed. Instead of arguing that women deserved the same rights and responsibilities as men because women and men were “created equal,” the new generation of activists argued that women deserved the vote because they were different from men.

They were called Ersilia Majno Bronzini, Ada Negri Garlanda, Carolina Ponzio, Irma Melany Scodnik... They came from the secular and progressive bourgeoisie or militated in the socialist party, they were educated and prepared, but they also lived on their own skin that they were not enough to enjoy discounted rights for males, to whom they were still subject at the time. In two years, there were already 250 women registered individually and several associations with thousands of workers. Within a few years, the sections of Rome, Florence, Turin, Venice blossomed. Then Udine, Cagliari, Catania... And in 1905, the Union grew as big as the country and became the National Women’s Union (Unione Femminile Nazionale).

It was the 28th of December 1899 when a group of about ten italian women willing to mark the future, new and pioneers, planned to challenge the patriarchal schemes that nailed them to passive and subordinate positions and build rights for those without. To accomplish the mission they needed to gather in one place the associations of women already operating in Milan: hence the idea of the Unione Femminile.

The Suffragettes in Italy: l'Unione Femminile

At the beginning of the new century, unionists rallied around the divorce campaign and the law to recognize and legitimize children born out of wedlock. In a society that forced children to work and that did not take care of children except to punish them, if they were wrong, as they were great, they fought for a differentiated penal system for minors and for a modern "integral school of obligation"that is, equipped with aid and collateral services so that even the poorest could attend it.