How much credit does Emmeline Pankhurst deserve for the inclusion of women over 30 in the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1918?
The organisation founded by Emmeline Pankhurst, The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) relied on militant tactics to campaign for women's suffrage. Emmeline Pankhurst believed that previous peaceful methods of persuasion had failed to achieve results. Therefore she viewed a more aggressive form of campaigning as vital for change. The militant followers of this movement adopted the term "suffragettes" to distinguish them from the non-militant suffragists who supported the NUWSS. These militant tactics involved attacks on property, storming of political buildings, hunger strikes and the chaining of themselves to railings. The militant tactics used by Emmeline Pankhurst and her supporters were successful in gaining significant attention from the media and public. This publicity did help in bringing the issue of women's suffrage to public attention on a much wider scale then previously experienced. To some extent the seriousness of the militant tactics utilized by the suffragettes demonstrated their commitment to the issue of women's suffrage, they were prepared to face often-violent police opposition and imprisonment. While many women did not agree with the militant tactics, non-the less many became sympathetic to the cause behind these tactics. A result of this was that there was an increase in the number of women joining women's suffrage organisations, notably the non-militant organisation of the NUWSS, whose membership grew from 12,000 in 1909 to 50,000 in 1914. However this further recruiting of members was not enjoyed by the WSPU and in some sense the publicity attracted by their tactics only seems to have benefited the popularity of the NUWSS. Reform was dependent
on the support of the public in order to build and consolidate a parliamentary reform. While Emmeline Pankhurst believed militant tactics were the best method of pressuring the government, apart from gaining publicity, these tactics did little to gain major public support. The overall effect of the suffragette militancy was to halt progress into women's suffrage as they alienated some of the support, especially the working class. The suffragette movement mainly consisted of members from the middle and upper classes, while the movement was most well known for its militant tactics, there was no real form of party policy and little effort made to attract working class supporters. Attempts to gain supporters from working class areas were unsuccessful, demonstrated by the defeat of their candidate at the Bow and Bromley by-election. Therefore the suffragette movement suffered from the accusation that it did not represent the views of ordinary women, who it was claimed held the right to vote as having little importance. In fact there was wide spread opposition to women's suffrage. The militant years of 1912-14 provoked massive public backlash. Suffragette demonstrations attracted huge crowds of unsympathetic onlookers and in some cases there was anti suffragette violence at such events. During the 1880s and up until 1908,women's suffrage bills had all achieved majorities on their second readings. Yet within Parliament this pro suffrage majority had continued to decrease during the militancy years and finally developed into an anti suffrage majority. This reduction in support was a direct consequence of the militant tactics of the suffragette movement, blatantly illustrating. As the campaign intensified the government remained evermore indifferent to the issue. Not only were many politicians irritated by the militancy but also there were also more serious issues facing the government. The Liberal government of the time was aware that if they made concessions and extended the franchise to include women property owners then this would inevitably give the Conservative Party an electoral advantage. There was also the dilemma of...
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