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Women’s Suffrage: 100 Years On

Emmeline Pankhurst once wrote in her 1914 autobiography, “Men make the moral code and they expect women to accept it. They have decided that it is entirely right and proper for men to fight for their liberties and their rights, but that it is not right and proper for women to fight for theirs.” It has been over 100 years since the suffrage and despite the extremely vital movement led by Pankhurst and Fawcett, women are still fighting for their rights around the world. With news of sexual harassment cases and unequal pay, it seems appropriate to harken back to the suffragette movement.

Although it may seem impossible to fathom what life was like 100 years ago, the centenary is, in itself, a time to reflect on the parallels between the international women’s movements of the past and the present. The initial movement of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage under the leadership of Millicent Fawcett was predominantly moderate and mainly composed of middle-class women. Here, the majority of the actions involved staging demonstrations, campaigning and the lobbying of politicians. Eventually the group split, leading to a more militant division under Emmeline Pankhurst who used harsher techniques involving carrying out arson attacks, street demonstrations and protest acts (involving Pankhurst herself being imprisoned for a brief period).

The Representation of the People Act was passed on Feb. 6, in 1918, enabling women to vote. However, this vote was only allowed for female property owners aged 30 and above and was only extended to women aged 21 and over in 1928. The war did not bring women equality since this act gave men over the age of 21 the vote, but not women.

Nevertheless, the impact of this was undeniable – women were given a voice in politics. This voice had been fought for with such passion. Women could finally use the vote to voice issues that faced them, from unequal pay to reproductive rights to family leave. Even today, these topics remain at the forefront of political decisions and the suffrage enabled the world’s eyes to turn to the significant inequality that was present in the world.

Despite the progression that has occurred for women, a plethora of issues for women still remain and parallels can be highlighted between the women’s suffrage movement and the #MeToo campaign, an indication of the dedication that women have for their rights. 

Her Campus Durham's Editor-In-Chief and Campus Correspondent
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