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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Woman's suffrage

Saturday, January 28th., Rue de Grenelle, Paris.

 Thoughts on Votes for Women:

1. The most powerful argument for woman's suffrage is the fact that women want it. Undoubtedly a large majority of women who have studied the question feel a strong desire for woman's suffrage. there is and there can be no answer to this argument. To attempt to answer it is in my opinion to be guilty of fatuousness.

2. There is no reasonable prospect of obtaining woman's suffrage in the present Parliament. The Government has no mandate of any kind to deal with it, and its time will be fully occupied by subjects which the electorate considers far more important.

3. Militant methods have, in my opinion, succeeded so far. They would have succeeded more completely if the women who sought martyrdom had played the game when they found martyrdom. Not only their dignity, but their intellectual honesty often gave way under the strain of martyrdom. At the same time it must be admitted that the organisers were frequently badly advised by their more zealous male supporters, who did not always escape the fatuity which masks their opponents. In particular the behaviour of certain husbands of martyrs did much to alienate the sympathies of the lukewarm. No hysterical male antics would in the slightest degree weaken my own convinced support of the cause of woman's suffrage; but then I am not lukewarm, while the electorate as a whole is either lukewarm or indifferent.

4. I can suggest no alternative to militant methods. But I think that if the organisers of militancy were to make a closer and franker study of human nature as it notoriously is, with a view to avoiding in future the rather silly air of being constantly horrified by the spectacle of human nature in activity, the result might be a shortening of the war.

Annie Kenney and
Christabel Pankhurst
Votes for women was part of a gradual improvement in women's rights that had been going on throughout the 19th century. The movement also campaigned for the right to divorce a husband, the right to education, and the right to have a job such as a doctor. Many women, however, saw the vote as the vital achievement that would give them a say in the laws affecting their lives. The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies - the Suffragists - was formed in 1897 and led by Millicent Fawcett. The group was made up of mainly middle-class women and campaigned peacefully. The organisation built up supporters in Parliament, but private members' bills to give women the vote all failed. The Women's Social and Political Union - the Suffragettes - was formed in 1903 and led by Emmeline Pankhurst. Although this group was also middle class, it heckled politicians, held marches, members chained themselves to railings, attacked policemen, broke windows, slashed paintings, set fire to buildings, threw bombs and went on hunger strike when they were sent to prison. One suffragette, Emily Davison, ran out in front of the king's horse during the Derby of 1913 and was killed. The East London Federation of Suffragettes - formed in 1914 by Sylvia Pankhurst - was made up of working-class women. This group concentrated on social reform, and rejected the violence of the WSPU.

Additionally for January 28th., see 'On the power of women' -

The hypnotised audience, crowded tier above tier of the dark theatre, held itself strained and intent in its anxiety not to miss one gyration, one least movement, of the great dancer Adeline Genee - that dancer who had enslaved not only New York and St. Petersburg but Paris itself. Swaying incorporeal, as it were within a fluent dazzling envelope of endless drapery, she revealed to them new and more disturbing visions of beauty in the union of colour and motion. She hid herself in a labyrinth of curves which was also a tremor of strange tints, a tantalising veil, a mist of iridescent light. Gradually her form emerged from the riddle, triumphant, provocative, and for an instant she rested like an incredible living jewel in the deep gloom of the stage. Then she was blotted out, and the defeated eye sought in vain to penetrate the blackness where but now she had been ...

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