Recently I visited Killerton House who have dedicated the house to an exhibition to celebrate 100 years since (some) women won the right to vote and to be a representative in parliament.
Rather than focus on the actions and horrendous treatment of the suffragette movement, it focussed on how the movement changed family dynamics, marketing and even fashion.
One thing I never realized (and I feel is often ignored) is that there were three societies, or groups, to do with the rights for women movement.
- The Suffragettes – who most of us are aware of as the militant society taking part in fierce protests, arson, window breaking and even bomb-making
- The Suffragists – the non-militant arm of the movement. These women started the ‘Votes for Women’ movement and believed in exactly the same as the Suffragettes, but believed in peaceful protest and working within the law to make their views known.
- The Anti-Suffrage Movement. This group of women (yes that’s right, women) were totally against the vote for women. They didn’t believe in any of the arguments raised by the Suffragettes or Suffragists and actively tried to stop women gaining the right to vote
At one point over 100,000 women had signed a petition AGAINST having the right to vote – far more than on the petition FOR the right to vote.
That amazed and astounded me! I mean, why wouldn’t women want the same rights as men? Why would women fight to remain subjugated by men and to continue to be treated as second class citizens?
It also reminded me that whatever our own beliefs are, no matter how ‘right’ and obvious they may seem to us, there will always be people who equally and passionately belief the exact opposite and will also fight for their beliefs, believing them to be completely ‘right’ and obvious. And that we each have our own reasons for our beliefs that need to be respected, even if not agreed with.
My partner asked me which society I would be a member of. I would say the Suffragists. Yes I do believe in fighting for what I believe in, but would I go to the extent of the Suffragettes? I’m not sure. Perhaps if the cause was important enough to me I would, but I hope in today’s world, militant action is no longer necessary in order to make yourself heard and instigate major change.