This is the story of the fight for women’s suffrage in Britain. New Zealand women gained the vote twenty-five years before their British sisters, and I wondered whether I might find this book irrelevant, but definitely not!
It deals with early struggles for women’s rights, where the suffrage movement was linked with the anti-slavery movement and the Unitarian faith. The need for sexual equality was discussed among the working class earlier than among the upper classes partly because lower class women had paid work outside the home and experienced wage injustice directly.
I was intrigued to read of the campaign by Caroline Norton, granddaughter of dramatist Richard Sheridan. I’d heard of the Pankhursts and Emily Davison, whose stories were told in the film “Suffragette”, but many of the women in this book were new to me.
The U.K. movement was forced to be militant in a way the N.Z. movement was not. This led to imprisonment, force-feeding, and the ‘cat and mouse’ act, where sick prisoners were released then confined again once they’d been nursed back to health. Perhaps the N.Z. ‘establishment’ was less well-established and therefore more open to justice? Reading about police brutality towards the suffrage protesters in 1887 and later reminded me vividly of scenes from Springbok Tour protests here.
There are many quotes from contemporary writings, and the whole book is well-researched and well written. I found it engrossing.
Britain will celebrate their anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in 2018. Listening to Mary Beard being interviewed on the BBC confirmed to me that there are still brave women leading the struggle for equality.
This Saturday, 21 January, many women around the world, including me, will march in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, to promote human rights and diversity at the time of Trump’s inauguration.
“So many fights for Women’s Rights
worldwide our sisterhood unites.”
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