Politics in Minutes (2016)

The fight for the vote

By the 1860s, increasing numbers of women in Britain and America were channelling their energies into the fight for the vote and the right to stand for electoral office. It was a long hard battle that met with considerable opposition and even brutality from the public, press and police. In Britain, thousands of women organized within Millicent Fawcett’s National Union of Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Known as ‘suffragists’, they relied on peaceful law-abiding tactics, such as petitioning and lobbying sympathetic MPs. Others organized within the smaller Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. The WSPU chose militant tactics. Members, nicknamed ‘suffragettes’, heckled MPs, rushed the House of Commons, demonstrated and went to prison in their hundreds, where many were forcibly fed after going on hunger strike. The years of struggle finally paid off. In 1918, British women over 30 gained the vote, though it was not until 1928 that they had the vote on equal terms with men. American women gained the vote in 1920.