1903 – Suffragettes

The Women’s Social and Political Union (the Suffragettes) – was formed in 1903 and led by Emmeline Pankhurst.

The group was mostly made up of middle class women, and as part of their campaign to win the vote marches were held, policemen were attacked, politicians were heckled, some members chained themselves to railings, broke windows, slashed paintings, set fire to buildings and threw bombs.

Many were arrested and sent to prison where they would go on hunger strike, resulting in violent force-feeding.  In 1913, in response to the wave of hunger strikes, the government passed what became known as the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act. Hunger striking prisoners were released until they grew strong again, and then re-arrested.

One suffragette, Emily Davison, ran out in front of the king’s horse during the Derby of 1913 and was killed.

This period of militancy ended abruptly on the outbreak of the first world War in 1914, when women turned their energies to supporting the war effort.