I make no apologies for the above statement. Millicent versus Emmeline – Milly wins hands down. I have been reading a book which made me realise what an appalling woman Emmeline Pankhurst was; Hearts and Minds by Jane Robinson. And in the week when a statue of Fawcett has been unveiled in Parliament Square and a friend told me Stockport, following a competition to name a new square, has ignored the suggestions and gone with Suffragette Square – this is a topical subject.
How dare they name a public square after an autocratic female thug who has nothing to do with Stockport! Yes, her daughters were educated in Manchester and the former family home, the Pankhurst Centre, is adjacent to Manchester Royal Infirmary, but did the woman ever visit the town? That’s a rhetorical question; I neither know nor care but, if anything, Stockport should have named it Suffragist Square – not Suffragette.
Do I hear you mutter ‘Not much difference’? Well there’s a huge difference between the suffragist and the suffragette movement. The suffragists believed in female franchise and female equality and their struggle began circa 1860. -Ette is a French suffix for something small, a pejorative term, (kitchenette; a little kitchen and that’s where women should be). Suffragette, coined in the early 1900s, was a deprecatory term used against women and applied with a sneer. Suffragettes, under the slogan ‘Deeds Not Words’ embarked on a terrorist campaign and, yes, suffered cruelly under the male government and at least three women died.
To recap. Stockport has given a public square a pejorative term for women.
But to be positive, I want to give thanks to the wonderful Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929) and her sister Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917), the first woman who qualified in England as a doctor. These two deserve their plaudits – too-long-a-coming…
Finally, to name the suffragettes who died in the struggle for women’s suffrage.
- Mary Jane Clark, (1862-1910). Emmeline Pankhurst’s younger sister died Christmas Day 1910 a few weeks after Black Friday, 18 November 1910, when a peaceful women’s suffrage march was attacked by police.
- Henria Williams,(1867-1911) who also attended the march, gave a witness testament on police brutality and died of heart failure New Year’s Day 1911.
- Most famously, Emily Davison (1872-1913) died of her injuries from being kicked by the King’s horse during the 1913 Epsom Derby.
Why all the fuss this year? Only a few women achieved the vote in 1918 – married ones over 30 whose husbands fulfilled a property criteria or if she had a university degree. Fast forward to 1928 – when Millicent Fawcett cast her vote for universal suffrage…. All her fabulous work and she survived to take advantage of what she had so peacefully campaigned for.