In October 1865, Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy, established the Manchester Committee for the Enfranchisement of Women. Early members included Ursula Bright, Jacob Bright, Phillippine Kyllman and Richard Pankhurst. Wolstenholme-Elmy later recalled the group was formed with the express purpose of working for the women's suffrage petition to be presented to Henry Fawcett and John Stuart Mill, two MPs who supported universal suffrage. The Manchester group managed to obtain 300 signatures and they joined forces with the Kensington Society, who were organising a petition in London.
Louisa Garrett Anderson later recalled: "John Stuart Mill agreed to present a petition from women householders… On 7th June 1866 the petition with 1,500 signatures was taken to the House of Commons. It was in the name of Barbara Bodichon and others, but some of the active promoters could not come and the honour of presenting it fell to Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett…. Elizabeth Garrett liked to be ahead of time, so the delegation arrived early in the Great Hall, Westminster, she with the roll of parchment in her arms. It made a large parcel and she felt conspicuous. To avoid attracting attention she turned to the only woman who seemed, among the hurrying men, to be a permanent resident in that great shrine of memories, the apple-woman, who agreed to hide the precious scroll under her stand; but, learning what it was, insisted first on adding her signature, so the parcel had to be unrolled again." Mill added an amendment to the 1867 Reform Act that would give women the same political rights as men but it was defeated by 196 votes to 73.
In 1867 the Manchester Committee for the Enfranchisement of Women changed its name to the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage. Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy now handed over the post of secretary to Lydia Becker. She now began working very closely with the London Society for Women's Suffrage. In August 1867 Becker wrote to Helen Taylor asking for a donation. she pointed out that the London group was so rich in comparison with that in Manchester.
On 30th October 1868, the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage established a new executive committee that included Lydia Becker, Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy, Ursula Bright, Jacob Bright, Phillippine Kyllman, Josephine Butler and Katherine Thomasson. Other people who joined over the next few years included Alice Scatcherd, Eva Maclaren, Esther Roper and Eva Gore-Booth.
According to Martin Pugh, the author of The Pankhursts (2001), Emmeline Pankhurst attended her first suffrage meeting in 1872, hosted by veteran campaigner, Lydia Becker. "During the late 1860s Manchester also became the scene of one of the earliest campaigns for women's suffrage, and at fourteen Emmeline returned home from school one day to find her mother preparing to attend a suffrage meeting addressed by Lydia Becker in the city. Jane Pankhurst had no hesitation in agreeing to Emmeline, satchel in hand, accompanying her to hear the arguments."
After the death of Lydia Becker in 1890 the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage went into decline until Esther Roper was appointed secretary in 1893. In this role she tried to recruit working-class women from the emerging trade union movement. In 1897, along with 500 other suffrage societies, the Manchester group joined the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies.
Catalogue description International Woman Suffrage Alliance Archive
A summary of the material contained within each class is given prior to the description of items within the class. In general terms, the archive contains information relating to the political, social and economic condition of women worldwide with particular emphasis on the campaign for the enfranchisement of women.
The archive contains material relating to
Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Austria
Belgium, Bohemia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma
Galicia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece
Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy
Macedonia, Mesopotamia, Mexico
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway
Servia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland
Great Britain is the country most fully represented throughout the archive but large amounts of material relate to France, Germany and the U.S.A. Information relating to all other countries is valuable but limited.
Information is also to be found relating to other reform movements with which women were intimately involved, notably: the campaigns for an equal moral standard, the reform of the divorce laws, temperance and prohibition and the campaigns against prostitution, the "white slave trade" and venereal disease.
It should be noted, in particular, that the archive provides a wealth of information on women's work during the war and offers insights, through the workings of an international women's organisation during time of war, into international conditions and attitudes prevailing during the First World War and its immediate aftermath.
The archive does not contain any copies of the Journal Jus Suffragii.
Where the file contains foreign language pieces the number of pieces affected is contained in the description and, used in conjunction with the number of pieces, the reader can see at a glance the approximate proportion of the file which is written in foreign languages.
When using the list the reader should assume that, where not otherwise stated, the society or person is British and the language is English.
The archive comes from the I.W.S.A. Headquarters in London and for that reason the majority is written in English.
There are however a significant number pieces written in the 2 other official languages of the Alliance, French and German, and in Italian.
In addition, there are small amounts of writing in Afrikaans, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Roumanian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.
On an international level the Alliance adopted a motto in Latin and a telegraphic address in Esperanto.
The archive contains a few pieces written in shorthand
The archive is divided into 3 classes.
IWSA 1 Subject Files 1913-1920
IWSA 2 Headquarters Correspondence Files 1915-1920
IWSA 3 News Cutting Files 1914-1919
Each class consists of files the arrangement of files within each class is explained at the start of each class. The contents of the files have been placed into new acid-free files but any information recorded on the original file (usually a title) has been recorded in the descriptions.
The archivist found that the original order of the files and of papers within files had been disturbed but there was usually sufficient internal evidence to indicate whether the compilation had originally been chronological, alphabetical, by subject or according to the I.W.S.A. classification scheme the original order has therefore been reconstituted.
Within files any doubtful items (such as those without a date in a chronological file) have been placed at the end of the file. And in a few instances, where there was no clear evidence of a logical system, the file has been left as it was found, a random order perhaps being original.
Within each file each physically separate piece of paper has been given a simple running number. Thus 2 pieces of paper sewn together have a single number but a single news cutting which has fallen apart into 2 pieces has 2 numbers. The running number governs the order of pieces in the file and is given in the file descriptions as an indication of physical extent.
Related materials: the library also holds archives of the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Suffrage, the Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage and the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. See also the correspondence of C.P. Scott with Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst in the Guardian Archive. There are also a number of suffrage journals. Researchers may find it useful to consult Margaret Barrow Women 1870-1928: A Select Guide to Printed and Archival Sources in the United Kingdom (London: Mansell, 1981), a copy of which is held at the Main Library.
In compiling this list the archivist found particularly useful: Ida Husted Harper The History of Woman Suffrage Volume IV (National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922) Melanie Parrye (editor) Chambers Biographical Dictionary of Women (Chambers, 1996) Sally Shreir (editor) Women's Movements of the World (Longman, 1988) and Jacqueline Van Voris Carrie Chapman Catt: A Public Life (The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1987).
International Woman Suffrage Alliance, 1902-
Custodial history: the archive was given to the John Rylands Library in September 1923 by Katherine Bompas, then Headquarters Secretary of the I.W.S.A. The files had, by that stage, ceased to be sufficiently up-to-date for the current reference requirements of the Alliance and when lack of storage space made their disposal necessary the N.U.S.E.C. suggested they join the .U.W.S.S.volumes of news cuttings at the Manchester repository.
The files were compiled during the period 1913-1920, although a minority of pieces, such as constitutions and biographical accounts are of earlier date these may have come into the hands of the Alliance as early as its inception in 1902 although it seems more likely that they were collected after 1913.
Publication record: the archive of the I.W.S.A. is published in Reels 11 to 31 of the microfilm Campaign for Women's Suffrage 1895-1920: Papers of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Suffrage, and the Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage, from the John Rylands Library, Manchester (Woodbridge: Research Publications, 1990).
The collection was filmed before it had been arranged and listed by the archivist. In most cases items from IWSA 1 are found in Reels 26-31, items from IWSA 2 are found in Reels 21 to 26 and items from IWSA 3 are found in Reels 11-20. Please note that, on the microfilm, files, and pieces within them, are frequently not in original order and that there are no demarcations between the contents of different files. These problems are at their worst for items in IWSA 3.
These defects make the microfilm copies almost impossible to use in any coherent research. Readers at the John Rylands Library will usually be issued with originals and readers using the microfilm copies in other institutions are warned of their defects.
The impetus for an international organisation to promote the enfranchisement of women around the world came from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (N.A.W.S.A.) and from one of its most influential Presidents, Carrie Chapman Catt (1859-1947).
When Carrie Chapman Catt became President of the N.A.W.S.A. in 1900 the Association had already played a part in the international women's movement, hosting a women's congress in 1888 which had led to the formation of the International Council of Women. But although the International Council of Women had a Standing Committee on Suffrage and Rights of Citizenship it was not its principal raison d'être this role would be filled by the new International Woman Suffrage Alliance (I.W.S.A.).
As a first step Carrie Chapman Catt invited international delegates to attend the 34th Annual Convention of the N.A.W.S.A. The invitation was accepted by representatives from Australia, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey who joined representatives from the U.S.A. and on 12 February 1902 the I.W.S.A. was born. An interim Committee was established, with Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) as Chairman and Carrie Chapman Catt as Secretary, to look after the affairs of the new Alliance until they could meet again at Berlin, Germany in 1904, in what was the first of their biennial international congresses.
The Congress at Berlin was attended by 33 delegates who adopted as their motto "In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas" [In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity] and defined their object "to secure the enfranchisement of the women of all nations and to unite the friends of woman suffrage throughout the world in organized cooperation and fraternal helpfulness". A Committee or Board of Officers was elected with Carrie Chapman Catt as President. The official languages of the Alliance were to be English, French and German.
Affiliation of a country to the Alliance was through the national woman suffrage society of that country. To avoid the confusion which might have arisen in an international organisation if internal differences of methodology and strategy, rife amongst suffrage campaigners in some of affiliated countries, had been allowed to dominate the agenda, only one society was eligible for affiliation from each country. So, in Great Britain, the affiliation was with the constitutional National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (N.U.W.S.S.), which subsequently became the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (N.U.S.E.C.), and not with the militant Women's Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U.). An exception to this rule appears to have been made in Denmark.
Countries which had no national association or which decided not to affiliate to the Alliance could send representatives to Congresses and fraternal delegates from any interested societies in affiliated countries were welcome to attend. Such delegates had no voting rights but it enabled their participation whilst also broadening the scope of the Congresses.
The first countries to affiliate to the Alliance were Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and the U.S.A. and they were soon followed by Denmark and Norway. By the time of the second biennial Congress at Copenhagen, Denmark in 1906 Canada and Hungary had affiliated and Australia expected to join.
It was here that the badge of the Alliance was adopted. This showed the sun rising from behind a woman who holds the scales of justice in her right hand and featured the Latin motto "Jus Suffragii" [The Right of Suffrage] which became the name of the journal of the Alliance. The journal, also sometimes known as the International Woman Suffrage News, was to be printed in English (later there was a French edition too) and was to be issued from Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The third biennial Congress was held at Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1908 and saw the affiliation of Bulgaria, Finland, Italy, Russia, South Africa and Switzerland. In the following year the first Quinquennial Meeting of the Alliance and its 5th Annual Conference (dated from the first Congress at Berlin in 1904 rather than from the Alliance's inception in 1902) were held in London Belgium and France becoming affiliated.
The fourth Congress was held at Stockholm, Sweden in 1911. New affiliations up to and including the Congress were Austria, Bohemia, Iceland and Servia.
The fifth Congress was held in 1913 at Budapest, Hungary. Attended by 12 official delegates from each of the 26 affiliated countries, fraternal delegates from other interested societies, representatives from unaffiliated countries, visitors and the press, some 2800 people attended the Congress.
Also in 1913 an International Headquarters for the Alliance was established in London. The address was 7 Adam Street, Adelphi, although during the war they were to move to 11 Adam Street. The English edition of Jus Suffragii was to be issued from this office (the French edition was being issued from Paris) and it was also to administer the I.W.S.A. Information Bureau which collected, and supplied on request, information on women's issues worldwide. The archive of the I.W.S.A. comes from this office and covers the period from its establishment to 1920.
The next Congress should have been held in Berlin, again, in 1915 but the outbreak of the First World War made this impossible. The war inevitably diminished the activities of the I.W.S.A., not least because the women's organisations in all countries were using their skills, resources and contacts to administer war aid and the mobilisation of women into civilian trades as men were required for military service.
The work of the I.W.S.A. during the period of war should not, however, be underestimated. Their achievement was to maintain limited communications with at least some of the affiliated countries, even enemy nations, and to continue to publish in Jus Suffragii articles that could pass the censor and be read by women in countries that were at war with each other.
The timing of the Congress after the War proved to be controversial with some members feeling that too much time had already been lost and others feeling that national sensibilities were too raw to attempt any kind of international gathering without first allowing time for the reconstruction of countries and the rebuilding of shattered lives.
There were plans for a Congress in Spain but ultimately the venue chosen was Geneva, Switzerland and the date 1920. The late date precipitated the resignation of Mary Sheepshanks, a key figure within the Alliance who had responsibility for the Information Bureau and Jus Suffragii, from her position as Headquarters Secretary, although she was at pains to make clear that she had no disagreement of principle with her colleagues who made up the Board of Officers and Presidents.
At Geneva there were further affiliations with Argentina, Greece, Spain and Uruguay. In the following years there were further affiliations and Congresses held at Rome, Italy (1923), Paris, France (1926), Istanbul, Turkey (1935), Copenhagen, Denmark (1939) and Interlaken, Switzerland (1946). By this stage the franchise had been extended to women in the majority of affiliated countries and after the Second World War the organisation was to find a new role as an advisory group to the United Nations, changing its name to the International Alliance of Women (I.A.W.).
During the period covered by the archive (1913-1920) members of the Board of Officers, most of whom also played important roles in the national associations of their respective countries, were as follows:
President - Carrie Chapman Catt, U.S.A.
1st Vice-President - Millicent Garrett Fawcett, England
2nd Vice-President - Annie Furuhjelm, M.P., Finland
3rd Vice-President - Anna Lindemann, Germany
4th Vice-President - Marguerite de Witt de Schlumberger, France
1st Corresponding Secretary - Katherine Dexter McCormick, U.S.A.
2nd Corresponding Secretary - Rosika Schwimmer, Hungary/Jane Brigode, Belgium
1st Recording Secretary - Chrystal Macmillan, M.A., B.Sc., Scotland
2nd Recording Secretary - Marie Stritt, Germany
1st Treasurer - Adela Stanton Coit, England
2nd Treasurer - Signe Bergman, Sweden
The Headquarters Secretary at 7/11 Adam Street, Adelphi, London was Mary Sheepshanks, until her resignation in 1919, and then Elizabeth Abbott.
During the same period the affiliated associations, in alphabetical order of country, and their presidents, were as follows:
Australia - Women's Political Association, Vida Goldstein
Austria - Oesterreichisches Frauenstimmrechts-Komitee, E. von Furth
Belgium - Fédération Belge pour le Suffrage des Femmes, Jane Brigode
Bohemia - Vybor pro volebni pràvo zen, Frantiska Plaminkova
Canada - Dominion Woman Suffrage Association, Flora MacD. Denison
China - National Woman Suffrage Association, Sophia Chang
Denmark - Danske Kvindeforeningers Valgretsforbund, Eline Hansen
Denmark - Danske Landsforbundet, Elna Munch
Finland - Federation of Auxiliaries, Annie Furuhjelm
France - L'Union Française pour le Suffrage des Femmes, Marguerite de Witt de Schlumberger
Galicia - Polish Woman Suffrage Committee, Mme Hedvige Tomika
Germany - Deutscher Verband für Frauenstimmrecht (later Deutscher Reichsverband für Frauenstimmrecht), Marie Stritt
Great Britain - N.U.W.S.S./N.U.S.E.C., Millicent Garrett Fawcett
Hungary - Feministàk Egyesülete, Vilma Glücklich
Iceland - [a woman suffrage association in Iceland], Briet Asmundsson
Italy - Comitato Nationale per il Voto alla Donna, Prof. Anita Dobelli-Zampetti/Marchesa Clelia Pelicano
Netherlands - Vereeniging voor Vrouwenkiesrecht, Dr. Aletta Jacobs
Norway - Landskvindestemmeretsforeningen, F. M. Qvam
Portugal - Associaçao de Propaganda Feminista, Jeanne d'Almeida Nogueira
Roumania - National Suffrage Association, Eugenie de Reus Jancoulesco
Russia - League for the Equality of Women's Rights/Union of Defenders of Women's Rights, P. Schischkina Yavein, M.D.
Servia - Szpshi narodni zenski Saves, Hélène Losanitch
South Africa - Women's Enfranchisement Association, M. Emma Macintosh
Sweden - Landsforeningen för Kvinnans Politiska Röstratt, Signe Bergman/Anna Whitlock
Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage - History
In 1832, Lord Grey piloted the highly controversial Great Reform Act through Parliament. It was meant to extend the franchise - but used the word "male" instead of "people", excluding women from the vote. The first leaflet advocating votes for women appeared in 1847, and suffrage societies began to crop up throughout the country.
Twenty years later, John Stuart Mill led an unsuccessful attempt to secure votes for women in the Second Reform Act. That defeat led to the founding of the National Society for Women's Suffrage.
The following year Richard Pankhurst, an MP and Manchester lawyer, made a fresh attempt to win votes for women. His wife and daughter, Emmeline and Christabel, went on to become the two most important figures in the movement.
The first country to give the vote to women was New Zealand in 1893, a move which acted as a major fillip to British campaigners. Australia took nine more years to do the same.
Frustrated by no sign of reform at home, the leading campaigners of the day took matters in to their own hands. On 10 October 1903, the Women's Social and Political Union - its members soon be nicknamed the suffragettes - held its inaugural meeting, and declared that the situation was so serious it would have to pursue extreme measures of civil disobedience.
Women began chaining themselves to railings, and within five years the campaign had extended to smashing windows.
The most determined - and the first to be jailed - were Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kennedy. They disrupted a Liberal Party meeting, got themselves arrested and then refused to pay fines so their jailing created headlines.
By 1911, the UK had witnessed the first act of suffragette arson (orchestrated by Christabel) and two years later Emily Davison died at the Derby as she rushed out to bring down the King's horse.
In Parliament, pressure for change was led by some liberal MPs, who were the leading figures in a suffrage committee.
But away from the reasoned debate of Westminster, prisons filled with women prepared to go to jail for the right to vote. The civil disobedience continued behind bars, with many women force-fed to prevent them hunger striking.
While the authorities tried to present them as insane, their families campaigned for the inmates to be given political status, including the right to wear their own clothes, study and prepare their own food.
World War I proved to be the turning point for the campaign.
The suffragettes effectively put on hold their campaign of civil direct action in the interests of national unity. As men went to the Western Front, women proved how indispensable they were in the fields and armaments factories.
To mark the centenary of the votes-for-women movement, a National Archives exhibition emphasises that the suffragettes were not all well-to-do Edwardian women, as history popularly has it.
At its height it became one of the few political movements in the history of Britain to cut across all classes - for no woman could vote, regardless of her position.
Many of the upper-middle class women jailed for suffragette protests found themselves sharing prison with the poorest in society, an experience which greatly influenced much of their future politics.
Suffragette in the family
Annette Ure, a business analyst at the National Archives, knows a thing or two about this. Her great-grandmother, Emily Cowley, a working class woman in domestic service, joined the suffragettes and was jailed in 1908.
Her stand for her rights is something which Ms Ure's family treasure as much as they would a family heirloom.
"We still have her suffragette plaque and brooch and I remember as a child how my mother and Grandmother would bring them out and explain to me their significance," she says. "So when I first voted after turning 18, we raised a glass and toasted Emily."
Emily Cowley was jailed after a protest turned ugly in Westminster.
"Undeterred by her imprisonment, she had a photograph taken of herself and her children, wearing her suffragette's uniform as a mark of defiance," says Ms Ure.
"Having a suffragette in my family has been a great inspiration to me. I have two daughters who are a long way off from voting, but I hope that Emily will be part of their lives too."
The volumes of news cuttings represent a full chronological record of events and ideas within the British women's suffrage movement 1910-1914, as portrayed in the press. Sources and dates of cuttings are generally given. The first 2 volumes are indexed at the start of the volume by the society the third volume is partially indexed (A-P) thereafter the volumes are not indexed. For each volume this catalogue notes the main subjects which recur but this should be taken as an indication only and not regarded as comprehensive.
In the 19th century, women’s social and political opportunities in most countries differed sharply from those of men. Women typically could not claim the same rights as men in government, property ownership, education, employment, and custody of children. Those who ran for office and voted in elections were almost exclusively men. 1 Nevertheless, women in increasing numbers began to participate in public life in the United States. They formed and joined benevolent societies and became a significant force in movements to encourage temperance and to end slavery.
In July 1848 more than 300 social activists met at Seneca Falls, New York, for two days of speeches and debates on questions relating to women’s civic and religious rights. At the end of the convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton advanced a Declaration of Sentiments, a document identifying the legal, financial, educational, and social constraints on women and demanding that women be given the right to vote. 2 Meetings such as the Seneca Falls Convention gave rise to an organized campaign for the right to vote, a cause known at the time as “woman suffrage.”
Latter-day Saint women had also gained experience in civic life in both Missouri and Illinois. These women had petitioned the government for redress after experiencing persecution in Missouri and had initiated the founding of the Relief Society in Nauvoo. In Utah, stake and ward Relief Society leaders encouraged women to voice their opinions. 3
Government opposition to plural marriage mobilized Latter-day Saint women into political action in the 1870s. 4 In the Salt Lake Fifteenth Ward Relief Society, for instance, President Sarah Kimball called women together to decide on how to respond to pending federal antipolygamy legislation. Bathsheba Smith added, “We demand of the governor the right of franchise.” 5 These leaders believed that woman suffrage would enable the Saints to preserve their marriages and religious freedom. Unaware of how deep such convictions went, some federal antipolygamy activists reasoned that if granted suffrage, Utah women would vote to outlaw polygamy. 6
In 1870, to the surprise of the nation, the Utah territorial legislature established a law granting women suffrage, and Utah women became the first in the United States to cast votes in municipal elections. 7 Utah women also joined the national campaign for women’s rights alongside suffrage leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, although some in the national organizations protested the inclusion of Latter-day Saint polygamist women. 8
In 1887 the federal government rescinded woman suffrage in Utah as part of the antipolygamy Edmunds-Tucker Act. Utah women responded by organizing the Territorial Woman Suffrage Association, determined to regain their full rights. For the next eight years, they planned events in Utah towns and cities, dispatched members to national women’s rights conventions, and lobbied territorial legislators for their reenfranchisement. 9
At the 1895 constitutional convention in Utah, legislators debated whether to include woman suffrage in their proposal to the United States Congress for statehood. Orson F. Whitney, who later became an Apostle, forcefully endorsed woman suffrage. “It is woman’s destiny to have a voice in the affairs of government,” he said. “She was designed for it. She has a right to it.” 10 Convention delegates voted in favor of woman suffrage, and when granted statehood a few months later, Utah became the third state of the Union to extend political equality to women. In 1920 women in the United States gained the right to vote with the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The expansion of women’s voting rights outside the United States likewise began in the 19th century. Several countries, territories, states, and colonies began to introduce voting rights for some women, typically those who were widowed, divorced, owned property, or paid taxes. In 1893 New Zealand became the first sovereign nation to grant universal suffrage for women. Other governments granted women’s suffrage throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. As recently as 2015, women in Saudi Arabia voted for the first time.
Latter-day Saints, both men and women, continue to participate in civic and political activities and are actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities in accordance with the laws of their respective governments.
“Part 3: 1867–1879,” in Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds., The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-Saint Women’s History (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016), 235–434.
The following publications provide further information about this topic. By referring or linking you to these resources, we do not endorse or guarantee the content or the views of the authors.
Carol Cornwall Madsen, ed., Battle for the Ballot: Essays on Woman Suffrage in Utah, 1870–1896 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1997).
The Struggle for Suffrage
From the middle of the 19th century women across the country began engaging in a determined struggle for their right to vote. Explore the histories and places that tell the story of women's suffrage and gender equality.
The struggle for women's suffrage was a campaign which began in the drawing rooms of London and Manchester in the mid 19th century.
The suffrage movement grew out of a growing sense of injustice in the second half of the 19th century that women were denied the vote.
The sedate Edwardian tearoom facilitated women's bold fight for freedom.
Suffragettes were astute and inventive, creating new forms of protest to keep their campaign in the public eye.
It's surprising how much activists of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) used outdoor spaces for public meetings.
The new forms of direct action used by suffragettes caught the public imagination.
New types of peaceful protest were constantly developed, even as violent militancy escalated.
The campaign for women’s suffrage is part of the fabric of cities that were at the centre of the struggle.
Holloway prison and the fight for freedom
Know your suffragettes from your suffragists. Short answers to some frequently asked questions.
Do you, or does someone in your family or area, have a hidden suffrage story? If you do, we'd love to hear it.
Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage - History
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of going to the back of the bus, which was designated for African Americans, she sat in the front. When the bus started to fill up with white passengers, the bus driver asked Parks to move. She refused. Her resistance set in motion one of the largest social movements in history, the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4th, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. As a child, she went to an industrial school for girls and later enrolled at Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes (present-day Alabama State University). Unfortunately, Parks was forced to withdraw after her grandmother became ill. Growing up in the segregated South, Parks was frequently confronted with racial discrimination and violence. She became active in the Civil Rights Movement at a young age.
Parks married a local barber by the name of Raymond Parks when she was 19. He was actively fighting to end racial injustice. Together the couple worked with many social justice organizations. Eventually, Rosa was elected secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
By the time Parks boarded the bus in 1955, she was an established organizer and leader in the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. Parks not only showed active resistance by refusing to move she also helped organize and plan the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Many have tried to diminish Parks’ role in the boycott by depicting her as a seamstress who simply did not want to move because she was tired. Parks denied the claim and years later revealed her true motivation:
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Parks courageous act and the subsequent Montgomery Bus Boycott led to the integration of public transportation in Montgomery. Her actions were not without consequence. She was jailed for refusing to give up her seat and lost her job for participating in the boycott.
After the boycott, Parks and her husband moved to Hampton, Virginia and later permanently settled in Detroit, Michigan. Parks work proved to be invaluable in Detroit’s Civil Rights Movement. She was an active member of several organizations which worked to end inequality in the city. By 1980, after consistently giving to the movement both financially and physically Parks, now widowed, suffered from financial and health troubles. After almost being evicted from her home, local community members and churches came together to support Parks. On October 24th, 2005, at the age of 92, she died of natural causes leaving behind a rich legacy of resistance against racial discrimination and injustice.
Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage - History
Lucretia Coffin Mott was an early feminist activist and strong advocate for ending slavery. A powerful orator, she dedicated her life to speaking out against racial and gender injustice.
Born on January 3, 1793 on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, Mott was the second of Thomas Coffin Jr.’s and Anna Folger Mott’s five children. Her father’s work as a ship’s captain kept him away from his family for long stretches and could be hazardous — so much so that he moved his family to Boston and became a merchant when Lucretia was 10 years old.
Mott was raised a Quaker, a religion that stressed equality of all people under God, and attended a Quaker boarding school in upstate New York. In 1809, the family moved to Philadelphia, and two years later, Mott married her father’s business partner, James Mott, with whom she would have six children. In 1815, her father died, saddling her mother with a mountain of debt, and Mott, her husband, and her mother joined forces to become solvent again. Mott taught school, her mother went back to running a shop, and her husband operated a textile business.
Mott, along with her supportive husband, argued ardently for the abolitionist cause as members of William Lloyd Garrison’s American Anti-Slavery Society in the 1830s. Garrison, who encouraged women’s participation as writers and speakers in the anti-slavery movement embraced Mott’s commitment. Mott was one of the founders of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Not everyone supported women’s public speaking. In fact, Mott was constantly criticized for behaving in ways not acceptable for women of her sex, but it did not deter her.
Mott’s stymied participation at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 brought her into contact with Elizabeth Cady Stanton with whom she formed a long and prolific collaboration. It also led Mott into the cause of women’s rights. As women, the pair were blocked from participating in the proceedings, which not only angered them, but led them to promise to hold a women’s rights convention when they returned to the United States. Eight years later, in 1848, they organized the Seneca Fall Convention, attended by hundreds of people including noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Stanton presented a “Declaration of Sentiments” at the meeting, which demanded rights for women by inserting the word “woman” into the language of the Declaration of Independence and included a list of 18 woman-specific demands. These included divorce, property and custody rights, as well as the right to vote. The latter fueled the launching of the woman suffrage movement. Mott explained that she grew up “so thoroughly imbued with women’s rights that it was the most important question” of her life. Following the convention Mott continued her crusade for women’s equality by speaking at ensuing annual women’s rights conventions and publishing Discourse on Women, a reasoned account of the history of women’s repression.
Her devotion to women’s rights did not deter her from fighting for an end to slavery. She and her husband protested the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and helped an enslaved person escape bondage a few years later. In 1866, Mott became the first president of the American Equal Rights Association. Mott joined with Stanton and Anthony in decrying the 14 th and 15 th amendments to the Constitution for granting the vote to black men but not to women. Mott was also involved with efforts to establish Swarthmore College and was instrumental in ensuring it was coeducational. Dedicated to all forms of human freedom, Mott argued as ardently for women’s rights as for black rights, including suffrage, education, and economic aid. Mott played a major role in the woman suffrage movement through her life.
Women's Social and Political Union
was the women's suffrage society that introduced ‘militancy’ to the twentieth-century campaigns for the vote. Formed in Manchester at the home of Emmeline Pankhurst , on 10 October 1903, it was initially intended to be a ginger group on women's suffrage within the Independent Labour Party , of which she was an active member.
Emmeline Pankhurst's interest in votes for women reached back to her school days, and in Richard Pankhurst , a Manchester lawyer, she had chosen a husband well known for his association with radical causes, including women's enfranchisement. Both were subsequently among the radicals who founded the Women's Franchise League in 1889. This body insisted on the controversial inclusion of married women in the demand for votes for women, whereas more cautious suffragists like Lydia Becker and Millicent Garrett Fawcett supported their exclusion. Among her closest colleagues at this time were the Manchester radicals Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy and Ursula , and Jacob Bright . Disillusion with the Liberal Party led her and Richard Pankhurst to join the newly formed Independent Labour Party in 1894. Becoming a widow of limited means in 1898, Emmeline Pankhurst accepted a post as a local registrar of births, marriages, and deaths. She later recalled that her experience in this post and as a poor law guardian further reinforced her sense of the wrongs of women, and of the importance of securing the vote for her sex.
The early supporters of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) were mostly working-class and socialist women, like the mill worker Annie Kenney and the seamstress Hannah Mitchell . Pankhurst had, too, the support of her eldest daughter, Christabel Pankhurst , a law student who had recently campaigned alongside Esther Roper , secretary of the North of England Society for Women's Suffrage . The latter had concentrated, in the years around the turn of the twentieth century, in successfully building support for women's suffrage among women trade unionists in the region. Roper and her lifetime companion Eva Gore Booth also formed a new suffrage body in Manchester in 1903, the Lancashire and Cheshire Textile and Other Workers Representation Committee . Not surprisingly, the advent of these two new suffrage societies was welcomed by many among those suffragists of earlier years who identified with the radical wing of the Liberal Party , including Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy , Ursula Bright , Anna Maria Priestman , and Dora Montefiore , as well as by the Manchester teacher and Independent Labour Party organizer Teresa Billington [see Greig ] and the party's MP, Keir Hardie .
The creation of these two new suffrage organizations reflected the growing strength of the infant Labour Party in parliamentary politics, and a simultaneous struggle within its councils over whether or not to support women's suffrage. Many labour and socialist supporters opposed equal suffrage on the existing property qualifications. They argued the need to campaign rather for ‘adult’ or ‘manhood’ suffrage. Some socialists, notably Belfort Bax of the Marxist Social Democratic Federation , rejected altogether the idea of votes for women. The Lancashire and Cheshire Representation Committee formulated its demand in terms of ‘womanhood’ suffrage, the vote for all adult women, one that implicitly supported the call for a fully democratic franchise. In contrast, both the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and the WSPU held to the more limited demand of equal votes for women.
Emmeline Pankhurst came to question the value of private-member women's-suffrage bills after watching the talking out of such a measure in May 1905 amid ridicule and ribaldry. She and other members of the union staged an impromptu protest at such treatment at the House of Commons, and she dated the commencement of ‘militancy’ from this. Other accounts dated it from October 1905, when Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney , having interrupted and been ejected from a Liberal Party public meeting in Manchester, held an impromptu protest meeting on the steps outside. They were arrested for refusing to move on, and for Christabel Pankhurst's technical assault on a policeman. They then refused to pay the fines imposed on them by the court, thus ensuring a period in prison and attracting substantial press coverage for their cause. The value of what has since been termed 'the politics of disruption' in the WSPU's campaigning was thus established. Unlike the non-party policy of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies , the WSPU attacked Liberal candidates by such means, for a Liberal victory was anticipated in the coming general election.
Much of the subsequent historical debate regarding suffrage militancy treats this phenomenon as a single, self-evident, coherent category of political campaigning, unchanging in its essential nature and quite distinct from the ‘constitutionalism’ of the other suffrage organizations. The practice of militancy in its first few years, however, drew on the repertory of British radical constitutionalism, and more especially on the practice of civil disobedience. It also reflected a Romantic understanding of history, one that believed major social and political change was dependent on the heroic acts of individuals committed to such change. The shock value of the WSPU's campaigning arose from the frisson occasioned by the spectacle of respectable, middle-class women engaging in forceful challenges to the existing order. Equally, Mary Gawthorpe , one of the union's most effective speakers and polemicists, argued that women's militancy was altogether different from the often violent pursuit of enfranchisement by men in the past. Until 1908 at least, militancy remained a more assertive form of constitutionalism rather than something quite distinct from it. The union was happy, none the less, to take over and put to its own uses the belittling journalist's term ‘suffragette’, to denote someone quite distinct from a ‘suffragist’. It also sought to define the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in relation to itself as 'non-militant' rather than constitutionalist.
Some outside the WSPU expressed dismay at these developments, none the less. However, Millicent Garrett Fawcett , a leading figure in the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and not generally the most tolerant of people, warned other suffragists against any attack on militant methods. Not only did they require courage and dedication, but they were also waking up much larger numbers of women than ever before to the civil disabilities of their sex. So when her old friend Annie Cobden Sanderson (the daughter of Richard Cobden ) emerged at the end of 1906 from a prison sentence following her involvement in a protest by the WSPU , as a result of which Adela Pankhurst [see Walsh ] had also been imprisoned, Fawcett organized a banquet in her honour at the Savoy. Such rituals of feasting and celebration were another legacy of radical constitutionalism and shortly became a regular part of the WSPU's campaigning, as more and more of its protesters found their way to a prison cell. Fawcett was clearly not alone in her appreciation, for among branch societies membership of the WSPU and the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies overlapped to some extent, at least up to 1912, and non-militants often provided ready assistance to the union's organizers when they first arrived in a locality.
In 1906, following their success in largely local campaigning in and around Manchester, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst decided to move the WSPU's headquarters to London. The family member and art student Sylvia Pankhurst together with Teresa Billington , now a full-time organizer of the union, had already made some headway there, largely among working-class women in the East End of London. Keir Hardie introduced the Pankhursts to a well-to-do couple, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence , known for her benevolent work on behalf of working-class women, and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence , a radical lawyer. They shortly joined the WSPU's metropolitan leadership, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence as a notably successful treasurer, for wealthy socialites such as Evelina Haverfield were increasingly recruited to its membership. The following year the Pethick-Lawrences established Votes for Women as the WSPU's own journal. At the same time support for adult suffrage and opposition to women's suffrage were gaining strength within the labour and socialist movement, alienating the WSPU's leadership, and in October 1906 Christabel Pankhurst announced that the WSPU would no longer support Labour Party candidates.
Other socialist suffragists among the leadership of the WSPU were disturbed by such developments, including the noted philanthropist Charlotte Despard and Annie Cobden Sanderson . They stated their personal determination to continue their support for Labour candidates at the Independent Labour Party conference in 1907, where Emmeline Pankhurst reaffirmed the WSPU's change of policy. Teresa Billington had the previous year drafted a constitution for the WSPU that had then been adopted by its first annual conference. As tensions grew in the following months between London headquarters and these leading socialist suffragists Emmeline Pankhurst cancelled the annual meeting due in September 1907 and scrapped the WSPU's constitution. The dissidents then summoned a special conference that attracted delegates from a large number of branches. Unable, however, to dislodge the London leadership from the union's headquarters or to gain control of its funds, the dissidents established a new body, the Women's Freedom League . This attracted some socialist suffragists, like Hannah Mitchell , away from the union while others, like Mary Gawthorpe , remained loyal to the Pankhursts . The original militant body now adopted the title National Women's Social and Political Union , with Mabel Tuke as honorary secretary, Elizabeth Robins as a committee member and speaker, and Cicely Hale organizing the information department.
Between 1906 and 1908 the WSPU continued to show its flare for organizing rallies and demonstrations that attracted large numbers, in the hope of demonstrating the popularity of their cause. The uniformed Flora Drummond headed processions on horseback Vera Holme , another horsewoman, was a marshal Elsie Howey led a demonstration in 1909 dressed as Joan of Arc . Cicely Hamilton and Ethel Smyth wrote the words and music, respectively, of the union's anthem 'March of the Women' . The WSPU also organized regular ‘women's parliaments ’ to coincide with each new session, from which demonstrators marched to the House of Commons. In 1907 Christabel Pankhurst stood trial for publishing a pamphlet that had called on demonstrators to 'rush' the House of Commons, and used the occasion effectively to further embarrass leading Liberal ministers whom she put in the stand while undertaking her own legal defence. However, despite the largest suffrage demonstration ever, in Hyde Park in the summer of 1908, Herbert Asquith , the new Liberal prime minister and noted anti-suffragist, shortly afterwards declared his plans for a manhood suffrage measure. A 'rush' on the House of Commons, in October 1908, resulted in numerous arrests, Clara Codd being among those imprisoned.
The WSPU's demonstrators now began to throw stones to break the windows of government offices ( Mary Leigh did so at 10 Downing Street), giving expression to their growing frustration while also securing a quicker arrest, and the safety it offered from the violence of some among the crowds attracted to these events. Militants continued to contrast their own largely symbolic use of violence with the riots that had at times accompanied men's demand for the vote. An official was unintentionally injured, however, during a protest by the Women's Freedom League at a polling booth in which acid was used. Fawcett and other constitutionalists denounced the changing nature of militancy, and branches of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies were now expressly required to use only 'constitutional' methods. At the same time Fawcett repeatedly blamed the Liberal government for provoking such violence by its refusal to listen to reasoned argument.
The WSPU's demonstrators by this time were no longer being sentenced to the first division in the prison system, the usual location for political prisoners where far greater privileges were allowed. One militant prisoner, Marion Wallace Dunlop , began a hunger strike in protest at being sentenced to the second division in 1908. This tactic was taken up by other suffrage prisoners, such as Helen Archdale , ensuring early release. The government responded in 1909 by authorizing the forcible feeding of hunger strikers, among them the militant organizer Charlotte Marsh and Edith Rigby . The WSPU's supporter Lady Constance Lytton suspected that this ill-disguised form of torture was being used selectively against working-class women, while hunger strikers like herself were released, in her case on the grounds of her weak heart. So she disguised herself as a seamstress, secured a prison sentence, and was forcibly fed several times before her true identity was recognized and she was released, suffering a stroke some time afterwards.
With the re-election of a Liberal government in January 1910, Henry Brailsford , a radical journalist and dedicated suffragist whose wife, Jane Brailsford , a member of the WSPU , had been imprisoned in 1909, suggested a fresh initiative, a private-member Conciliation Bill that could unite parliamentary supporters of all parties. The WSPU declared a truce from militancy while this went before the House of Commons. The bill successfully passed its second reading, but the failure of the government to allow it further facilities provoked another protest by the union outside parliament (18 November 1910), of which Princess Sophia Duleep Singh was one of the leaders. This became known as Black Friday because of the brutality with which suffragist demonstrators such as May Billinghurst were treated by police and members of the crowd. Some, including Georgiana Solomon , claimed sexual assault, while others, like Emmeline Pankhurst's sister Mary Jane Clarke (1862–1910) , were said to have died as a result of the injuries received that day. Another government betrayal, at least in the eyes of militants, led Evelyn Sharp and Maud Sennett to throw stones through the windows of the War Office and the Daily Mail , and prompted the first large-scale window-smashing raid in London's West End in 1912, in which Barbara Gould , Agnes Macdonald , and Alice Ker were among the participants, the latter breaking windows at Harrods department store.
The government retaliated with increasingly repressive measures: arresting Emmeline Pankhurst and the Pethick-Lawrences and successfully putting them on trial for conspiracy censoring Votes for Women by pressuring its printers threatening the financial assets of wealthier supporters. In 1913 it also introduced the ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ that allowed it to release hunger striking prisoners on licence, and then to rearrest them once they had recovered, a tactic used against Gertrude Ansell , Jennie Baines , Rachel Barrett , Helen Crawfurd , Eleanor Higginson , Annie Kenney , Ethel Moorhead , and Mary Richardson . This process seriously undermined Emmeline Pankhurst's health, and her followers believed her close to death. Emily Wilding Davison was one of the ‘irregulars’ and ‘freelances’ among the protesters within the WSPU , militants who acted on their own authority and according to their own lights. She went on the course as the horses approached during the running of the Derby, falling under their hooves and dying shortly from her injuries. Her fate prompted Kitty Marion to burn down a racecourse grandstand, while Mary Richardson slashed the Rokeby Venus in the National Gallery in protest at the treatment of Mrs Pankhurst . A Scottish organizer, Fanny Parker , attempted to set fire to Robert Burns's cottage. Christabel Pankhurst , having escaped arrest, continued to direct WSPU activities from France.
Militancy became increasingly clandestine and violent, involving on occasion the use of arson, bombs, and physical attacks on members of the government. Stella Newsome and Margaret Haig Thomas set fire to pillar boxes Constance Lewcock did so to a railway building. Released from prison, the Pethick-Lawrences argued the need to return to building and demonstrating popular support for women's enfranchisement. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst opposed any such change and so the Pethick-Lawrences left the WSPU in October 1912, retaining control of Votes for Women . Sylvia Pankhurst , too, preferred working with sympathizers in the labour and socialist movements through the East London Federation of Suffragettes , which also drew in Mary Phillips , a former WSPU organizer, and Myra Brown . Sylvia Pankhurst was advised by her mother and sister that there was no place for this approach within the WSPU and was expelled.
In the summer of 1914 the Liberal government began negotiations with suffragists that were interrupted by war, and in which the WSPU was not included. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst suspended the militant campaign shortly after the beginning of the war and lent their services to government recruiting campaigns. The militants never regained the presence they once held in suffrage campaigning. In 1917 the Pankhursts relaunched the WSPU as the Women's Party , for which Christabel Pankhurst stood, unsuccessfully, in the 1918 general election.
In 2020, the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote, will celebrate its 100th anniversary. The Center and community partners will be hosting a series of events to celebrate.
The resolution calling for woman suffrage had passed, after much debate, at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, convened by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. In The Declaration of Sentiments, a document based upon the Declaration of Independence, the numerous demands of these early activists were elucidated.
The 1848 convention had challenged America to social revolution that would touch every aspect of life. Early women’s rights leaders believed suffrage to be the most effective means to change an unjust system.
By the late 1800s, nearly 50 years of progress afforded women advancement in property rights, employment and educational opportunities, divorce and child custody laws, and increased social freedoms.
The early 1900s saw a successful push for the vote through a coalition of suffragists, temperance groups, reform-minded politicians, and women’s social-welfare organizations.
Although Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton devoted 50 years to the woman’s suffrage movement, neither lived to see women gain the right to vote. But their work and that of many other suffragists contributed to the ultimate passage of the 19th amendment in 1920.
River Campus (mailing address): 500 Joseph C. Wilson Blvd., Rochester, NY 14627
River Campus (GPS/maps): 252 Elmwood Ave., Rochester, NY