This of our women’s movement.’ The Novel is based

This
historiographical essay, shall focus on how the suffragettes helped women win the vote.
Historiography is the study of how different historians have studied an area of
academic discipline, and then comparing the different types of historical
research each historian has used to gain their overall understanding on the
topic1.
 This helps to see biases and ideologies about
historical topics. The titles I have chosen show how women in the suffragettes campaigned
differently for the vote and follow a chronological order of publication, to help
see an order of events. The titles explore significant points in the fight for
the vote; from when Mary Smith presented the first petition to parliament in
1832, to 1903 when Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women’s social and political
union (WSPU), later known as the suffragettes, world war 1 starting in 1913, to
1917 when the vote was given to women over 30 and finally when the amendment of
the Representation of the people act was passed in 1928 which gave all women
and men the vote over the age of 21.

 

No
Surrender2
,by Constance Maud, was a pioneering author for the WSPU. The book was written
at the pinnacle of the fight for the women’s vote, therefore the authenticity
of the novel for the reader is guaranteed. The accuracy of the novel was also
reaffirmed in 1912 when Emily Davison, another significant woman in the fight stated,
– ‘the book breathes the very spirit of our women’s movement.’ The Novel is
based on Fictional characters, but follows real women’s stories in major turning
points in their fight to the vote. The lead protagonist, Jenny Clegg is a mill
worker, with a life of drudgery due to male expectation of her retrospective
role as a woman. However due to a great passion in the Votes for women’s
league, her life becomes full of political activism when she encounters Mary
O’Neil, the Mill owner’s daughter. The book follows the women’s drive through
political protests, the fights against oppositions and lastly includes a
distressing scene where Mary was force fed by prison guards, which depicts the vast
extent suffrage women went through being ‘political prisoners.’

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

The
book sensitively portrays the treatment and campaigns of the suffragettes in
gaining the vote. However, due to being written before the vote was granted it
does not give an overview picture of how the vote was won in the end, therefore
not covering the whole fight to equality.

 

Sylvia Pankhurst’s part bibliography and part history
novel ‘The Suffragette Movement,’3 follows
her tormenting experiences of imprisonment, hunger strikes, force feeding, the
cat and mouse act and chronicles of how the suffragettes won the vote against
the liberal government of the day. It reveals how the advocates of the women’s
suffrage became ‘polarized into mutually antagonistic factions,’ from
conservatives to Sylvia finally becoming a far left political participant. Sylvia
Pankhurst was a revolutionary, feminist, communist and political activist at
the time of women gaining the vote and the book was written just 3 years after
the Vote was won, concluding it to be a true account of what happened with
broad details. The past memoir and historical novel depicts the struggles,
Sylvia and her sisters faced when founding the militant organization, WSPU in
1906 to when Sylvia broke off from this to form the East London Federation of
suffragettes in 1914. It shows the personality clashes within the family and other
leaders and groups who fought for the vote- such as the suffragists, who used
less forceful methods to gain the vote such as peaceful protests. It explains
how the Suffragette movement gained the phrase ‘Deeds not Words,’ by explaining
their radical approach of stone throwing, tying themselves to parliamentary
fences, arson and physical confrontation with authorities. At the end of the
book, she explains how the government finally granted women the vote, however
the fight for equality was still not won shown through the words, ‘Great is the
work which remains to be accomplished.’ This book is useful for the full analysis of how the vote was won, as it
covers a range of one hundred years and includes a range of sources such as;
letters, News articles and quotations from speeches given by the women 4. However,
it is bias towards the Pankhurst’s fight and not others that adjoined the
struggle in the suffragettes.

The BBC Audio Archive, published in 1993, comprises of
Sylvia Pankhurst talking about her mother’s fight5.
The archive describes Emmeline’s first encounter into her strive into gaining a
socialist society, was when she joined her husband Richard Pankhurst (another
leading suffragette supporter) in his bill to gain women the right to own
property and widowed Mothers the right to be the legal guardians to their
children. After joining the independent labour party, 9 years later, she formed
the Women’s social and political union in 1903, which was then named the
suffragettes, which ‘took whatever steps which might prove necessary, Legal or
illegal, to obtain the parliamentary vote for women.” The tape explains of the
extreme frustrated efforts Emmeline experiences for half a century, including
83 by-elections and contested 90 constituencies in the 1910 elections. It also
entails Emmeline’s four imprisonments from six weeks to nine months. The main
advantage of this source is that it provides memoirs directly from the Pankhurst
family (an imperative family in the suffragette fight), which will not be
documented elsewhere, forming its uniqueness. It also portrays the strong
emotions in the Pankhurst family, which will stimulate the personal involvement
of the reader. However, it also has disadvantages as a primary source, as
Sylvia and Emmeline Pankhurst were both directly involved in the fight towards
women’s equality in voting, therefore it is very bias in accounts of what
happened and lacks critical distance. Also, neither Sylvia and Emmeline are no
longer living, thus cannot be referred for authentication on the interspersed
facts involved. 

‘Unshackled’
by Christabel Pankhurst published in 19596
shows how one of the most influential political leaders strode for political
and constitutional liberty by helping win women the vote. It talks of how her
family set up the WSPU in 1903 and how she gained a law degree in 1907. It
explored the ways in which the militant group fought for the vote through
antagonistic ways which led to her having to flee to France to avoid arrest
until after 1914 when the WSPU agreed to use less aggressive ways of protest.
It then goes on to explore how she founded ‘The Women’s Party’ in 1917 which
requested; equal pay for work, equal marriage and divorce laws and a system of
maternity benefits amongst many another equality rights. The difference of this
book compared to different historians account which have been explored above,
is that it includes information about the Men’s Political Union for Women’s
Suffrage impact on helping gaining the vote also. It describes of one male
participant sliding up a pillar in a political conference to display a
suffragette banner above two authoritative cabinet ministers. The main
advantage to this title is the usage of pictures. This engages the reader
further and creates a visual snapshot at what is happening at the time.
However, readers may interpret pictures differently, which results in
misleading information.

Shoulder to Shoulder, by Midge Mackenzie7, (who
was a well-known film maker and writer during the period of the suffragettes
and partnered with the BBC to dramatise the fight for equality through a TV
series and book in 1974), covers the period of the 1890’s to 1919. It particularly
considers how the Pankhurst family influenced the suffrage movement such as:
Emmeline, Christabel, Sylvia and Richard Pankhurst, but does also give a
broader view of how the suffragettes helped gain the vote. Alike the book,
Before the vote was won, the book is formed of a range of excerpts from
speeches, diaries, letters, memoirs, photographs and cartoons from influential
bodies in the political fight. It however strengthens from being full of original
sources that help the reader visualise what happened by documenting pictures of
all the militant protests the suffragettes carried out such as; hunger, thirst
and sleep strikes, protests through the streets of downtown London and when
Emily Davison threw herself in front of the Kings horse at the Derby. It has
little commentary which can be seen as a disadvantage, as all readers may
interpret the events shown in a different way.

 

Before the vote was won: Arguments for
and against women’s suffrage by Jane Lewis8 is a
collection of articles, papers, speeches and pamphlets which document the
arguments of early suffragists in the period of 1864-1896 which is comprised
into a four-part series. It follows stories on women in the fight for the vote
such as Lydia Becker, Millicent Garret Fawcett and Elizabeth Wolstoneholme, and
portrays their battle against the never-ending hostility from male politicians
who firmly believed a woman’s place was to be at home and raise the children
through a range of sources. The book begins with the first proposal of Women’s enfranchisement
in the section, The Womens Journal in 1861, it also includes texts of the 1871
House of Commons debate on the Women’s Disabilities Bill and the 1892 Women’s
franchise bill. Another factor which makes this title an outstanding source on
how women won the vote is that it includes sources by those who opposed against
the suffrage leagues such as Mrs Humphry Ward, John Bright M.P. and Gladstone. Another
advantage of this source is that due to it focusing on the period before the
height of the Pankhurst family, it allows for other perspectives from other
political bodies in the fight for the vote to be heard by the reader, such as
Millicent Fawcett who was a political activist in women’s rights for 33 years.

However, this book only covers the
last three decades of the nineteenth century and it was another 26 years before
the vote was won, therefore the book leaves out key information about the
battle for the vote such as the militant, suffragettes and peaceful,
suffragists.

 

The
titles in this essay all use a wide variety of sources to help gain a
chronological idea of how suffrage women helped win the vote. The titles
include different methods in which women used for equality and even show how
men helped the suffrage. The titles also allow to see the views of the
opposition and what the women faced in their battle. However, it can be argued
that all the authors in this historiography essay are female, so therefore may
have a sympathetic attitude towards the suffragettes, painting a positive light
upon them in gaining the vote, therefore making them the sole reason for
gaining the vote and not considering ideas such as the suffragists or World War
1. The Books included in this essay cover the period from when the fight
started in 1832 and when it was won in 1928- therefore giving the retrospective
reader a whole and conclusive historiography of how women won the vote. However,
it is inevitable that, as time goes on and when more information comes to
light, new sources will change stories of the movement. However, as quoted by
Syliva Pankhurst,’ successive generations of historians would write and rewrite
the story of the movement but her book would, in nature of things, always
remain one of their major sources.’9