Andre Deutsch £18.99

Review: March, Women, March, By Lucinda Hawksley

The long (and bloody) road to suffrage

In these days of exhortations to "check your privilege" before opining, it's easy to forget that only 100 years ago, the battles of feminism in Britain involved basic human rights. In 1918, the vote had been extended to cover all men over 21 (except prisoners), but despite more than a century of campaigning, only women over 30 who owned property could vote. It took until July 1928 for all adults over 21 to be enfranchised.

This book covers the period from the publication in 1792 of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women, in which she slated marriage as being legal prostitution for women, to that pivotal moment in 1928. It describes the major players in the long and sometimes bloody war, both women and men. John Stuart Mill disagreed with his politician father James, who thought that men voting for their daughters and wives was sufficient. The writer Caroline Sheridan married a violent man who, as the law decreed, took possession of all her earnings. She left him when his abuse became unbearable. He retaliated by accusing her of having an affair with the future Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, and denying her access to her sons. Her fight helped bring about changes in legislation that allowed women to have access to their children after separation and to keep their own earnings.

The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, relied on peaceful protest, while the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, advocated any means to attain women's suffrage. As disillusionment grew with Herbert Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister who reneged on his promises repeatedly, the WSPU resorted to stones and bombs.

Asquith condoned violence against protesters, and descriptions of police brutality and sexual assault on Black Friday, 18 November 1910, are shocking. The death of Emily Wilding Davison on the race track at Epsom shows the risks these women were willing to take. Many of both sexes were vehemently opposed to women's suffrage even before the WSPU's violence.

Hawksley livens the long, grim struggle with fascinating snippets. We learn that Marie Stopes, whose book Married Love advocated contraception and whose clinics made it available, wrote that "Catholics, Prussians, Jews and Russians are all a curse, or something worse", sent a signed book to Hitler, and fervently supported eugenics, to the extent that she disinherited her son because he became engaged to a girl who wore glasses and thus was not fit, in her (presumably 20-20-visioned) eyes, to reproduce.

Chapter headings would have been useful, but this is a well-written book. I wished for a volume two: feminism from 1928 to today.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week