Andre Deutsch £18.99
Review: March, Women, March, By Lucinda Hawksley
The long (and bloody) road to suffrage
Sunday 23 June 2013
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.
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
The best movies on Netflix: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
Game of Thrones season 4 episode 2 breaks torrent record as fans watch online
The original Breaking Bad ending saw every character die
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'
Mrs Doubtfire 2: Robin Williams set to star in sequel to 1993 comedy
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
- 3 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 4 Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
- 5 Mrs Doubtfire 2: Robin Williams set to star in sequel to 1993 comedy