Suffragettes Forever! The Story of Women and Power, TV review: Punching against patriarchy


Will Dean@willydean
Thursday 26 February 2015 01:00

Preceding Wolf Hall – which itself preceded the last in the series of Jessica Hynes's Suffragette sitcom Up the Women – was historian Amanda Vickery's Suffragettes Forever! The Story of Women and Power.

Obviously, it's not too odd a trifecta. After all, what is the story of Henry VIII if not the tragedy of the patriarchy writ historically large? Henry remains the most famous of English kings because he was willing to pull the rug from under British Catholicism for the want of a son. He'd rather reform the entire Church than, say, change the rules on primogeniture and make Mary his heir. An act which would have saved us all – especially his first five wives – an awful lot of trouble.

Anyway, Vickery picked up the story of British women's battle for power not – as her opening scenes suggested with Emily Wilding Davison at Epsom – but back to a century or so after the death of Henry when the Leveller women provided "the first shout in a long campaign to get the British Parliament to listen to the voices of women".

We whizzed through the story of women in British public life – from the Duchess of Devonshire being lampooned for involving herself in politics through Mary Wollstonecraft and Hannah More – ending just as the Suffragettes began to move. It may have been brief but this was a fine post-Enlightenment history of the women punching against the patriarchy. A fight that continues, sadly (148 out of 650 MPs are women in 2015).

Vickery is a fine host, too, now on her fifth BBC2 series – and firmly in the mix with the BBC's roster of mainly bloke-based history presenters. And with tones not doused in RP, too. What a delight.

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