The real heroines of women’s suffrage

Millicent Fawcett
Millicent Fawcett
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One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.

Whether violence can be excused depends on the rightness of the cause and on the response by those in power to moderate protest.

Samuel Holberry, commemorated in the Peace Gardens cascades, was a dangerous revolutionary, but his Chartist demands seem mild and reasonable today.

The authorities’ rejection of them and suppression of protest look like oppressive dictatorship.

From the formation in Sheffield of Britain’s first organisation for female suffrage in 1851 to votes for women in 1918 was a long hard road.

Surely the cause was good, but campaigners were treated extremely harshly.

Adela Pankhurst, who based herself in Sheffield and never bombed anyone, was imprisoned and beaten merely for interrupting a Liberal party rally, and was later spared force feeding in prison only because she was too small.

It’s no surprise that some hotheads became militant.

The unpopular antics of the flamboyant Pankhursts’ WSPU may have done more harm than good, fuelling glib accusations of women’s emotionalism and irrationality, and making politicians less likely to make concessions, for fear of appearing soft on terrorism.

We should instead be honouring the moderate, democratic and non-sexist National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and their president Millicent Fawcett.

Their persistent lobbying and the political threat they created to the anti-suffrage Liberal leadership is most likely what won the day.

J Robin Hughes

Towngate Road, Worrall, Sheffield, S35