The March of the Women: A Revisionist Analysis of the Campaign for Women's Suffrage, 1866-1914

The March of the Women: A Revisionist Analysis of the Campaign for Women's Suffrage, 1866-1914

The March of the Women: A Revisionist Analysis of the Campaign for Women's Suffrage, 1866-1914

The March of the Women: A Revisionist Analysis of the Campaign for Women's Suffrage, 1866-1914

Synopsis

This book is the first comprehensive analysis of the campaign for women's suffrage to appear for over thirty years. It challenges the conventional chronology of the subject by arguing that the Victorian suffragists did not undergo a decline during the 1890s but, on the contrary, hadeffectively won the argument about votes for women by 1900. This view is supported by evidence of the ineffectiveness of Anti-Suffragism, and especially the difficulties it encountered in trying to reconcile female Antis, who were often feminists, with male Antis, who opposed all forms ofemancipation. The author adds a new dimension to the argument by discussing the beneficial impact on the British campaign of women's enfranchisement in New Zealand in 1893, and in Australia in 1902; and he shows how crucial to the shift towards suffragist support in parliament were Conservativemoves in favour of suffragism in the 1890s. The March of the Women also offers a fresh evaluation of the Edwardian militant campaign. At grass roots level divisions over tactics mattered less than among the London leadership, and suffragette groups were less rigidly divided. It places the Pankhursts and the WSPU in a fresh light byexamining their success in raising funds and in tapping the support of the British Establishment, at the same time attacking it and its values; while at the other end of the spectrum non-militants were making an important contribution to the cause by capitalising on working-class and Labour supportfor women's suffrage.

Excerpt

NOT since 1967 when Constance Rover’s Women’s Suffrage and Party Politics in Britain was published has there been an attempt to assess the entire campaign to secure the parliamentary vote for women. Since 1967 a great deal of primary material has become available and a number of studies of specific aspects of the movement have helped to change our perspective on the cause. However, in view of the importance of the subject and the popular interest it still engenders, it cannot be said that a great deal has been published. Several aspects of the topic remain neglected, and the treatment of it seems unbalanced in many ways. Some authors continue to approach it by attacking the straw men of the past—that is the accounts written by George Dangerfield in The Strange Death of Liberal England as long ago as 1935, and by Roger Fulford in Votes for Women as long ago as 1957, neither of which were, in fact, based on primary source material. It is easy to criticize such works, but this is to avoid the real issues involved in an analysis of the campaign.

Received impressions about the centrality of the Pankhursts took a dent when Andrew Rosen‘s Rise Up Women! The Militant Campaign of the Women’s Social and Political Union, 1903–1914 (197’4) appeared. Indeed, much subsequent work has in effect modified the original interpretation bequeathed by the Pankhurst family. The marginalization from which the non-militant suffragists had suffered began to be revised first by Lesley Parker Hume’s The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, 1897–1914 (1982) and then by Sandra Stanley Holton’s Feminism and Democracy: Women’s Suffrage and Reform Politics in Britain, 1900–1918 (1986). We now have a far clearer picture of the ideas of the non-militants as a result of the valuable revisionist biography by D. W. Rubinstein, A Different World for Women: The Life of Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1991); the non-militants have also been brought into focus by June Hannam, Isabella Ford (1989); Jill Liddington, The Life and Times of a Respectable Rebel: Selina Cooper (1984); Barbara Caine, Victorian Feminists (1992), which includes the important but neglected Frances Power Cobbe; and Brian Harrison, Prudent Revolutionaries (1987). As a result of Olive Banks’s Becoming a Feminist: The Social Origins of First Wave Feminism (1986), it is now possible to generalize about the kinds of political and social factors that lay behind the movement. Patricia Hollis in Ladies Elect: Women in English Local Government (1987) . . .

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