The Hundred Years’ War

1918 will see the anniversary of the granting of votes to women in England, which coincided with the end of WW1. This marked not just the end of the war fought in the trenches of Europe, but the end of the initial skirmishes between the sexes for women to be granted equal rights as citizens through the ballot box. The victory was only partial as full female enfranchisement was not to be granted until 1928. The role of WSPU suffragettes in that early struggle is embodied in the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst that now stands in Victoria Tower Gardens, adjacent to the Houses of Parliament.

Milicent Fawcett of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, known as suffragists, and Charlotte Despard of the Women’s Freedom League, also fought for female enfranchisement. Both ladies sought to achieve their aims through constitutional means and eschewed the militant tactics for which the suffragettes earned their reputation. Yet neither lady has been recognised with a statue in their honour.

Historians will continue to debate whether suffragette militancy helped or hindered the cause of female enfranchisement. Whatever view you hold, no one can doubt the courage of all the women who engaged in that struggle. As we approach the anniversary of this momentous achievement, we should remember and pay tribute to every one of them.

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