Suffragette  

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In 1914, suffragette Mary Richardson slashed the Rokeby Venus at the National Gallery, London

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The title of suffragette (also occasionally spelled suffraget) was given to members of the women's suffrage movement, originally in the United Kingdom. The word was originally coined to describe a more radical faction of the suffrage movement in the UK, mainly members of the WSPU (Women's Social and Political Union), headed by Emmeline Pankhurst. Suffragist is a more general term for members of the movement, whether radical or conservative, male or female. American women preferred this more inclusive title, but people in the United States who were hostile to suffrage for the American woman used the UK word - pejoratively so, since the feminine-sounding version could be dismissed more easily. In the UK, the term Suffragist is usually used to describe members of the NUWSS.

In Canada, this same issue was brought up but was quickly revised into the Canadian legislation as women's rights were gained. This gave the women more motivation to work in factories and wartime production during World War I.

The term suffragette comes from the word suffrage, which means the right to vote. Suffragettes carried out direct action such as chaining themselves to railings, setting fire to the contents of mailboxes, smashing windows and on occasions setting off bombs. One suffragette, Emily Davison, died after she stepped out in front of the King's horse at the Epsom Derby of 1913. Many of her fellow suffragettes were imprisoned and went on hunger strikes, during which they were restrained and forcibly fed (see Force-feeding) and had reached the height of their campaign by 1912.

The so-called Cat and Mouse Act was passed by the British government in an attempt to prevent suffragettes from obtaining public sympathy; it provided the release of those whose hunger strikes had brought them sickness, as well as their re-imprisonment once they had recovered.

Nevertheless, protests continued on both sides of the Atlantic. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns led a series of protests against the Wilson Administration in Washington that referred to "Kaiser Wilson" and compared the plight of the German people with that of American women (see picture).

During World War I, a serious shortage of able-bodied men ("manpower") occurred, and women were required to take on many of the traditional male roles. This led to a new view of what a woman was capable of doing. The war also caused a split in the British suffragette movement, with the mainstream, represented by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union, calling a 'ceasefire' in their campaign for the duration of the war, while more radical suffragettes, represented by Sylvia Pankhurst's Women's Suffrage Federation continued the struggle.

Political movement towards women's suffrage began during the war and in 1918, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed an act (the Representation of the People Act 1918) granting the vote to: women over the age of 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5, and graduates of British universities. The right to vote of American women was codified in the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. Finally, women in the United Kingdom achieved suffrage on the same terms as men in 1928.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Suffragette" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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