In the United Kingdom today, local and European elections are taking place. I have never developed any great interest in politics on any level but today also marks the centenary of the day when Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested after leading a deputation, with a group of 200 suffragettes, to King George V at the gates of Buckingham Palace on 21 May 1914. Their aim was to protest against the treatment of suffragette prisoners and to demand the vote for women. So a small part of me feels that it is important to use the vote that Emmeline – and many other women – fought for 100 years ago.
In the incident on 21 May, more than 2,000 police were deployed to restrain demonstrators and nearly 60 arrests were made. Emmeline was, it has to be said, a remarkable woman who put all of her efforts into her cause.
Emmeline helped found the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903, a union which proved to be almost too militant for its own good. She actively led this group on many protests which were frequently followed by imprisonment and hunger strikes. Notoriously, the hunger strikes lead to force feeding of the women within the prisons. These graphic police tactics shocked many members of the public, offended by their use in a civilised society. It was later outlawed under the Cat and Mouse Act of 1913.
However, when World War 1 broke out in August 1914, Emmeline – like many Suffragettes – decided to turn her energies towards the war effort. A few years after the war, women were granted the right to vote and she lived to see the day. She died ten years later in 1928, still fighting for women’s rights. But how many women don’t use their vote? Does it matter that we don’t, after all the efforts of the Suffragettes?
I guess at least now we have the choice whether to vote or not.