Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Sister Suffragette"

Have you ever heard of Emmeline Pankhurst?

No?  Well, my history textbooks didn't mention her, either, but that's not surprising.  Women weren't usually mentioned in my history classes, back in the 1940s and 1950s, unless as the "wife of" -- a king or a president, maybe.  But if you've ever seen the 1964 movie "Mary Poppins," you've at least heard the name "Missus Pankhurst," as the song writer called her.  Let me refresh your memory with this short clip, and then I'll tell you the story of Emmaline Pankhurst.

"Well done"? Okay, eventually women did get the right to vote (in 1920 in the United States). But was it worth all the pain and suffering?  (If the video quits working, click here.)  Take a look at this photo of "the militant campaigner for women's suffrage, Emmeline Pankhurst, being arrested outside Buckingham Palace, London, May 1914."

The blurb I read added, "A short time previously she had been released from prison after serving less than a year of a three-year sentence for a series of arson attacks in 1913." That guy carrying her doesn't look like a Bobby to me. His hat and uniform look more like military. As I studied this photo, I went from thinking the man in the middle was yelling at her, to wondering if he's trying to tell the big fellow that he is HURTING the woman. Look at her face. Her pain is even more evident in the photo below, which seems to be the untouched-up original. I'm pretty sure you can enlarge the photo ABOVE by clicking on it.

I can't help but wonder if he is breaking some of her ribs, carrying her that way.  I wanted to know more about this interesting woman, who went right back into the fray even though she had spent most of a year jailed for her activism.  I know that I am not that brave.  Wikipedia has a very long article about her, beginning with this:
Emmeline Pankhurst (née Goulden; 15 July 1858 – 14 June 1928) was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement, which won women the right to vote. In 1999, Time named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating: "she shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back."
As part of the Women Unbound reading challenge, I've been reading a lot about women fighting for their rights.  About a hundred years ago, Emmeline Pankhurst was doing all she could to gain the vote for women.  The period from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, when women in England and the United States were trying to get voting rights, is considered the "first wave" of feminism.  Wikipedia has this definition of the word:
"The term feminism can be used to describe a political, cultural, or economic movement aimed at establishing equal rights and legal protection for women."
The "second wave" began in the early 1960s and lasted through the late 1980s.  Some scholars say the second wave continues to exist alongside the "third wave" of feminism, which has already begun.  I was called a Women's Libber during the "second wave" because I dared to speak up about sexism and the fact that women made less than men for doing the same work and could be told with impunity, "We don't hire women to do that."  It didn't matter if women could do the job, maybe even better than the man hired.  We were told, "Men have to support their families."

My question for this week is, Was the fight worth it?  I ask because when women got the right to vote, most of them (I've read) voted the way their husbands did.  I don't think that is necessarily the case today, but after the pain "Missus Pankhurst" went through, don't you think we ought to take advantage of our right to vote?  Why do so many stay home on voting days, especially if the weather isn't perfect?  So I ask, Was it worth it?

Read more about Emmeline Pankhurst by clicking on her name.

UPDATE:  I have found a BBC News photo of this event, taken from a different angle!



Helen's Book Blog said...

I have heard of Emiline Pankhurst because I watched the PBS series "Shoulder to Shoulder", which was so well done. It had photos, footage, history and stories of the fights, the arrests, the hunger strikes. I was so moved by the show and have voted in every election since I turned 18. I've also been involved in political campaigns, protests, etc.

Why don't more people (not just women) vote? I wish I knew the answer. I think they feel their one vote won't make a difference, but of course, it does and it is so important! Voting is what makes democracies work!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

UPDATE: I have found a BBC News photo of this event, taken from a different angle! And I've posted it at the bottom of this post.

CJ said...

Was it worth it? Bonnie, you ask some very interesting questions...

The right to vote is definitely worth it but we, at least in America, have not measured up to the right. Too many of us don't see it as the sacred right that it is and too many of us can't be bothered to vote.

Women's lib, on the other hand, is a different story. Don't get me wrong, I'm a woman doing a job that is still thought of mostly as a man's job (law enforcement). I was the first female officer in three counties back in 1983 and I'm proud of the job I've done.

However, when I see the attitudes of today's 20 somethings, I don't think feminism did us any favors. The women I deal with on campus have no idea of the fight that has gone on before them and they use the rights others have gained for them as an excuse to be completely self-centered and self-indulgent. I'm left to wonder what it was I fought so hard for.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

CJ, that's a sad indictment on the young women you run across. But I don't think we can blame it on women's liberation. I say we should blame the parents of those girls.

Helen, you are proof that the suffragettes succeeded, because you have voted in every election since you turned 18. Thank you. I believe Emmeline Pankhurst would be pleased with that, and also with your willingness to protest wrongs.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

CJ, I meant to add that the women's libbers of the "second wave" did YOU a very big favor. There is no way you could have had your job back in the 1950s and 1960s. So thank the women who protested during that time. And I thank you for the job you do. (Do you want to tell my readers what you do?)

CJ said...

Bonnie -

I fully realize I owe a debt to those women who fought for women's rights before me. All women do but I don't necessarily agree with everything they did or achieved.

I am a public safety officer at a small university in Michigan. It's not a dangerous job, most of the time, but I have been assaulted on the job. I mostly deal with drunk college kids doing stupid things with an utter sense of entitlement that is dumbfounding to me. I routinely hear things like - It's college, I have a right to drink. No, you don't. You're only 18 and the federal government, the state government, the local government, and the university all say you can't. *sigh*

As for the young women of today - yes, a lot of it falls back onto their parents but not all of it. These girls have been sold the myth freedom for a woman means a total lack of morals and responsibility. They've been told that getting drunk and indulging in whorish behavior is their right. I don't think it's only their parents telling them that.

Freedom comes with responsibilities but I rarely see that understanding anymore.

Not to get into an extended debate over it, but to clarify my thoughts. I don't think that kind of 'liberation' has done us much good.

As for those I should thank, I choose to thank the ones before me who put on the uniform, filed lawsuits, and put up with the crap from their male counterparts in order to do the job 25 and 30 years ago. They paved the way and I am truly grateful to them.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

Thank you, CJ, for expanding your comments. I already knew you are a public safety officer, but I wasn't sure how much you say on other blogs. That's why I thanked you for what you do. And I can see you've given this a lot of thought.

Marcos said...

I am both ashamed and proud to say that the man in the centre of the photograph in the straw boater hat was my great uncle Percival Park. He was a plain clothes police officer at a time when such officers were few in number. Family history also shows he once was body guard to the King.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Thanks, Marcos. Do you have any information about what may have been happening when this photo was taken?

Unknown said...

Just came accross this interesting post about the arrest of Mrs Bankhurst outside Buckingham Palace on May 1914. So glad that Marcos has identified figure in straw boiater as his great uncle Percival Park. Somewhere I cam accross the name of the photographer who took the shot but now cant find him. Love to hear if anyone knows..the other interesting item is that the arresting police officer in the photo died of a heart attack only a week or so later. We recently acquired an original print which is going on show at our Museum in July 2014

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Terence, when you said "our Museum," I wondered which one that would be. I clicked on your name and discovered you are Curator of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, which I presume is in London since the map shows London. I hope you'll tell us about the original print and anything else you learn about this photo or the people in it.

Unknown said...

Hi Bonnie thanks for your reply..yes my colleague's display entitled Deeds Not Words is opening at the National Portrait gallery in London in July, primarily to showcase an amazing recently acquired painting of Christabel Pankhurst by Ethel King which was first exhibited in 1909. Still not discovered name of photographer who took Pankhurst arrest photo but discovered a bit more about the arresting officer who died in July 1914 aged only 45. More to be discovered!