Female Chartists

 

Chartism is often portrayed as a male-dominated movement. The Chartists demanded universal suffrage for men only and the main leaders were all male, but despite this, women played an important, often overlooked, role in furthering their cause. Some campaigned in support of The People’s Charter in its current form, while others such as Anne Knight campaigned to change the Charter itself to include the enfranchisement of women. Historian Dorothy Thompson wrote that Chartist women rarely spoke on public platforms, but that they 'presented banners, made and presented gifts to visiting speakers and invariably marched in the great processions usually at the head'.

Women also formed their own Chartist organisations. This newspaper article from the Caledonian Mercury, published in October 1842, reports on a meeting to discuss the formation of a Female Chartist Association. The article demonstrates the struggle that female Chartists such as Susanna Inge and Anne Walker faced from within the movement. It is reported that one Mr Cohen argued that a woman would be better suited as the ‘pride and ornament of “the domestic hearth", than in the political arena’.

Other Chartists, however, appear to have been more in favour of female participation in politics. RJ Richardson wrote a pamphlet entitled 'The Rights of Women', in which he advocated female suffrage, and author of The People’s Charter, William Lovett, claimed that he included provision for female suffrage in its first draft, but that it was dropped for fear that it would damage the success of the movement.

Taken from: Caledonian Mercury
Date: Monday, October 24, 1842
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board.
Shelfmark: Newspaper Archive, Colindale