Biographies

Maud Arncliffe Sennett

Maud Arncliffe Sennett was born in 1862 and became interested in the women's suffrage movement in 1906. She was a member of a number of suffrage organisations including the Women's Freedom League (WFL) and the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU ).

Maud documented the suffrage campaign in a series of scrapbooks. Thirty seven volumes of her scrapbook were donated to the British Museum (and now belong to the British Library) by her husband after she died in 1936.

Herbert Asquith

Herbert Asquith was born in 1852. He became an MP for the Liberal party in 1886 and was both Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer before becoming Prime Minister in 1908.

While several leading parliamentary figures supported women's enfranchisement, Asquith strongly objected to it. This made him unpopular with both the NUWSS and the WSPU. Suffrage campaigners objected to the fact that, as Chancellor, he was able to decide how much tax women should pay while still denying them political representation.

Asquith held the position of Prime Minister until 1916. During this time, he introduced a variety of radical reforms and was often in conflict with the House of Lords. He died in 1928.

Emily Davison

Emily Davison was born in 1872 and, after studying at Oxford University, became a teacher. She joined the WSPU in 1906 and took part in militant action. Her actions included arson, assault and obstruction and while in prison she went on hunger strike and suffered force feeding and solitary confinement. After attempting suicide while in Holloway prison, Davison claimed she did so because she felt a 'tragedy was wanted'.

Davison is best remembered for her final protest, which caused her death. At the Epsom Derby in June 1913, she threw herself in front of the King's horse which knocked her down. She died of her injuries four days later without ever regaining consciousness. It is not known whether she intended to commit suicide.

Millicent Fawcett

Millicent Fawcett was born in 1847 and married the Liberal MP Henry Fawcett in 1867. She began a writing and speaking career - discussing women's education and women's suffrage among other issues. After the death of Lydia Becker, Fawcett emerged as the suffrage movement's leader and presided over a committee that eventually became the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in 1897. Fawcett found support amongst university women as well as many working class women who preferred the NUWSS's peaceful, legal campaigning methods.

Fawcett recognised the positive effect of the First World War on the suffrage campaign and encouraged campaigners to accept the compromise of women over 30 being enfranchised. She resigned as president of the NUWSS in 1919 but was still heavily involved with the organisation, rechristened as the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC). She campaigned for the legal profession to be opened to women, for example. She died in 1929.

Mary Humphrey Ward

Mary Humphrey Ward was born in 1851. She married Thomas Humphrey Ward, an academic, in 1872 and published her first book Millie and Olly in 1881. Her many subsequent books established her as one of Britain's most popular novelists.

In 1908, she was approached by anti-suffragists Lord Cromer and Lord Cromer and became the President of the Anti-Suffrage League. During the following years she played an important role in the campaign to prevent women being given the vote. Her autobiography A Writer's Recollections was published in 1918 and she died in 1920.

Kitty Marion

Katherine Schafer was born in Germany in 1871. Moving to London, she found work as a dancer in 1889 and adopted the name Kitty Marion. The vulnerability of women in the theatre profession was one of the factors that prompted Kitty to join the WSPU. She took part in a deputation to the Prime Minister Asquith in 1908 and was first arrested the following year. She was sentenced to a year's hard labour and went on hunger strike and was forcibly fed whilst in prison. She served seven prison terms in total, including three years for setting fire to the Grandstand at Hurst Park racecourse in 1913. She left Britain during WWI for a new life in America and died in New York in 1944.

Christabel Pankhurst

Christabel Pankhurst was born in 1880. Both her parents were passionate campaigners for women's suffrage. Christabel herself became actively involved in the suffrage movement in 1902 and helped to found the WSPU in 1903. 

Christabel was an energetic speaker in the early years of peaceful campaigning but began to feel that a confrontational approach was necessary if women's suffrage was to be won, particularly as it would raise public awareness of the cause. WSPU actions became increasingly more militant and, after 1912, arson and window-breaking replaced the more symbolic actions of earlier campaigns. At the outbreak of WWI, all suffragette activities were suspended and WSPU energies were directed towards helping the war effort.

Christabel was also editor of The Suffragette and stood for election in 1918 as a condidate for the Women's Party.

Her work in the campaign for women's suffrage was recognised in 1936 when she was made a DBE. She died in 1958.

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst was born in 1858 in Lancashire. Both her parents were advocates of equal suffrage for men and women. In 1878, Emmeline began to work for the women's suffrage movement and later met Dr. Richard Pankhurst, a radical lawyer and advocate for the suffrage cause. They married in December 1879.

On Richard's death in 1898, Emmeline took as job as a registrar of births and deaths. Her work exposed her to the tragic life stories of many working class women and her conviction grew that if society was to progress, women needed to be lifted out of their subordinate position. In 1903, Emmeline founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).

While the WSPU is known for its militant campaigning, the important part Emmeline took in the non-militant aspect of the campaign - travelling up and down the country speaking at rallies for women's suffrage - should not be forgotten.

On the outbreak of the WWI, Emmeline called a halt to militant activities and later openly declared the support of the WSPU for the government in the time of war. She supported subscription and campaigned for women to participate in war work.

Emmeline died in June 1928. The second Representation of the People Act became law in July that year and in 1930, the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin unveiled a statue of her, close to the Houses of Parliament, commemorating her lifetime's campaign.

Dora Thewlis

Dora Thewlis, a mill worker from Yorkshire, took part in a mission to break into the Houses of Parliament in March 1907. She was only 16 at the time. Newspapers became fascinated by Dora's story and her arrest. She appeared on the front page of the Daily Mirror and her story was followed, from day to day, by many other newspapers and magazines. Some days after her arrest, it was reported by the girl's parents that she had been brought up in an atmosphere of socialism and that they supported her actions, demanding that she received the same punishment as other suffragettes - imprisonment - despite her age.