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Christabel Harriette Pankhurst

Together with her mother, Emmeline, and sister, Sylvia, Christabel Pankhurst was one of the leaders of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain, fighting for votes for women. Emmeline and Christabel were the founders of the Women’s Social and Political Union, directing a campaign that included massed rallies, hunger strikes and physical action. In 1908 Christabel Pankhurst was sentenced to a period in Holloway prison and this recording is said to have been made a few hours after her release.

Transcript

The militant suffragettes who form the Women’s Social and Political Union are engaged in the attempt to win the parliamentary vote for the women of this country. Their claim is that those women who pay rates and taxes and fulfil the same qualifications as men voters shall be placed upon the parliamentary register.

The reasons why women should have the vote are obvious to every fair-minded person. The British constitution provides that taxation and representation shall go together. Therefore, women taxpayers are entitled to vote. Parliament deals with questions of vital interest to women, such as the education, housing and employment questions, and upon such matters women wish to express their opinions at the ballot box. The honour and safety of the country are in the hands of Parliament. Therefore, every patriotic and public-spirited woman wishes to take part in controlling the actions of our legislature.

For forty years this reasonable claim has been laid before Parliament in a quiet and patient manner. Meetings have been held and petitions signed in favour of votes for women, but failure has been the result. The reason of this failure is that women have not been able to bring pressure to bear upon the government and government moves only in response to pressure. Men got the vote not by persuading, but by alarming the legislature. Similar vigorous measures must be adopted by women. The excesses of men must be avoided, yet great determination must be shown.

The militant methods of the women of today are clearly thought out and vigorously pursued. They consist in protesting at public meetings and in marching to the House of Commons in procession. Repressive legislation makes protests at public meetings an offence, but imprisonment will not deter women from asking to vote. Deputations to Parliament involve arrest and imprisonment, yet more deputations will go to the House of Commons.

The present Liberal government profess to believe in democratic government, yet they refuse to carry out their principles in the case of women. They must be compelled by a united and determined women’s movement to do justice in this matter. Next session we demand the enactment of a women’s enfranchisement measure. We have waited too long for political justice. We refuse to wait any longer. The present government is approaching the end of its career. Therefore, time presses if women are to vote before the next general election. We are resolved that 1909 must, and shall, see the political enfranchisement of British women.

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