Talked Out! pamphlet

Description

On 8 March 1907, Liberal MP Willoughby H Dickinson introduced a Women’s Enfranchisement Bill to Parliament for its second reading. It would grant the vote to some women. Much to the anger and disappointment of suffrage campaigners, this private member’s bill was ‘talked out’ – a parliamentary procedure whereby opponents of a bill continue to debate beyond the time fixed for voting, so that no vote can be taken and the bill inevitably fails.

The debate on the Bill was the most serious on the subject of suffrage which had taken place in Parliament for many years and was extremely well-attended.[1] As a precaution against any militant activity by members of the WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union), the Ladies’ Gallery was kept closed and Parliament was guarded by policemen during the debate (see p. 2 of the pamphlet).

How did the suffrage campaigners gain support for the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill?

Suffrage campaigners worked hard to promote a private member’s bill for women’s suffrage and to bring it to the public’s attention. The NUWSS (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies) organised its first large-scale demonstration on 7 February 1907. Around 3000 women representing 40 organisations marched in torrential rain from Hyde Park Corner to Exeter Hall in what later became known as the Mud March.

Shortly after the Mud March, on 13 February some 400 members of the WSPU marched to the House of Commons to present a resolution condemning the omission of women’s suffrage from the king’s speech, which had been delivered the day before. Clashes with the police – who were violent towards the suffragettes – resulted in over 50 women being arrested.[2]

What does this ‘Talked Out’ pamphlet contain?

The pamphlet is a word-for-word report of a speech made by Israel Zangwill to the WSPU following the failure of the Dickinson Bill. It was a rousing speech in which he congratulated the suffragettes for bringing widespread public attention to their cause: although the Bill was defeated, the papers were full of the subject (p. 1).

Zangwill, who endorsed militancy, uses a stirring play on words to encourage the suffragettes:

The Bill has been talked out. And Woman is called the talking sex. The Bill has been talked out! Very well, we are here to talk it in again. They may talk it out, but your processions can walk it in. They may arrest you, but they cannot arrest your movement. (p. 2)

Arguing that the question of suffrage is the biggest political concern of the day, and that women should be recognised as ‘a political unit’ (p. 4), Zangwill recalls the passing of the 1871 Ballot Act when Prime Minister William Gladstone said that there was no reason why women should continue to be denied the vote (p. 5). Zangwill decries the fact that,

[w]omen unborn in 1871 have now got girls of their own, and if the women we see on this platform had not begun to wake things up, their granddaughters and great-granddaughters would probably be doomed to go on passing annual resolutions and awaiting the chivalry of their lords and masters. (p. 5)

What else can women do, he argues, than go to prison to bring home their message?

Zangwill challenges the anti-suffrage argument that women should be denied the vote on the basis that they are not called upon to fight in a war, pointing out that women have to pay war taxes. He criticises Mrs Humphry Ward, founding president of the Women's National Anti-suffrage League, retorting: ‘Is she satisfied to be classed legally with infants, paupers, lunatics, idiots and peers?’ (pp. 2–3)

Calling for unity among women in the fight for female suffrage, Zangwill ends his speech with an emotive declaration that ‘woman is bound to be emancipated; even woman herself cannot prevent it … No country is free while a single class is governed without representation’ (p. 7).

Who was Israel Zangwill?

Israel Zangwill (1864–1926) was a Jewish writer, pacifist and Zionist activist. He was a leading male figure in the women’s suffrage movement.

Footnotes

[1] Andrew Rosen, Rise Up, Women! (London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), p. 82.

[2] Rosen, p. 81.

Full title:
Talked Out! ... Being a verbatim report of the speech [on the defeat of the Woman's Suffrage Bill of 1907] at Exeter Hall, March 8th, 1907.
Published:
1907, London
Publisher:  
Women's Social & Political Union
Format:
Pamphlet
Creator:
Israel Zangwill
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
08415.f.14.(1.)

Full catalogue details

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