Suffragette is a term originally coined by the "Daily Mail" newspaper as a derogatory label for the more radical and militant members of the late-19th and early-20th century movement for women's suffrage in the United Kingdom, in particular members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). However, after former and then active members of the movement began to adopt it, the term became a label without negative connotations. It derives from the word "suffrage", meaning the right to vote.

Suffragist is a more general term for members of suffrage movements, whether radical or conservative, male or female. American campaigners preferred this more inclusive title, while those Americans hostile to women's suffrage used "suffragette" as a pejorative, emphasizing its feminine "-ette" ending.Fact|date=September 2008 In Britain, "suffragist" is generally used solely to identify members of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

Origins of women's suffrage movements

The woman's suffrage movement was one primarily run by working-class women. These women were frustrated by their social and economic situation and sought for an outlet through which to initiate change. Their struggles for change within society, along with the work of such advocates for women’s rights as John Stuart Mill, were enough to spearhead a movement that would encompass mass groups of women fighting for suffrage. Mill had first brought the idea of women’s suffrage up in the platform he presented to British electors in 1865. [Rover, C. "Women’s Suffrage and Party Politics in Britain", University of Toronto Press, 1967, page 5.] He would later be joined by numerous men and women fighting for the same cause.

New Zealand was the first self-governing country in the world to grant women the vote. In 1893, all women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in parliamentary elections. [New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. [ New Zealand women and the vote] . New Zealand History online. Retrieved on: January 6, 2008.]

Early 20th-century suffrage movements

Suffragettes carried out direct action such as chaining themselves to railings, setting fire to mailbox contents, smashing windows and on occasions setting off bombs. One suffragette, Emily Davison, died after she stepped out in front of the King's horse, Anmer, at the Epsom Derby of 1913. Many of her fellow suffragettes were imprisoned and went on hunger strikes, during which they were restrained and forcibly fed and had reached the height of their campaign by 1912.

The so-called Cat and Mouse Act was passed by the British government to prevent suffragettes from obtaining public sympathy; it provided the release of those whose hunger strikes had brought them sickness, as well as their re-imprisonment once they had recovered.

Nevertheless, protests continued on both sides of the Atlantic. Alice Paul and Lucy Burns led a series of protests against the Wilson Administration in Washington that referred to "Kaiser Wilson" and compared the plight of the German people with that of American women (see picture).

During World War I, a serious shortage of able-bodied men ("manpower") occurred, and women were required to take on many of the traditional male roles. This led to a new view of what a woman was capable of doing. The war also caused a split in the British suffragette movement, with the mainstream, represented by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union, calling a 'ceasefire' in their campaign for the duration of the war, while more radical suffragettes, represented by Sylvia Pankhurst's Women's Suffrage Federation continued the struggle.

Political movement towards women's suffrage began during the war and in 1918, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed an act (the Representation of the People Act 1918) granting the vote to: women over the age of 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5, and graduates of British universities. The right to vote of American women was codified in the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1920. Finally, women in the United Kingdom achieved suffrage on the same terms as men in 1928.

See also

*Canadian Women's Suffrage Association
*List of suffragists and suffragettes
*Sister Suffragette
*Women's Social and Political Union
*Women's suffrage
*Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom

American and British campaigners for women's suffrage

* Susan B. Anthony
* Rosa May Billinghurst
* Emily Wilding Davison
* Millicent Fawcett
* Jane Ellen Harrison
* Annie Kenney ( [] )
* Grace Kimmins
* Christabel Pankhurst
* Emmeline Pankhurst
* Sylvia Pankhurst
* Frances Parker
* Alice Paul
* Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

New Zealand suffragettes

* Kate Sheppard
* Kate Smith



* "Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary" (New York: Merriam Webster, 1983) ISBN 0-87779-511-8
* [ Suffragettes versus Suffragists] - website comparing aims and methods of Women’s Social and Political Union (Suffragettes) to National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (Suffragists)
* [ Suffragists vs. Suffragettes] - brief article outlining origins of term "suffragette", usage of term and links to other sources.
* Melanie Phillips. "The Ascent of Woman: A History of the Suffragette Movement".

External links

* [ The struggle for democracy] Visit the British Library learning resource pages to discover more about the suffragette movement
* [ Exploring 20th century London - Women's Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U.)] Objects and photographs including hunger strike medal's given to activists.
* [ Edwardian Emporium] page with a curious gallery of Suffragette supporters' pin-badges.

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  • suffragette — [ syfraʒɛt ] n. f. • 1907; mot angl. (1906); de suffrage ♦ Hist. Femme qui, en Angleterre, militait pour le droit de vote féminin, avant la modification de la loi électorale. ⇒aussi féministe. ● suffragette nom féminin (anglais suffragette, de …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Suffragette — Sf Frauenrechtlerin erw. obs. (20. Jh.) Entlehnung. Entlehnt aus frz. suffragette, dieses aus ne. suffragette, eigentlich Wahlrechtskämpferin , zu ne. suffrage Wahlstimme , dieses aus l. suffrāgium n. Stimme, Abstimmung .    Ebenso nndl.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Suffragette — Suf fra*gette n. A woman who advocates the right to vote for women; a woman suffragist. Note: This term was applied mostly to women in the United States prior to the adoption of the 19th amendment to the constitution in 1920, giving women the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • suffragette — female supporter of the cause of women s voting rights, 1906, from SUFFRAGE (Cf. suffrage), with Fr. fem. ending in vogue at the time. Earlier (without reference to sex) suffragist (1822) advocate of extension of the political franchise in… …   Etymology dictionary

  • suffragette — ► NOUN historical ▪ a woman seeking the right to vote through organized protest …   English terms dictionary

  • suffragette — [suf΄rə jet′] n. [< SUFFRAGE + ETTE] a woman who militantly advocates the right of women to vote: this term is objected to by some, who prefer suffragist suffragettism n …   English World dictionary

  • Suffragette — Suf|fra|gẹt|te auch: Suff|ra|gẹt|te 〈f. 19; in England u. Amerika 1903 1914〉 Verfechterin der Frauenrechte, bes. des Stimmrechts [zu lat. suffragium „Stimmrecht“] * * * Suf|f|ra|gẹt|te, die; , n [(frz. suffragette <) engl. suffragette, zu:… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Suffragette — Droit de vote Généralités Démocratie · Dépouillement · Droits civiques · Élection · Système électoral · Vote Typologies Suffrages : capacitaire · censitaire · universel Votes  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Suffragette — Suf|fra|get|te die; , n unter Einfluss von fr. suffragette aus gleichbed. engl. suffragette zu suffrage »(Wahl)stimme«, dies aus lat. suffragium, vgl. ↑Suffragan>: a) radikale Frauenrechtlerin in Großbritannien vor 1914; b) (veraltet… …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • suffragette — [[t]sʌ̱frəʤe̱t[/t]] suffragettes N COUNT In the early twentieth century in Britain, a suffragette was a woman who was involved in the campaign for women to have the right to vote. She was a suffragette and a birth control pioneer. Syn: suffragist …   English dictionary