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What is the Difference Between a Suffragist and a Suffragette?

By Yann, published on 17/08/2019 Blog > Academia > History > Finding the Difference Between a Suffragist and Suffragette

“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.” -Susan B. Anthony 

In the past, many injustices have robbed certain women and minorities of their dignity and rights as human beings living on planet earth.

Women did not always have the respect and authorisation that they deserved; women all over the world could not vote or be involved in political parties.

Thankfully times have changed, and women are viewed as equals. Nevertheless, we will consider some information about a critical movement known as the suffrage and the overall difference between suffragists and suffragettes. 

Background Information About the Suffrage Era

The 20th century was marked by many historical events that forever changed the face of history. Mankind learned many valuable lessons from past events such as World War One, World War Two, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Great Depression, the Russian Revolution, and the First Man on the Moon.

Also, it is essential to state that the 20th century wouldn’t have been the same without the suffragette movement. 

What is the suffrage movement?

The suffrage movement, aka woman suffrage, was the struggle for the right of women to vote and run for office. The suffrage movement is part of the overall women’s movement that occurred in countries all around the world; most notably the United States and the UK. Many women formed organisations to join forces and fight for women’s suffrage.

In 1888, the first women’s rights organisation was formed and was known as the Council of Women (ICW). 

Nevertheless, after some years, women’s rights became more of a hot topic. Women’s groups focused more on the suffrage movement leading to the British women-only movement founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst and known as the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The WSPU engaged in direct action and civil disobedience, which sparked many controversies that made headlines and incited change.

The suffrage era was marked by many unfortunate events: taunting politicians, trying to storm parliament in the UK, setting bombs to damage property, and ridicule in the media.

Some of the suffragette movement’s key characters include the Pankhurst sisters (Emmeline, Christabel, and Sylvia), Emily Davison, and Charlotte Despard.

It is essential to state that the suffragette movement was suspended in 1914 due to the First World War. Nevertheless, that did not mean that the fight was over, in 1918 and 1928 significant victories were made to have women vote and earn the same equal rights as men.

What is a Suffragist?

the best fighters Millicent Fawcett fought tirelessly for women’s rights. (Source: pixabay)

Like every political movement to spark change, there are always notable groups of people that express distaste and make an effort to improve the situation. Some do so as if they are silent warriors, while others outspokenness wins the hearts of listeners who earnestly want to help those who want to make a difference.

Who were the earliest pioneers of the suffrage movement? 

Without a doubt, there have been many prominent figures and groups of people who fought for the rights of women in the 19th and 20th century. However, those who spoke out the loudest during the early stages of the suffrage movement are known as the suffragists.

The suffragists were a group of women who organised a petition saying that all women should have the same rights as men and gathered over 1500 signatures. To receive further recognition and widespread visibility, the women approached certain men of power, two MPs known as Henry Fawcett and John Stuart Mill.

Mill and Fawcett supported the suffrage movement and aided the suffragists in any way possible. Consequently, Mill drafted an amendment to the Second Reform Bill that would give women the right to vote and the same political advantages as men. Although the change was presented in 1867, a year after the signatures were handed in, parliament rejected the adjustment to the Bill, and it was defeated 196 to 73 votes.

After their defeat in parliament, the suffragists were not ready to give up, they continued to put up a fight, and additional women from all walks of life became involved. For example, the London Society for Women’s Suffrage was formed and, after some years, in 1897 the women’s rights groups took action and formed the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) that was lead by Millicent Fawcett, the wife of MP Henry Fawcett.

It is essential to state that many women involved in the early stages of the suffrage movement, the suffragists, took a moderate line regarding women’s rights, but they were tireless campaigners who earnestly wanted to observe changes. 

The main difference between a suffragist and a suffragette is the fact that the suffragists adopted a more peaceful and non-confrontational approach to try to win the popular vote and change women’s rights. However, since the suffragists believed in changing people’s opinions by displaying a respectable manner and explaining things through logical arguments and cold-hard facts, they failed to shape history for women in the late 19th century.

What is a Suffragette?

Fighting for women's rights The suffragettes were involved in many protests that at times turned violent. (Source: pixabay)

After the failed attempts of the suffragists in the last few decades of the 19th century, the suffragettes emerged in the early 20th century and demanded change.

A women’s right to vote would become a reality! 

As was pointed out in the previous subheading, many other female observers who wanted to incite change believed that the suffragists’ methods were too “dutiful” or “civil”; therefore, popular belief was that more militant and aggressive methods were needed to see results in the suffrage movement.

The motto “Deeds not Words” was adopted by the brave, bold, and fearless suffragettes.

A significant change began to occur in Manchester, England in 1903 when Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Sylvia and Christabel founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Pankhurst’s movement was especially useful because it began to include working-class women all over the country.

During the years leading up to the First World War in 1914, the suffragettes wanted to be heard and wanted their well-deserved petitions to become a reality; therefore, the WSPU became militant and were involved in events such as chaining themselves to railings, disrupting public meetings, and vandalising public property.

Since the suffragettes were so bold and present, they were often arrested and imprisoned. For example, Emmeline Pankhurst was jailed and released 11 times.

Other suffragette groups such as the WFL did not appreciate the tactics of the WSPU and preferred more peaceful yet direct lawbreaking such as blatantly displaying their distrust and frustration towards the government by refusing to pay taxes, to complete the census, and frequently participate in demonstrations.

Although there were distinct suffragettes groups in the first decade of the 20th century, they were united in one thing: wanting to earn rights for women. 

The suffragettes printed many news articles each week to encourage other women to join the fight and openly display their frustrations towards the government’s refusal to grant them equal rights.

All in all, the suffragettes differ from the suffragists since their approach was much more assertive, pushy, and forceful. Nevertheless, it is essential to state that the suffragette’s continuous efforts were not in vain since, after WWI, in 1918, certain women were granted the right to vote freely.

Interesting Facts About the Suffragette Movement

voting powers Vatican City remains the only country in the world were women’s suffrage is still restricted. (Source: Unsplash)

While many may believe that the suffragist movement mainly took place in the late 19th century and early 20th century in England, there are many intriguing facts that display that it was so much more.

The suffrage movement took place around the world and was not only during the late 1800s early 1900s. 

Without further delay, the following are some exciting aspects of the suffrage movement:

  • In 2015, Saudi Arabia finally gave women the right to vote, making Vatican City the only place in the world where women’s suffrage has been denied; some areas take more time than others!
  • In the United States of America, Mississippi became the last state to approve the right for women to vote in 1984.
  • In 1979, the United Nations named women’s suffrage or women’s right to vote or women’s equality an absolute human right that all nations should accept and honour.
  • Avant-garde Finland became the first European country to grant the right to vote to women in 1906. Also, Finland was the first country to allow women to take office in parliament.
  • Were you under the impression that all suffragists were women or that all anti-suffragists were men? If so, you were much mistaken. It is essential to mention that numerous men were committed to suffragists and helped them earn their right. Also, various anti-suffragists include prominent women in the 19th century who expressed their distaste for the suffrage movement.

The previously mentioned facts keep the suffrage movement intriguing and worthy of study.

Definitions For Suffragists and Suffragettes

If while reading this article, you read specific terms that you didn’t quite understand, you’re not alone. Since the suffrage era was a political movement that predominantly took place many decades ago, there are specific policies and vocabulary words that need to be correctly defined.

What is the Second Reform Bill?

The Second Reform Act was a piece of British legislation that allowed the vote for working-class men in England and Wales for the first time.

What is involved in civil disobedience? 

When a person is involved in civil disobedience, they rebel and refuse to listen to specific laws that have been established by a government or international power. Civil disobedience is non-violent and may involve peaceful protests or nonviolent resistance.

Understanding the roles of suffragists and suffragettes is essential to garnering respect for the women who fought hard to make the world a better and more equal place.

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