A brief history of the Suffrage movement

Rosalyn Jackson examining sources at Bishopsgate Institute

This podcast aims to give a concise overview of the UK women’s struggle for suffrage in the 19th and 20th century. This podcast covers some of the background to the movement and explores two specific events in the Suffragette movement. It was recorded live at South Hill Park in June 2018.

Following our research at Bishopsgate Institute and Egham Museum we wanted to capture the rebellious spirit and bravery of these women.

Black Friday – 18th November 1910

In November 1910 Prime Minister Herbert Asquith refused to allow another reading of the suffrage bill. The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) organised a protest outside the House of Commons. The streets were lined with police and there were violent clashes between the suffragettes and the forces of law and order. Chaotic scenes lasted for six hours. Witnesses reported seeing suffragettes thrown to the ground and beaten. Some were sexually assaulted.   More than one hundred women and a handful  of men were arrested, but the charges against them were dropped the following day. The press coverage of ‘Black Friday’ – as it became known – was broadly sympathetic to the police. The inference that the suffragettes had intentionally tried to provoke trouble to get themselves arrested (and draw attention to their cause) led many outside the cause to view the suffrage movement with suspicion.

Epsom Derby – 4th June 1913

Emily Wilding Davison was an active and radical suffragette. She attended the Epsom Derby in 1913 wearing a scarf in suffragette colours. The Derby (first run in 1780) had traditionally been a royal event. In 1913 both King George V and Queen Mary attended. As the horses sped around the course Davison rushed forwards from the crowd  and was knocked down by the King’s horse. Unconscious and seriously injured she was taken to a local hospital where she died four days later.

The WSPU organised Emily Wilding Davison’s funeral, which was a large spectacle. 6,000 women marched through the streets and ten brass bands played. Davison quickly became a martyr for the suffragette  cause, although her exact intentions remain a mystery. Her commitment to the principle of votes for women was beyond question – but had she meant to sacrifice her life to achieve this political goal?

A brief history of women’s suffrage

Written, directed and produced by Rebecca Alloway with additional material from the cast. Devised and performance by Eleanor Bailey, Rosie Cunnew, Phoebe Jones, Bethany Monk-Lane and Georgina Stone.

The cast and creative behind this podcast episode