Last week we looked at the history and objectives of the feminist movement. This week we will be looking at three iconic females who were unparalleled in their importance to the movement. Each of these women dedicated their lives to empowering women and achieving equality so it is only right that their stories are told to the people of today.
The first feminist icon that we will be looking at is the British Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Born in 1858 this time period saw massive amounts of inequality between males and females, to the extent that women were unable to vote in elections. In response to this Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Franchise League to lobby for women to obtain the right to vote. After several years of inaction by politicians, she founded the organisation known as the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), a movement more direct and extreme in its methods of enacting change. Emmeline Pankhurst involved her children in the WSPU and each was constantly arrested for their involvement in different crimes. However, this did not dissuade the Pankhursts from their goal of getting women the vote, it only motivated them. These arrests would often lead to her hunger-striking and being force-fed violently. In 1913 the tragic death of a leading member of the WSPU occurred when Suffragette Emily Davidson was struck by the King’s horse in the Derby as she threw herself in front to protest the lack of action to give women the vote. The following year saw the start of World War One where Emmeline committed to helping with the war effort, wherein 1918 women were finally given the vote, although this was only for women over the age of 30. She went on to transform the WSPU into the Women’s Party, seeking to empower women and represent their issues with their newfound political ability. Mere weeks after her passing in 1928 the Representation of the People Act of 1928 was passed giving both Women and Men the right to vote at 21.
Emmeline is an iconic figure for feminism as she was the leading figure in achieving women’s suffrage and helping ensure women gained the right to vote. She founded the organisations that led to change across Britain, and although the methods used were often controversial at the time, they undoubtedly created the environment to allow change to occur.