Because Winifred, the protagonist in A Hundred Tiny Threads is involved in the Suffragette movement, I researched the life of Millicent Fawcett. This was a woman of great courage. What follows is part of one of the talks I give to various groups:
The move for women to have the vote had really started in 1897 when Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage.
Millicent Fawcett believed in peaceful protest. She felt that any violence or trouble would persuade men that women could not be trusted to have the right to vote. Her game plan was patience and logical arguments. Fawcett argued that women could hold responsible posts in society such as sitting on school boards yet were not trusted to vote; she argued that if parliament made laws and if women had to obey those laws, then women should be part of the process of making those laws; she argued that as women had to pay taxes as men, they should have the same rights as men
And one of her most powerful arguments was that wealthy mistresses of large manors and estates employed gardeners, workmen and labourers who could vote……..but the women could not regardless of their wealth…..
However, Fawcett’s progress was very slow. She converted some of the members of the Labour Representation Committee (soon to be the Labour Party) but most men in Parliament believed that women simply would not understand how Parliament worked and therefore should not take part in the electoral process.
This left many women angry and in 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union (the WSPU) was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. They wanted women to have the right to vote and they were not prepared to wait. The Union became better known as the Suffragettes. Members of the Suffragettes were prepared to use violence to get what they wanted.
Dame Millicent Fawcett is to be the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Parliament Square, the prime minister has announced. The equal rights campaigner, who dedicated her life to getting the women’s vote, will stand alongside Sir Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.
Theresa May said Dame Millicent “continues to inspire the battle against the injustices of today. It is right and proper that she is honoured in Parliament Square alongside former leaders who changed our country. Her statue will stand as a reminder of how politics only has value if it works for everyone in society.”
The new statue will be funded using the £5m fund announced in last year’s spring Budget to celebrate this year’s centenary of the first British women to get the vote.
Dame Millicent died in 1929, a year after women were granted the vote on equal terms to men.
Dame Millicent’s legacy continues today through the women’s rights charity, the Fawcett Society.
Welcoming the announcement, chief executive Sam Smethers called it a, “fitting tribute. Her contribution was great but she has been overlooked and unrecognised until now. By honouring her we also honour the wider suffrage movement.”
The Fawcett Society: @fawcettsociety is the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights.
The Fawcett Society’s story begins with Millicent Fawcett, a suffragist and women’s rights campaigner who made it her lifetime’s work to secure women the right to vote.
At the age of 19, she organised signatures for the first petition for women’s suffrage, though she was too young to sign it herself. She became President of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (the NUWSS) from 1907-19. With 50,000 members it was the largest organisation agitating for female suffrage at the time. Her powerful and peaceful mass campaign was instrumental in securing the first extension of voting rights for women in 1918.
Millicent worked alongside the Suffragettes, who employed different, and more militant tactics in their campaign. From the beginning, Millicent took an interest in women’s empowerment in its broadest sense; the suffragette colours were green, white and violet which stood for Give Women Votes. The suffragist colours, by contrast, reflected their broader movement: green, white and red or Give Women Rights.
In 1913 she was awarded a brooch engraved with “For Steadfastness and Courage”, which The Fawcett Society still has today. Millicent Fawcett died in 1929, a year after women were finally given equal voting rights. Her work has continued ever since, with The London Society for Women’s Suffrage renamed as The Fawcett Society in her honour in 1953.
2018 marks 100 years since women first secured the right to vote, and Millicent Fawcett will be making history again. She’ll become the first woman commemorated with a statue in Parliament Square – a landmark moment for the wider suffrage movement, and for women everywhere.
She went on to lead the constitutional suffrage campaign and made this cause her lifetime’s work, securing equal voting rights 62 years later. Today they continue her legacy of fighting sexism and gender inequality through hard-hitting campaigns and impactful research. They believe in a society where no one is prevented from reaching their full potential because of their gender.
The Fawcett Society campaigns to:
Close the gender pay gap. Secure equal power. Challenge attitudes and change minds. Defend women’s rights post-Brexit. There must be no turning the clock back.
THEIR VISION: A society in which the choices you can make and the control you have over your life are no longer determined by your gender.
THEIR MISSION: We publish compelling research to educate, inform and lead the debate. We bring together politicians, academics, grassroots activists and wider civil society to develop innovative, practical solutions
They campaign with women and men to make change happen