The Fascinating (and sometimes terrible) Life of a Suffragette

What do Bickley Park School and Women’s Suffrage have in common?  Probably more than you might imagine.  For starters, we have the same colours – purple, white and green.  Secondly, both view 1918 as a significant date.  As we all know, Bickley was founded in 1918 while the Suffrage Movement began much earlier, in the eighteenth century, but its objectives were first realised in 1918 when SOME women were given the vote.  And thirdly, if you had ventured into school at lunch time on Tuesday 18th September (1918 Day) you would have found a march taking place around our grounds with some very vocal Suffragettes demanding ALL women be given the vote.  I’ve added two photographs of the ring leaders.

As it seems we have a number of Suffragettes in the school, I thought it would be interesting to find out more about this important movement and what it meant for the women of our country.

During the late 19th century, women were considered inferior in terms of having any say in political decisions.  They were supposed to stay at home and raise children, leaving the running of the country to men.  Shockingly, Queen Victoria boldly stated that the women’s rights movement was a ‘mad, wicked folly’.  Considering she was a powerful woman, leading the country, this is incredibly ironic!  Fortunately there were many women who disagreed and believed a true democracy should allow everyone a vote.  Before 1918, it was difficult to get support but, as women played such a crucial role in winning WWI, it became harder to ignore their role in society.

There is so much to write about the incredible struggle of these brave individuals, but I have a mountain of homework (thank you Mr Patel, Mr Hornby, Mr Dean and Mrs Evans!).  However, I highly recommend the National Geographic kids’ account as it is not too long, but gives lots of juicy detail, including facts about famous personalities like Emmeline Pankhurst, along with Emily Davison, who died trying to pin the suffragette colours to the King’s horse at Epsom (*  again see link below)

You might wonder why the life of a suffragette was terrible?  Well, they faced severe repercussions for their actions.  Many were arrested and mocked by the public, losing their jobs and their reputations. You would think this would deter them BUT NO: they went further, undertaking hunger strikes – an incredibly painful way to make a point!  Recently, as I tucked into a delicious Bickley lunch, I realised this must have been very difficult.   My Mum (yes, she’s still intent on ‘widening my reading repertoire’ as she calls it!) made me read about the Cat and Mouse Act, which was the government response to the hunger strikes.  If you’re interested (or if your Mum makes you!) you can find a link below *

After all the Suffragettes went through, I was quite amazed to discover that voting turnout in the UK is shockingly low.  In 2017, only 68.8% of the population bothered to vote. The worst offenders are my generation (well, those who are a little older and can actually vote! 18-24 year olds) So, my suggestion for this blog is to find out more about the voting process * and when you reach the golden age of 18, make sure you don’t take it for granted, as the price paid for this important right was very high indeed!  Personally, I can’t wait to have my say and until then… well there’s always this blog!

* Some super sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3eGgyD27jgHistories  a great newsround, two minute summation of the Suffragette movement

https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/history/general-history/suffragettes-facts/  detailed and easy to understand.  Highly recommended.

https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/the-role-of-british-women-in-the-twentieth-century/cat-and-mouse-act/ – Cat and Mouse Act explained

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN0qP0vRqVE – a very short animated clip explaining how elections and voting works in the UK