The suffragettes were of course individual women who each made their own contribution to the campaign for the vote. However, there are admirable features of them as a group. Here are the first 5 of 10 reasons why I love the suffragettes.
1. The Ipswich suffragettes were ordinary women, who got out there and campaigned to right a wrong.
By the early years of the twentieth century there had been some improvements for women in terms of their opportunities to be active in the world, but there was still an awful lot they couldn’t do. Most of the local suffragettes were middle-class, and their lives were largely spent within the home, or doing charitable works. It took a lot of courage to get out there in the streets and do radical politics.
2. They were very brave women.
In a small town like Ipswich, it’s not easy to make a stand against the customs of society. These women stood up in the streets with their banners and leaflets, and made speeches; they committed acts of civil disobedience without knowing what the outcome would be; they put up with heckling and, on more than one occasion, physical violence. It’s no fun having your head dunked in a horse trough by angry young men.
3. They formed a close, supportive group.
There were at least three suffrage organisations in Ipswich. Some campaigned only for constitutional change, others used much more militant methods. Although the methods of each group were different, they were all working towards the same goal – Votes for Women. They would where possible support each other’s actions. They educated themselves to act and dared to be courageous together.
4. They were idealistic.
For the suffragettes, having the vote was a passport to creating a better world. Having the vote was of course an issue of equality and justice for women, but they also felt that if they had a say in parliament they could create a more fair society – better wages for working women, an end to women’s sweated labour in the factories, children going hungry.
5. They brought enormous creativity to political campaigning.
The suffragettes had an eye for visual statements, and they used all their artistic and craft skills in the cause. Wonderful banners were created, posters too. They would decorate their platforms at public meetings, and created pageants of great women of the past. Others wrote and performed propaganda plays at Ipswich’s theatres, and they sang suffragette protest songs at every opportunity.