Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Books about Suffragettes

Inspired by Alice Hawkins, and yesterday's centenary anniversary of the 1918 representation of the people act that gave some women the vote I've (literally) dusted off my collection of books on the subject. I have a feeling that Martin Pugh's book about The Pankhursts may have been the first thing I ever bought from Amazon. I haven't read it yet.

Elizabeth Crawford's 'Art and Suffrage, A Biographical Dictionary of Suffrage Artists' is brand new, it arrived last week, and is excellent so far. The entries include places you can see the artists work, something I haven't really seen included before, but which is really helpful.

The virago book of Suffragettes, 'Votes For Women' edited by Joyce Marlowe was the first book on the subject I remember reading post university and is an excellent starting point for anyone looking to read a bit more about the subject. I used to have a remarkably handsome hardback copy, but it took up to much space and had to go. I remember loving Melanie Phillips 'The Ascent of Women' too, which I read at about the same time. Between the 2 books I actually started to retain detaills...

The March of the Women might actually have been a university text book, I can't really remember anything about it so I really ought to read it again. 'One Hand Tied Behind Us' by Jill Liddington  and Jill Norris was also really good, Liddington's 'Rebel Girls' was a reasonably recent charity shop find (which I got really excited about) and is yet to be read.

I haven't read Emmaline Pankhurst's 'My Own Story' either, she's quite a troubling character by contemporary standards and I have a feeling she might be a bit hard to stomach. Still, there's only one way to find out, and I really ought to get to grips with her.

I'm actually ashamed of not having read 'Women's Suffrage in Shetland', and intend to put that right directly. 'The Scottish Suffragettes' was a Christmas present and another one I'm looking forward to.

The obvious gap in this collection is something that deals specifically with Millicent Garret Fawcett and her circle, which included some remarkable women. When I was reading a lot about this (around about 2004/5, I think it started with wanting to win an argument) there wasn't anything much available. I've been looking at Elizabeth Crawford's 'Enterprising Women' which fits the bill, but would be very pleased if anyone has any other suggestions.

 I'm also wondering about getting an up to date general history. Some government papers relating to Suffragette history were only released in 2003, after a lot of the books I have were written. I find the arguments that spurred me to start reading in the first place still aren't won, not personally, and not in the much wider argument for equality. There's a lot to be said for going back to the beginning to understand exactly why the fight is so important, to take some comfort from the progress made, and to gain some inspiration from those pioneering, persistent, indomitable, women.


  1. I think Book Snob mentions a couple of recent non-fiction books about the Suffagettes though not specifically about Millicent Garret Fawcett:

    1. I was looking at Diane Atkinson's 'Rise Up Women', and also Jane Robinson's 'Hearts and Minds'. I think I'll wait for the latter to come out in paperback, the former might go on wish list for next Christmas. It's Millicent Garret Fawcett and her circle I really want to know more about, they were very involved in education for women and achieved some incredible things. It's a story that isn't told nearly as much as it might be.

  2. I've had Women's Suffrage in Shetland on my Amazon wish list for years - it sounded intriguing but I never actually got around to buying it. I'll be interested in hearing what you say about it, if you read it! Re Emmeline Pankhurst, yes quite a character, and can you imagine my surprise in discovering that Christabel Pankhurst died and is buried right here in Santa Monica, California? I have visited her grave.

    1. I'm almost sure I will read it (I'm in a bit of a reading slump at the moment) and shall report back. The Pankhurst's are fascinating, but troubling, and have overshadowed many other women in the movement which needs addressing. I can imagine your surprise, and to add to the oddity Leicestershires Police and crime commissioner is a Pankhurst descendent.