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The faces of freedom: Fascinating pictures show the leaders of the suffragette movement who won women the vote 100 years ago (22 Pics)

The first mass petition backing votes for women was presented to Parliament in 1866, but it took a further 52 years filled with struggle and protest for women to finally get the vote.

On February 6, 1918, the law changed to allow women over 30 with property to vote, and in 1928 women finally gained equal voting rights with men.

A year later, Nancy Astor became the first female MP to take her seat in the House of Commons in December 1919. 

Now, 100 years later, there are 208 female MPs, a record number set in the 2017 election.  
These rights, which we now consider fundamental, were fought for by a number of courageous women who risked their lives for the cause - and sometimes lost them. 
While suffragists used peaceful methods to achieve women's suffrage, the suffragettes employed more militant tactics in their campaign.

Over the years more than 1,300 suffragette were arrested according to figures from the England Suffragettes Arrested, 1906-1914 collection.

Many went on to be jailed, including leader Emmeline Pankhurst.

As a founder member of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), Pankhurst was sentenced to repeated stretches in prison as a result of her militant activity. 


Emmeline Pankhurst : One of the best-known founding members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), she oversaw the group from its non-violent beginnings but later advocated for direct action as a tactic for gaining the vote. 


Sylvia Pankhurst: One of Emmeline Pankhurst's three daughters, she worked full time for the WSPU, which was founded by her sister Christabel and her mother. She was a trained artist and designed many of the group's posters, leaflets and logos


The suffragette and educational reformer Dame Millicent Fawcett addressing a meeting in Hyde Park in 1913. She led the biggest suffrage organisation, the non-violent NUWSS from 1890-1919 and played a key role in gaining women the vote. She helped to found Newnham College, Cambridge. She also engaged in other political activities such as supporting worker rights. She was in parliament when it equalised the voting age in 1928, and wrote: 'It is almost exactly 61 years ago since I heard John Stuart Mill introduce his suffrage amendment to the Reform Bill on May 20th, 1867. So I have had extraordinary good luck in having seen the struggle from the beginning.' She died the following year, on August 51929


Christabel 
Adela Pankhurst : Emmeline's two other daughters also fought for women's right to vote. Christabel and her mother led the WSPU but Adela and her sister Sylvia,above, both socialists, ended up being expelled from the party.  In 1905 Christabel was arrested and, along with fellow suffragist Annie Kenney went to prison rather than pay a fine as punishment for their outburst. Their case gained much media interest and the ranks of the WSPU swelled following their trial.  Adela moved to Austalia and was co-founder of both the Communist Party of Australia and the Australia First Movement

Emily Davison: Best known as the suffragette who was fatally injured at Epsom racecourse by the king's horse, Davison had a reputation as one of the most daring champions of direct action in the WSPU. She was arrested and force-fed dozens of times, admitted setting fire to postboxes, and hid within the Palace of Westminster several times, perhaps most famously in a cupboard on the night of the 1911 census in an attempt to boycott it. Tony Benn MP later placed a plaque in the cupboard himself to commemorate her act

Charlotte Despard: After years of writing romance novels, Despard turned her hand to charity and suffrage when her husband died. Although she was twice put in Holloway prison, she advocated non-violent means of protest such as withholding taxes and census boycotts. One of the oldest prominent WSPU members, she was in her 60s when she left the group after her pacifist ideas contradicted their changed approach when war broke out. 

Sophia Duleep Singh : The daughter of a deposed Indian Maharaja, Sophia was Queen Victoria's goddaughter as well as being a committed suffragette. The queen even gave her lodgings at Hampton Court Palace, where she was often seen distributing suffragette newspapers, but despite these royal connections she was a member of the Women's Tax Resistance League. Her connections proved useful for the movement. In 1911, she was among women protesting at Downing Street as then-prime minister Herbert Asquith left for the king's speech to parliament. Waving a suffragette poster and suffragist slogans, she threw herself at his car as he left, but was released without charge to avoid embarrassment for the royals

Flora Drummond: The Manchester-born WSPU member was known for dramatic stunts, a militant attitude to suffrage, and rallying speeches. Her exploits included sneaking in through the front door of 10 Downing Street as her colleagues distracted police, and sailing a boat up to the Houses of Parliament so she could address MPs on the terrace


Helena Swanwick was a British feminist and pacifist. As a schoolgirl she read John Stuart Mill's On the Subjection of Women which influenced her to become a feminist. In 1906 she joined the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in preference to the Women's Social and Political Union, because of her belief in non-violence. She quickly became prominent in the National Union, and was editor of its weekly journal, The Common Cause from 1909–1912. She remained on the NUWSS Executive until 1915.  

Agnes Maude Royden: After World War I, Royden's interest shifted to the role of women in the Church. In 1929 she began the official campaign for the ordination of women when she founded the Society for the Ministry of Women. The first woman to become a Doctor of Divinity in 1931, Royden made several worldwide preaching tours from the 1920s to the 1940s. In 1939, she renounced pacifism believing Nazism to be a greater evil than war


A march of the National Union of Women's Suffrage, 1908. From left to right, Lady Frances Balfour (1858 - 1931), Millicent Fawcett (1847 - 1929), Ethel Snowden (1880 - 1951), Emily Davies (1830 - 1921) and Sophie Bryant (1850 - 1922)

Lydia Ernestine Becker was a leader in the early British suffrage movement, as well as an amateur scientist with interests in biology and astronomy. She is best remembered for founding and publishing the Women's Suffrage Journal between 1870 and 1890.


Agnes Pochin  was an early British campaigner for women's rights. She wrote one of the first tracts in 1855, 'The Right of Women to Exercise the Elective Franchise'. In it she argues for not only equal voting rights but also equality with respect to education, divorce, ambition or social aspiration. In 1872 Agnes became a member of the executive Central Committee for Women's Suffrage.  Pochin moved on to the Women's Emancipation Union in 1892 and over the next decade, she made donations to local and national committees

Rose May Billinghurst was a member of the Women's Liberal Association and later in 1907 a member of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). She was known as the 'cripple suffragette' because she campaigned in a tricycle after a bout of polio as a child left her unable to walk. Despite her disability she took part in the WSPU's march to the Royal Albert Hall in June 1908. Two years later, she founded the Greenwich branch of the WSPU and as its first secretary she took part in the 'Black Friday' demonstrations, where she was arrested after the police capsized her from the trike. The police also exploited her disability leaving her in a side street after letting her tyres down and pocketing the valves. She was arrested several more times in the next few years. When she was sentenced to eight months for damaging letterboxes she went on hunger strike in Holloway Prison. Billinghurst was force-fed along with other suffragettes. She became so ill that she was released two weeks after being force fed. On May 24 1913 she chained herself to the gates of Buckingham Palace. Billinghurst stopped her activity for women's suffrage after Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 gave some women the vote



Edith How-Martyn: How-Martyn was an early recruit to the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was arrested in 1906 for trying to make a speech in the lobby of the House of Commons. She was one of the first members of the organisation to be sent to prison. How-Martyn was critical of the dictatorial way that Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst led the WSPU and went on to help form the Women's Freedom League. This new organisation still took a militant approach but unlike the WSPU the Freedom League concentrated on using non-violent illegal methods. As the leading figure of the Women's Freedom League, Edith How-Martyn urged members not to pay taxes and to boycott the 1911 Census.  How-Martyn was active in the campaign for birth-control led by Marie Stopes after the war. How-Martyn was particularly concerned about working class women who had little information how to control the size of their families. In 1929 she founded the Birth Control Information Centre to spread such knowledge. Edith How-Martyn emigrated to Australia in 1939 and died there in 1954


Henrietta Franklin: In 1912 she helped Laura and Leonard Franklin form the Jewish League for Woman Suffrage which was open to both male and female members. The organisation sought both and political and religious rights for women. The organisation was generally moderate but it had radical members. Some were responsible for disrupting synagogue services to make their point in 1913 and 1914. They were labelled as 'blackguards in bonnets' by the Jewish community. However Henrietta achieved wider acceptance and became President of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in 1916

Esther Roper  was an suffragist and social justice campaigner who fought for equal employment and voting rights for working-class women. She was one of the first women to study for a degree at Owens College in Manchester. In 1886 she was admitted as part of a trial scheme to establish whether females could study without harm to their mental or physical health - in 1891 she graduated with a First class honours degree in Latin, English Literature and Political Economy. From 1893 until 1905 she held the salaried position of secretary of the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage. Roper broadened the scope of the MNSWS votes for women campaign, steering the focus away from securing the interests of middle class women, to actively seeking out the involvement of working-class women. 


Frances Power Cobbe was an Irish writer, social reformer, anti-vivisection activist, and leading women's suffrage campaigner. She founded a number of animal advocacy groups, including the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) and was a member of the executive council of the London National Society for Women's Suffrage

Members of the Women´s Social and Political Union (WSPU) on a horse-drawn carriage driven by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1910 
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