2012 New History
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The Myth of Women’s Suffrage and Violence: Exemplified by the Militant Action of British “Women’s Social and Political Union”

Hui-chi Hsu

Graduate Institute of History, National Cheng-chi University

The Enlightenment movement of the Eighteenth-century inspires many western women’s minds, and evokes their self-awareness. Since then, the idea of “women’s right” begins to grow and develop. Women’s suffrage movement is one of the more obvious examples. However, this movement demanding “votes for women” encounters very strong opposition, mainly because it disrupts the separate spheres of men’s and women’s activities. Therefore, the non-militant suffragists in parliamentary states such as Britain or U.S.A. are often ignored or opposed by male politicians.

Such a difficult situation urges some women to reflect on their suffrage tactics, and so-called violent militant methods are then developed. The “Women’s Social and Political Union” in early twentieth-century’s Britain is one of the notable organizations which practice these methods. This article tries to examine WSPU’s violent actions, to research the relations between “violence” and women’s suffrage movement, and to comment on its significance and influence.


Key Word: women’s suffrage movement, violence, militant methods, Women’s Social and Political Union