The Suffragettes in color: Vintage photographs are brought to life including a woman jailed for carrying a banner and a group burning President Wilson’s speech in front of the Lafayette Statue in Washington
- The fascinating photographs date between 1875 and 1938, but were mostly created between 1913-1922
- Depict inspired tactics of British and US suffrage movement including hunger strikes and demonstrations
- Particularly striking image shows Helena Hill Weed serving three day sentence in prison for carrying a banner
Poignant colorised images of the brave women who fought for equal rights in America as part of the suffrage movement in the early 20th century have been revealed.
One photograph shows a group of women waving banners while stood in front of the Lafayette Statue in Washington in September 1918, while another figure is seen torching a piece of paper containing a speech by President Wilson in a bid to get the last vote in the Senate before June 4, 1919.
As was the case in several western so-called democracies at the turn of the century, American women found themselves fighting for their right to vote throughout the early 1900s. In 1890 the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) was formed, with the goal of achieving equal rights for women – and 30 years later women were finally given the right to vote in a US election.
The fascinating photographs date between 1875 and 1938, but were mostly created between 1913-1922. They depict the inspired tactics used by the British and American suffrage movement during this time, such as hunger strikes and demonstrations which have helped secure a better future for women today.
Suffrage protesters hold banners and burn the speech of President Wilson at the Lafayette Statue in Washington DC in September 1918
A suffrage demonstration at the Lafayette Statue in Washington DC in September 1918 in a bid to get the last vote in the Senate is among the colorised images featured in the newly surfaced collection
A group of women assist Mrs Lawrence Lewis on her release from jail after five days of hunger striking in August 1918
A particularly striking image shows Helena Hill Weed serving a three day sentence in prison for carrying a banner which read: ‘Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.’
Ms Weed was a prominent member of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and the National Woman’s Party, and was one of the first pickets arrested on July 4, 1917. She was arrested for applauding in court in January 1918 and sentenced to 24 hours in jail, and received another 15 day sentence when she was arrested for taking part in the Lafayette Square meeting.
When she died in 1958, aged 83, TIME Magazine described her as a ‘kinetic suffragette who crisscrossed the nation crusading for the right to vote’.
Elsewhere a shot showcases a group of protesters outside Cameron House Headquarters in 1917, holding up picket banners directly addressing the president.
Their messages include statements such as: ‘Mr. President you say “liberty is the fundamental demand of the human spirit”‘ and questions including: ‘Mr. President what will you do for woman suffrage?’. And in one image, a female police officers arrests two demonstrators in the center of Delaware after they refused to give up their banners in June 1917.
One snap shows Susanna Morin Swing – a member of the National Woman’s Party – holding up a banner reading: ‘Democracy should begin at home,’ while another reveals two organizers of a demonstration tying a banner to a car parked outside the New Jersey Congressional Union brand headquarters, in preparation for a drive-by protest.
A particularly striking image shows Helena Hill Weed serving a three day sentence in prison for carrying a banner which read: ‘Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed’
A colorised image of Susanna Morin Swing, a member of the National Woman’s Party, holding a banner that reads: ‘Democracy Should Begin at Home’ in June 1917
A shot showcases a group of protesters outside Cameron House Headquarters in 1917, holding up picket banners directly addressing the president
Pictured right: A woman’s suffrage meeting at a coffee house in New York in March 1915, while Joy Young holds up a banner during a memorial service at the US Capitol in December 1916 (left)
A policewoman arrests two demonstrators in the center of Delaware after they refused to give up their banners in June 1917
In this aerial shot, taken in 1917, a group of suffrage prisoners are escorted from DC Court House and taken to prison
From 1900 onwards the NAWSA led many campaigns and protests across the country, demanding the attention of politicians and the public through relentless lobbying, clever publicity stunts, civil disobedience and nonviolent confrontation. NAWSA’s first President was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with one if its leading and most famous figureheads being Susan B Anthony.
The suffragettes constantly lobbied the government, organizing marches and protests to gain maximum attention and put pressure on lawmakers to make an amendment to the constitution to allow women the right to vote. The group drew their inspiration from other civil rights groups from around the world, such as the British women’s suffrage movement and the antislavery campaigns of the pre-civil war era.
One of the most notable things about the women marching for equal rights in the early 1900s was their willingness to be arrested for the cause, portraying themselves as political prisoners rather than criminals. And their approach worked, with the White House unhappy with the level of negative publicity being created by the protesters constant lobbying of the government.
America’s involvement in the First World War was instrumental in women winning the right to vote. With the men overseas in Europe fighting, women were left to do many of the jobs which it was commonly assumed they were unable to do, such as working in manufacturing and engineering professions.
The National Woman’s Party was founded in 1913 as part of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, which pushed for an agreement towards the 19th amendment – which prohibited the state from denying the right to vote based on gender in the United States.
To attract attention to the protest, members of the National Woman’s Party were asked to submit photographs of themselves to gain worldwide attention, meaning there is a rich archive of photographs.
In 1915 a suffrage bill was brought to floor of the House of Representatives but was defeated, lacking any real support from the President or the Democratic Party. The bill was voted on again in 1918, where it was defeated in the Senate by just two votes, and once more in February 1919, when it was defeated by a single vote in the Senate.
President Wilson was determined to have the vote passed, though, with many other western countries having already given women the right to vote. The issue was again put to a vote in May 1919, this time one called especially by the President, was finally passed as the 19th amendment to the United States constitution. It was then finally ratified in August 1919, making the 1920 election the first in which women were able to vote.
Two demonstrators pin a banner demanding the 19th amendment on a car in front of the New Jersey headquarters in 1916
Women from an equal rights group call on Governor Smith in a bid to urge the legislative program in March 1924
Four wage-earning working women walk with pickets and suffrage banners during a march in February 1917
Who were the Suffragettes? From the hunger-striking founder Emmeline Pankhurst to the pacifist romance novelist who left when tactics turned violent
The women’s suffrage movement began in the mid-1800s as organised campaigns began to take place across the UK after Mary Smith delivered the first women’s suffrage petition to parliament.
In 1866, a women’s suffrage committee was formed in London, which soon sparked other groups being set up in other areas, such as the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage.
Millicent Garrett Fawcett lead the The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), which was set up in 1897.
They were known as ‘suffragists’, as they believed in enfranchising women by peaceful means such as protests and petitions.
The suffragist campaigners began by holding public meetings, seeking newspaper coverage and publishing pamphlets and magazines to spread their message. By the 1900s they had gathered thousands of members throughout Britain.
Fawcett concentrated much of her energy on the struggle to improve women’s opportunities for higher education and in 1875 co-founded Newnham College, Cambridge, one of the first Cambridge colleges to admit women.
But Emmeline Pankhurst, who was then a member of the NUWSS, decided to employ more direct and militant tactics, leading her to set up the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1906 with her two daughters, Sylvia and Christabel.
Emmeline Pankhurst set up the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1906 with her two daughters, Sylvia and Christabel
The union’s motto was ‘Deeds not Words’ and many of their actions were considered extreme by the population. Among the most infamous acts was the death of Emily Davison, who died after she ran out in front of the King George V’s horse while trying to petition the royal at Epsom in 1913.
More than 1,000 women were arrested over the course of their campaign. Never before had so many women been imprisoned for a political cause. The women demanded to be given the status of political prisoners, and when the government refused, they went on hunger strike.
The government’s response was to force feed the prisoners, with a funnel and tube pushed down into their stomachs.
Another group, the Women’s Freedom League (WFL), was set up a year later by Charlotte Despard and Teresa Billington-Grieg, and were somewhere in between the other two groups in regards to their approach.
The First World War was a turning point in the history of women’s suffrage. The WSPU called an immediate halt to their suffrage activism in support of the British government’s war effort. Emmeline Pankhurst believed that the danger posed during the First World War by what she called the ‘German Peril’ outweighed the need for women’s suffrage.
Unlike the Pankhursts, Milicent Fawcett’s NUWSS did not cease their activities at the outbreak of war. Less militant and containing many more pacifists, support for the war was weaker. While Fawcett was not a pacifist, she risked dividing the organisation if she ordered a halt to the campaign.
The NUWSS continued to campaign for the vote during the war, and used the situation to their advantage by pointing out the contribution women had made to the war effort in their campaigns.
The Government passed the Representation of the People Act 1918. The Act,which was passed on February 6, 1918, granted voting rights to certain women over the age of 30.
Ten years later, the age limit was lowered and the law changed to ensure women had the same rights as men.
The key figures in the movement
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.
She was arrested several times and after being convicted of conspiracy to commit property damage, she used a common suffragist prison tactic – a hunger strike – to secure better conditions for her fellow suffragettes.
When the First World War began, Pankhurst refocused the WSPU’s efforts on supporting the war, causing a split in the group and within her own family. Her daughters Sylvia and Adela were pacifists.
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.
But unlike her mother and sister, she maintained a political affiliation, which for many years was restricted by the WSPU. After being expelled from the group for her part in labour movement causes and socialist beliefs, she founded her own group, the East London Federation for Suffragettes.
Sylvia was horrified that Emmeline and her favourite daughter Christabel joined the white feather movement, which aimed to shame men into enlisting in the army, and instead opposed the Great War, continuing to campaign for suffrage when the WSPU changed direction during the war years.
One of Emmeline Pankhurst’s three daughters, Sylvia worked full time for the WSPU, which was founded by her sister Christabel and her mother Emmeline
Sylvia’s sister Christabel was, along with her mother, a co-founder of the WSPU.
She fiercely advocated the use of militant tactics to win the vote for women in England.
Sylvia was sent to prison in 1905 after she disrupted a Liberal Party meeting in Manchester, where she unfurled a banner reading ‘Votes for Women’.
She directed the subsequent campaign of direct action, hunger strikes and open-air rallies.
However, during the First World War, she declared a suffrage truce and helped to lead the domestic war effort.
She was made a dame in 1936 and became a religious evangelist in later life.
Sylvia’s sister Christabel was, along with her mother, a co-founder of the WSPU
Sophia Duleep Singh
The daughter of a deposed Indian Maharaja whose kingdom was annexed by the British before he was exiled to England, 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.
The daughter of a deposed Indian Maharaja whose kingdom was annexed by the British before he was exiled to England, Sophia Duleep Singh was Queen Victoria’s goddaughter as well as being a committed suffragette
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.
Best known as the suffragette who was fatally injured at Epsom racecourse by the king’s horse, Emily Davison had a reputation as one of the most daring champions of direct action in the WSPU
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.
After years of writing romance novels, Charlotte 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.
After years of writing romance novels, Charlotte Despard turned her hand to charity and suffrage when her husband died
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