08/23/05 - suffragettes

In today's excerpt - the terrible violent extremes of the women's suffragette movement in England circa 1910:

"Unable to obtain any satisfaction by legal means, the women resorted to tactics which were ... anarchic in spirit. They turned up at every political meeting, despite all doorkeepers' precautions and drowned out the speakers by ringing bells and shrieking for the vote. They besieged the House of Parliament and offices of Whitehall, attacked ministers on their doorsteps, in one case knocking down Mr. Birrell, the Minister of Education, and kicking him in the shins, broke down department-store windows with hammers, set fires in mail boxes, penetrated the House and stopped proceedings by chaining themselves to the grill of the Ladies Gallery and keeping up the incessant shout, 'Votes for Women!'

"In 1909, under the Liberal Government occurred the first forcible feeding of imprisoned Suffragettes, a particularly revolting process in which both the victims ,who invited it by hunger strikes, and the officials who performed it, writhed like animals. It was accomplished by means of rubber tubes passed through the mouth, or sometimes the nostrils, to the stomach. While the prisoner was strapped in a chair and held down by guards or matrons, liquid food was forced down the tubes by stomach pumps. [A suffragette] threw herself at the King's feet in the midst of a court reception crying, 'Your Majesty, won't you please stop torturing women!'

"Put off again and again by Asquith's promises to carry through Enfranchisement, which he made to secure quiet and never kept, the feminists in the year 1909 slashed pictures in the National Gallery and set fires in cricket pavilions, race-course grandstands, resort hotels and even churches. ... They endured starvation and pain with mad fortitude, invited humiliation, brutality and finally, when Emily Davidson threw herself under the hoofs of the horses in the Derby of 1913, even death. ... When a meeting addressed by Lloyd George in the Albert Hall in December, 1908, was broken up by militants who, shouting 'Deeds not words!' tore off their coats to reveal themselves dressed in prisoner's gowns, the [men] 'went mad with fury and rushed upon the women, ejecting them with nauseating brutality, knocking them against seats, throwing them down steps, dragging them out by the hair."


Barbara W. Tuchman


The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War 1890 - 1914


A Ballantine Book published by The Random House Publishing Group


Copyright 1962, 1963, 1965 by Barbara W. Tuchman


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