28 Powerful Pictures Of Women Fighting For Their Right To Vote

A pictorial history of the suffragette movement.

1. Circa 1900: Male and female members of the women’s suffrage movement on a protest march through London.

Getty Images / F. J. Mortimer

In 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WPSU) was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. The members became better known as the suffragettes.

2. 1908: Suffragettes picketing Holloway prison, London, while Emmeline Pankhurst was imprisoned there.

Getty Images Hulton Archive

Pankhurst was imprisoned for the first time in February 1908 after she tried to enter the House of Commons to protest, and would go on to be incarcerated six more times.

3. 1908: Emmeline Pankhurst (1858–1928, centre), and her daughter Christabel Harriette (1880–1958, third from left), being welcomed by friends and supporters upon their release.

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The WPSU started handing out medals to women who were imprisoned trying to win the vote.

4. 1908: Jennie Baines addressing a mass rally of Suffragettes at Trafalgar Square, London.

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Baines would later be sentenced to seven months’ hard labour. She was released a few days later in poor health, like many: The government didn’t want her to become a martyr to the cause.

5. April 1909: Suffragette prisoners passing the houses of parliament in London after their release from Holloway prison.

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6. 1910: A crowd in Hyde Park at a suffragette meeting.

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7. 1911: Emmeline Pankhurst being jeered by a crowd in New York.

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8. 1912: Two suffragettes in conversation with a policeman.

Getty Images Central Press

As peaceful protests failed to achieve the desired result, the suffragettes began to adopt more militant tactics.

9. 1912: Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst (1882–1960) standing on a platform to paint the front of the Women’s Social Defence League premises in Bow Road, east London.

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10. 1912: A male suffrage supporter being led over the bridge at St James’s Park after his arrest for involvement in an attack on Buckingham Palace.

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Some men played a part in the campaign for female suffrage: One MP even resigned his seat so he could fight a by-election on the issue, which he lost.

11. 1912: The aftermath of a window-smashing spree outside the Swan & Edgar department store in the West End of London.

Getty Images Hulton Archive

There had been window-smashing campaigns before: Two years earlier, the WSPU smashed windows in response to then prime minister Herbert Asquith rejecting a bill that would have given some women the vote. The police were accused of brutality – women were reportedly batoned, punched, thrown to the ground, and sexually assaulted.

12. 1913: English suffragette Annie Kenney (1879–1953) being arrested during a demonstration.

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13. 1913: Emily Davison (1872–1913) being fatally injured as she tries to stop the King’s horse Amner on Derby Day, to draw attention to the women’s suffragette movement.

Getty Images Arthur Barrett

It’s unclear whether Davison was trying to kill herself. She had already been sentenced to a month’s hard labour in Strangeways prison in Manchester after throwing rocks at the British chancellor, David Lloyd George.

14. 1913: Emily Davison’s funeral procession.

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15. 1913: Emily Davison’s funeral procession passing Eros at Piccadilly Circus.

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16. 1913: A woman peers through a shattered window in Holloway prison after an explosion caused by suffragettes trying to blow the jail up.

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17. 1913: A suffragette attacked in the crowd at a meeting given by chancellor David Lloyd George at Criccieth being escorted from the crowd by policemen.

Getty Images P. A. Reuter

18. 1913: A policeman trying to lead a suffragette on whom the crowd has turned to safety at the meeting in Criccieth.

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19. 1913: A protest march by women suffragettes in London with police in attendance.

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The banner held by the leading women reads “1st Woman Suffragist Arrested in London”.

20. 1914: Arrested protesters being led away by the police after a suffragette attack on Buckingham Palace.

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21. 1914: Emmeline Pankhurst being arrested at the demonstration outside Buckingham Palace, London.

Getty Images Jimmy Sime

22. 1914: Pankhurst being carried away.

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Pankhurst was frequently imprisoned and underwent hunger strikes and forced feeding. In a 1913 article, her daughter Sylvia described what it was like:

“Some one seized me by the head and thrust a sheet under my chin. I felt a man’s hands trying to force my mouth open. I set my teeth and tightened my lips over them with all my strength. My breath was coming so quickly that I felt as if I should suffocate. I felt his fingers trying to press my lips apart,—getting inside,—and I felt them and a steel gag running around my gums and feeling for gaps in my teeth.”

23. 1914: Police arresting suffragettes chaining themselves to the railings outside Buckingham Palace, London.

Getty Images Central Press

24. 1914: A police officer trying to remove a suffragette from the railings outside Buckingham Palace.

Getty Images Central Press

25. 1914: British suffragette leader Flora Drummond (1869–1949) being arrested during the Great Ulster rally in Hyde Park, London.

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26. 1914: A suffragette recovering after fainting in police custody following a raid on Buckingham Palace.

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27. 1914: A procession of arrested suffragettes passing through St James’s Park after a protest at Buckingham Palace.

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28. 1914: A member of the suffragette movement being arrested by a London policeman at a demonstration outside Buckingham Palace.

Getty Images Central Press

In 1918, towards the end of the First World War, the Representation of the People Act was passed. This gave the vote to some women, but it was only in 1928 that the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act gave the vote to all women over 21 on the same terms as men.

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Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
 
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