The late 19th and early 20th centuries in Britain saw the rise of two powerful social movements: the temperance and suffragette. Both movements were driven by passionate individuals who sought to bring about change in society and improve the lives of those around them. Despite differences in their specific goals and methods, the temperance and suffragette movements shared several key similarities.
At the heart of both movements was a desire to challenge the status quo and bring about meaningful reforms. Whether advocating for temperance or the right to vote, activists in these movements saw a need for change and worked tirelessly to bring attention to their cause. Through speeches, marches, and other forms of activism, they inspired others to join their cause and helped to build momentum for their movements.
Picture Citation: “Woman’s Holy War. Grand Charge on the Enemy’s Works”. An allegorical 1874 political cartoon print, which shows temperance campaigners as virtuous armoured women warriors, wielding axes to destroy barrels of Beer, Whisky, Gin, Rum, Brandy, Wine and Liquors, under the banners of “In the name of God and humanity” and the “Temperance League”.
Attribution: Currier and Ives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Womans-Holy-War.jpg
While the temperance and suffragette movements were similar in many ways, they also faced significant opposition from those who sought to maintain the status quo. Nevertheless, the activists in these movements persevered and continued to fight for what they believed in. As a result, they helped to bring about lasting change in Britain and paved the way for future social movements that would continue to shape the course of the nation’s history.
The temperance movement, which sought to limit or ban the sale and consumption of alcohol, had roots in both religious and secular organisations. Proponents of temperance believed that alcohol was responsible for various social ills, including poverty, crime, and domestic violence, and sought to reduce these problems by advocating for moderation in alcohol consumption and, in some cases, by calling for complete abstinence.
On the other hand, the suffragette movement aimed to secure voting rights for women. Even though women made up a significant portion of the population, they were excluded from the political process and denied a voice in the decisions that affected their lives. The suffragettes, as they were known, fought for their right to vote through a variety of methods, including peaceful demonstrations, hunger strikes, and acts of civil disobedience.
Both movements faced significant opposition from those who sought to maintain the status quo. Temperance activists were often criticised for trying to impose their moral values on others, while suffragettes were derided as unsexed and unwomanly for demanding political rights. Nevertheless, these activists persisted in their efforts, drawing attention to their causes and inspiring others to join their fight.
Eventually, the efforts of the temperance and suffragette movements began to pay off. Laws regulating the sale and consumption of alcohol were passed, and women were ultimately granted the right to vote. These reforms marked a turning point in British history, signalling a new era in which social movements could bring about lasting change in society. Despite the challenges they faced, the activists of the temperance and suffragette movements left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire and inform social activities today.
The Temperance Movement
The temperance movement in Britain was a social movement aimed at promoting moderation and abstinence from alcohol. It was particularly prominent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was a grassroots movement that involved both men and women from a variety of backgrounds and social classes and was particularly active in working-class communities, where excessive alcohol consumption was seen as a major cause of poverty and social unrest.
Leaders of the movement emphasised the adverse effects of alcohol on people’s health, personalities, and family lives, often leading to poverty and domestic violence. The movement became prominent in many countries, particularly in English-speaking and Scandinavian ones. It eventually led to national prohibitions in Canada (1918 to 1920), in Norway (spirits only from 1919 to 1926) and the United States (1920 to 1933), as well as local prohibition in India (from 1948). Much of the temperance movement was based on organised religion, which held women responsible for edifying their children to be abstaining citizens. Nevertheless, temperance was tied with religious renewal and progressive politics, particularly female suffrage.
Picture Citation: The Drunkard’s Progress (1846) by Nathaniel Currier warns that moderate drinking leads to total disaster step-by-step
Attribution: Nathaniel Currier, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Drunkard%27s_Progress_-_Color.jpg
At the beginning of the First World War, the temperance movement received an unexpected boost due to state intervention when the Liberal government in Britain passed the Defence of the Realm Act in 1914. It meant that pub hours were licensed, beer was watered down and was subject to a penny-a-pint extra tax. Two years later, the State Management Scheme nationalised breweries and pubs in some regions of Britain where armaments manufacture was taking place. At the same time, some temperance organisations connected with the labour movement: for example, the Scottish Prohibition Party, founded in 1901 by a communist temperance activist called Bob Stewart, who followed the British Labour Party on all other issues. It defeated Winston Churchill in Dundee in the 1922 general election.
Temperance campaigners used many tactics to promote their message, including public speeches, rallies, and demonstrations, as well as the distribution of literature and the establishment of temperance societies and organisations. They also used the media, including newspapers, magazines, and posters, to spread their message and reach a wider audience.
In addition to promoting temperance and moderation, many temperance campaigners also sought to address the broader social and economic issues associated with excessive alcohol consumption. They worked to improve working conditions, promote education and social welfare, and secure better treatment for alcoholics and their families.
Despite their efforts, the temperance movement faced significant opposition, particularly from the alcohol industry and those who profited from it. The movement also faced criticism from those who saw it as an infringement on individual freedoms and personal liberty. Notwithstanding these challenges, the temperance movement in Britain continued to grow and to have a lasting impact on British society. It helped to raise public awareness about the social and moral consequences of excessive alcohol consumption, and it played an important role in promoting women’s rights and improving the lives of working-class people. Its legacy can still be seen today in the ongoing debate about the role of alcohol in society and the importance of promoting moderation and responsibility.
Some of the key stimuli that started the temperance movement include:
- Medical concerns: The temperance movement was also fuelled by growing concerns about the health effects of alcohol as medical science advanced and the dangers of excessive drinking became more widely understood.
- Religious influence: Many religious groups, including the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, were involved in the temperance movement and saw moderation or abstinence from alcohol as a religious obligation.
- The moral reform movement: The temperance movement was part of a larger moral reform movement that sought to address various social and political issues, including slavery, prostitution, and poverty. Many temperance advocates saw alcohol as a symbol of the moral decay of society and believed that addressing it was essential to restoring morality and social order.
- The rise of industrialisation: The growth of cities and the rise of the industrial working class created new social and economic challenges, including poverty, crime, and widespread alcohol abuse. Temperance advocates saw alcohol as a major contributor to these problems and argued that moderation or abstinence from alcohol was necessary to address them.
- The women’s rights movement: Women were at the forefront of the temperance movement, and many saw alcohol as a threat to their homes, families, and communities. They also saw temperance as a way to demonstrate their ability to participate in public life and advocate for greater rights and freedoms.
Key Figures, Organisations and Events
The temperance movement was driven by a desire to address the social and economic problems of the time, as well as a commitment to promoting moral and religious values. It was a complex and multi-faceted movement that reflected social, religious, and political concerns. Alphabetically, some of the key figures and organisations involved were:
- Ada Nield Chew (1870-1960): A prominent temperance campaigner (also a suffragette), Chew used her involvement in the temperance movement as a way of promoting women’s rights and improving their social and political standing.
- British Women’s Temperance Association (BWTA) (1876-1914): A national organisation that promoted temperance and women’s rights. The BWTA was particularly active in working-class communities and played an important role in promoting the temperance movement among women. It became known as The White Ribbon Association. The White Ribbon Association, formally known as the British Women’s Temperance Association (BWTA), was founded in 1876 following a women’s temperance meeting in Newcastle. It became the foremost women’s temperance movement in Britain. The Temperance Movement was at its height in the 19th century, campaigning against alcohol consumption and trying to persuade the government to legislate to restrict its sale. Advocates of temperance were concerned about the social impact of drunkenness. The Association was instrumental in bringing women into the public sphere. At its peak, the Association had hundreds of thousands of members who belonged to local branches – the branches formed County unions, affiliated to the national organisation with its headquarters based in London until 2006.
Margaret Eleanor Parker, first president of BWTA
Picture Credit: URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Margaret_Eleanor_Parker.png
Attribution: Frances Elizabeth Willard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
A white ribbon was the symbol of the women’s Temperance Movement – women would pin a bow of white ribbon to their clothing to signify their loyalty to the cause – they would refer to themselves as “White Ribboners” and signed a pledge to abstain from alcohol. As times have changed, the Association no longer promotes total abstinence but continues its valuable work educating the community about the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and gambling.
The next president was Clara Lucas Balfour. Margaret Bright Lucas, who toured with Stewart during these meetings, succeeded as BWTA president in 1878. The BWTA achieved more success under her successor, Lady Henry Somerset, but ultimately British temperance was destined to achieve less than its US counterpart. Lady Henry was succeeded by Rosalind Howard, Countess of Carlisle, known as “The Radical Countess” for her opposition to alcohol consumption. Lucas was a key link in the Anglo-American women’s reform networks and a pioneer in the British women’s temperance movement.
- Frances Willard (1839-1898): Willard was an American temperance campaigner and suffragette who was a key figure in the international temperance movement. He was a strong advocate for women’s rights and was instrumental in the establishment of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
- Joseph Livesey (1794-1884): A working-class temperance campaigner considered to have been one of the founders of the temperance movement in Britain, he was a strong advocate for temperance and moderation and was instrumental in the establishment of the British Temperance League in 1853.
- Mary Leadbeater (1758-1826): An early temperance campaigner who was one of the first women to speak out against excessive alcohol consumption. She wrote several books on the topic and was a strong advocate for women’s rights and social reform.
- National Temperance Federation (NTF) (1884-1914): A national organisation established to promote temperance and social reform. The NTF was active in various areas, including working-class communities, the temperance movement, and women’s rights.
- The Band of Hope: A temperance organisation established in 1847 to promote temperance among young people. The Band of Hope was particularly active in schools and communities and helped to raise public awareness about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.
- The British Association for the Promotion of Temperance: In 1832, Preston cheesemaker Joseph Livesey and seven workingmen signed a pledge never to drink alcohol again. Several working men groups followed the example of Livesey and his friends, and in 1835, The British Association for the Promotion of Temperance was formed. At first, temperance usually involved a promise not to drink spirits, and members continued to drink wine and beer. However, by the 1840s, temperance societies began advocating teetotalism. It was a much stronger position as it included a pledge to abstain from all alcohol for life and a promise not to provide it to others. Joseph Livesey opened the first temperance hotel in 1833. The following year, he founded the first temperance magazine, The Preston Temperance Advocate. In Australia, in the late 19th century, the hotels were called Coffee Palaces – often large and elaborate residential hotels that did not serve alcohol.
- The Glasgow and West of Scotland Temperance Society: The early temperance movement was inspired by Presbyterian Church of Ireland minister John Edgar who ceremoniously poured his stock of whiskey out of a window in 1829. On 14th August 1829, Edgar wrote a letter in the Belfast Telegraph advocating temperance. Edgar and other supporters concentrated their efforts on eliminating spirits rather than wine and beer. The first organisation to promote temperance (The Glasgow and West of Scotland Temperance Society) was founded in 1829 by John Dunlop and his aunt Lilias Graham of Gairbraid.
- The Methodist Church: The Methodist revival began in England with a group of men, including John Wesley (1703–1791) and his younger brother Charles (1707–1788), as a movement within the Church of England in the 18th century. In the 19th century, when social evils such as poverty and domestic violence were greatly exacerbated by drunkenness, Methodism identified itself with the ‘total abstinence’ temperance movement. At the time, strong alcohol was inexpensive, and many suffered because of it. Methodism has retained a reputation for temperance, but today, alcohol consumption for Methodists is a matter of personal choice.
- The Temperance Society: The Temperance Society was founded in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. Joseph Rowntree and his father wrote widely on the subject of temperance. While they acknowledged why alcohol was so popular, they opposed the consumption of alcohol, which they called ‘the drink misery’. Joseph Rowntree wrote The Temperance Problem and Social Reform (1899). Rowntree does not appear to have been a teetotaller himself, at least until 1880, as he is said to have owned a personal wine cellar. Drinking chocolate was encouraged as a substitute for alcohol – it is one of the reasons why so many of the great chocolate barons were Quakers, such as Rowntree, Cadbury, and Fry.
Picture: The founder of Rowntree’s, (1837–1883) Joseph Rowntree
Attribution: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joseph_rowntree_photo.jpg
- The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) (1903-1917): A suffrage organisation active in the United Kingdom. Many members of the WSPU were also involved in the temperance movement, and the two movements often intersected and influenced each other.
- Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) (1874- ): An international temperance organisation founded in the United States and quickly spread to other countries, including Britain. The WCTU was particularly active in promoting temperance and women’s rights and was instrumental in securing important social and political reforms, including the vote for women.
These figures and organisations helped to provide a more complete picture of the temperance movement in Britain and its impact on society and brought about important social and political reforms.
The Chartist Movement 
In 1838, the mass working-class movement for universal suffrage included something called the chartist movement. Faced with the refusal of the parliament of the day to give the right to working people to vote, the temperance chartists saw the campaign against alcohol as a way of proving to the elites that working-class people were responsible enough and should be granted the vote.
The Chartist movement was the first mass movement driven by the working classes. It grew following the failure of the 1832 Reform Act to extend the vote beyond those owning property. In 1838, a People’s Charter was drawn up for the London Working Men’s Association (LWMA) by William Lovett and Francis Place, two self-educated radicals, in consultation with other members of LWMA. The Charter had six demands:
- All men to have the vote (universal manhood suffrage).
- Voting should take place by secret ballot.
- Parliamentary elections every year, not once every five years.
- Constituencies should be of equal size.
- Members of Parliament should be paid.
- The property qualification for becoming a Member of Parliament should be abolished.
Picture Citation: Photograph of the Great Chartist Meeting on Kennington Common, London in 1848
Attribution: Royal Collection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chartist_meeting_on_Kennington_Common_by_William_Edward_Kilburn_1848_-_restoration1.jpg
In June 1839, the Chartists’ petition was presented to the House of Commons with over 1.25 million signatures. It was rejected by Parliament, provoking unrest, which was swiftly crushed by the authorities.
A second petition was presented in May 1842, signed by over three million people, but again it was rejected, and further unrest and arrests ensued.
In April 1848, a third and final petition was presented. A mass meeting on Kennington Common in South London was organised by the Chartist movement leaders, the most influential being Feargus O’Connor, editor of ‘The Northern Star’, a weekly newspaper that promoted the Chartist cause. O’Connor was said to have had connections with radical groups which advocated reform by any means, including violence. The authorities feared disruption and military forces were on standby to deal with any unrest. The third petition was also rejected, but the anticipated unrest did not happen.
Despite the Chartist leaders’ attempts to keep the movement alive, within a few years, it was no longer a driving force for reform. However, the Chartists’ legacy was strong. By the 1850s, Members of Parliament accepted that further reform was inevitable. Further Reform Acts were passed in 1867 and 1884. By 1918, five of the Chartists’ six demands had been achieved – only the stipulation that parliamentary elections be held every year was unfulfilled.
Law changes during the time of the temperance movement were:
- The Licensing Act of 1904: This act limited the hours that pubs could remain open and was seen as a victory for the temperance movement. The act helped to reduce excessive alcohol consumption and was a significant step in addressing the social and moral problems associated with alcohol.
- The National Prohibition Act of 1917: This act prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol in the United Kingdom and was a major victory for the temperance movement. Short-lived, it was repealed in the 1920s.
The Temperance Bill of 1853 was a proposed bill to restrict the sale of alcohol in the United Kingdom and was a key moment in the temperance movement. The bill, though widely debated, failed to be passed, but it helped raise public awareness about the issue and galvanised the temperance movement.
Book Review 
When women had no vote, their temperance work allowed many voices to be heard and their actions to count. In her book, Scandal, Salvation and Suffrage, exploring a forgotten but vital element of women’s history, Ros Black explains how closely the temperance campaign was linked to the fight for suffrage. Told through the true stories of real women, we see how they rose above their status as ‘the weaker sex’ to campaign for restrictions on the sale of alcohol, having recognised that many social problems were caused by excessive drinking – an issue still prevalent today. Some women were admirable but not likeable, while others were more radical and ahead of their time. Sex, slander and scandal all feature in their stories. This book leaves the reader to decide whether there are any lessons to be learned today from the work of these remarkable women and encourages us to remember their hard work and determination. Based on considerable research but written in an accessible way, Scandal, Salvation, and Suffrage aims to celebrate the work of these extraordinary women and will appeal to those who enjoy social and women’s history. As Ros Black says, the book is not aimed at teetotallers – readers can, and should, raise a toast to these extraordinary women.
- Scandal: The temperance movement was motivated, in part, by the social and moral scandals that were associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Drunkenness was seen as a major cause of poverty, crime, and other social problems, and temperance campaigners sought to address these issues by promoting temperance and moderation.
- Salvation: The movement was also motivated by religious and moral beliefs. For many temperance campaigners, the fight against alcohol was seen as a spiritual battle against a destructive force that was undermining the moral fabric of society. For them, promoting temperance was a way of promoting salvation and preserving the moral integrity of the nation.
- Suffrage: Women played a key role in the temperance movement, and many used their involvement in the movement as a way to gain political and social power. The fight for temperance was often linked with the struggle for women’s suffrage, and many suffragettes saw the temperance movement as a way of promoting women’s rights and improving their social and political standing.
There were many other people and organisations involved in the Temperance Movement. Some (in alphabetical order) are listed below with hyperlinks for readers to follow up:
- Anne Jane Carlisle (sometimes known as Carlile): The celebrated Presbyterian Temperance campaigner, Anne Carlisle, turned many people in Ireland away from alcohol. Among her supporters was the Temperance Society leader Fr. Theobald Mathew, with whom she overcame religious differences, supporting each other in saving souls from the excesses of drinking.
- Catherine Booth – The ‘Mother’ of the Salvation Army: Catherine (born Mumford) was married to William Booth. From an early age, she was a serious and sensitive girl with a strong Christian upbringing and became concerned about the problems of alcohol.
- Crystal Palace Temperance Venue: The story of the 1851 Great Exhibition and its iconic venue, architect Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace, is well known. What is perhaps not so well known is the influence that Temperance had on the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’.
- Four Pillars of Temperance: Cardinal virtues are the four virtues of mind and character in classical philosophy and Christian theology. Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance were suggested as the essential virtues required for a virtuous life.
- National Temperance League (NTL): The National Temperance League was founded in 1856 following the amalgamation of the National Temperance Society and the London Temperance League. The Royal Navy Temperance Society, which began as a society of abstainers aboard the HMS Reindeer, became a subsidiary of the NTL as a result of the regular provision of financial assistance.
- Sarah Robinson: Sarah Robinson was a British temperance activist. She set up the Aldershot Mission Institute in 1863 to cater to the town’s garrison. Throughout the 1860s, she travelled around British Army camps and garrisons distributing bibles, holding prayer meetings and providing games and reading material to the soldiers. She established the Portsmouth Soldiers’ Institute in 1874 to cater for soldiers travelling through the port. For her efforts, she was nicknamed the “Soldier’s Friend” and received some recognition from the government. Robinson suffered from a spinal problem that limited her mobility in later life, though she continued to travel widely to raise funds for her missions.
- The Band of Hope 1847: The Band of Hope was first proposed by Rev. Jabez Tunnicliff, a Baptist minister in Leeds, after the death in June 1847 of a young man whose life was cut short by alcohol. In the autumn of 1847, with the help of other temperance workers, including Anne Jane Carlile, the Band of Hope was founded. The Band of Hope (now named Hope UK) and several of the largest temperance organisations survive under different names and different aims, such as “providing drug and alcohol education and training for children and young people, parents and youth workers“.
- The Sailors’ Friend: Dame Agnes Elizabeth Weston: also known as Aggie Weston, Dame Weston was an English philanthropist noted for her work with the Royal Navy. For over twenty years, she lived and worked among the sailors of the Royal Navy. Her powerful influence is evidenced in the widespread reform in the habits of hundreds of men to whom her name was a talisman for good. In her day, one naval man in six was a total abstainer.
- Thomas Cramp: Thomas Cramp was the founder of the East Grinstead Temperance Society. He was born in Lewes in 1810, where his father was a veterinary surgeon. He spent his boyhood at Bexhill and came to East Grinstead as an apprentice. He married Miss Jane Pretty, the daughter of a Wesleyan minister, in June 1841. He had begun his total abstinence practice four years earlier – this was total abstinence from tea and coffee as well as alcoholic liquors, water being his only beverage. The Society he started met with violent opposition.
- World’s Women Temperance Association/Union (WCTU): This Association was founded in Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 1874. After Frances Willard took over leadership in 1879, the WCTU became one of the largest and most influential women’s groups of the 19th century by expanding its platform to campaign for labour laws, prison reform and suffrage. With Willard’s death in 1898, the WCTU began to distance itself from feminist groups, instead focusing primarily on prohibition.
Timeline of Key Events
Here’s a timeline of the temperance movement in Britain, including key events and people involved:
- 1830s: The temperance movement began to gain momentum in Britain as concerns about the effects of alcohol on society grew. Many groups supported the campaign, including the middle class, religious organisations, and women’s groups.
- 1850s: The British Temperance Society was formed to promote temperance and educate the public about the dangers of alcohol. The society became one of Britain’s largest and most influential temperance organisations.
- 1870s: The temperance movement began to focus more on legislative action, and the first laws regulating the sale of alcohol were introduced in Britain.
- 1880s: The Women’s Christian Temperance Union is formed in Britain, focusing on promoting temperance among women and working for legislative change. The union became one of Britain’s largest women’s organisations and a significant force in the temperance movement.
- 1890s: The temperance movement gained significant political influence, and the government introduced several measures to regulate the sale of alcohol, including restrictions on hours of sale and the establishment of a licensing system.
- 1914-1918: The First World War significantly impacted the temperance movement in Britain, as resources were diverted towards the war effort, and many temperance organisations were disbanded.
- 1920s: The temperance movement continued to be an influential political force, and the government introduced new measures to regulate the sale of alcohol, including higher taxes and restrictions on advertising.
- 1926: The Temperance (Scotland) Act was passed, giving local authorities in Scotland the power to limit the number of licensed premises in their area.
- 1930s: The temperance movement began to lose momentum as concerns about the effects of the Great Depression and rising unemployment took centre stage.
Main differences in comparison with the Suffragette Movement
The temperance movement in Britain was not a militant campaign, and its advocates generally used peaceful means to achieve their goals. The movement relied on education, advocacy, and legislative action to promote temperance and regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol.
While there were occasional incidents of civil disobedience, such as the breaking of pub windows or the pouring of alcohol down drains, these were relatively rare and not widespread.
There were some instances of imprisonment of temperance campaigners, particularly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the movement was at its peak and had significant political influence. For example, women’s suffrage campaigners who also supported temperance were sometimes imprisoned for their activism.
Force-feeding was not a feature of the temperance movement in Britain, as it was more commonly associated with the women’s suffrage campaign and the fight for the right to vote.
There were no known deaths directly related to the temperance movement in Britain. The movement relied on peaceful means to achieve its goals and did not engage in violent or militant tactics.
My Wife’s Relative: Edwin Hines
Edwin Hines was the brother of my wife’s paternal great-grandfather. In 1881, Edwin was a miller working as such at Small Dole, Sussex. There is no trace of him in the 1891 census, but by 1901 he was living at Monarch Buildings, Southwark, married with two sons, aged under two, and working as a journeyman miller. He was said to have been ashamed that he had spent all the family money on alcohol. Tragically, in 1904, Edwin Hines left Monarch Buildings after a drunken argument with his wife and announced he “was going to take to the water.” He failed to return home that night but was found, tragically drowned in the River Thames two days later.
The Suffragette Movement
The suffragette movement refers to the struggle for women’s right to vote in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the United Kingdom. The term “suffragette” was first used to describe members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), a British organisation founded in 1903 that was dedicated to winning the vote for women.
Citation: WSPU leaders Annie Kenney (left) and Christabel Pankhurst
Attribution: http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/history/sufpix.htm, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Annie_Kenney_and_Christabel_Pankhurst_(cropped).jpg
The suffragette movement was part of a larger struggle for women’s rights, including equal pay and property rights. The movement was characterised by acts of civil disobedience, such as demonstrations, marches, and hunger strikes, as well as acts of violence, including arson and window-breaking.
The suffragettes faced significant opposition from the government and from many members of the public, who saw their demands as a threat to the social order. Despite this, the movement gained momentum and support over time, and in 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed in the UK, granting the right to vote to women over the age of 30 who met certain property qualifications. In 1928, the right to vote was extended to all women over the age of 21, the same as for men.
The suffragette movement was an important moment in the history of women’s rights and helped pave the way for future generations to demand equality and representation. Its legacy can still be felt today as women continue to fight for equal rights and opportunities in all areas of life.
The women’s suffrage movement in Britain was also influenced by various social, cultural, and political factors. Some of the key stimuli that started the movement in Britain include:
- The First Reform Act of 1832: This act expanded the franchise and paved the way for future political reforms, including women’s suffrage. Many suffragists saw the First Reform Act as a starting point for further reforms and began to argue that women should also have the right to vote.
- The Industrial Revolution: The economic and social changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution led to increased opportunities for women in the workforce and also helped to challenge traditional ideas about women’s roles in society.
- The campaign for women’s education: The fight to secure better educational opportunities for women was closely linked to the women’s suffrage movement, as many suffragists believed that education was essential to securing equal rights and representation.
- International influences: The women’s suffrage movements in other countries, such as the United States and New Zealand, inspired British women to fight for their own rights.
- The activism of individual suffragists: The suffrage movement in Britain was driven by a number of dedicated and passionate suffragists, including Emmeline Pankhurst, who founded the Women’s Social and Political Union, and Millicent Fawcett, who led the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.
Overall, the suffrage movement in Britain was the result of a long and often difficult struggle by women who were determined to secure equal rights and representation. Despite facing opposition and persecution, these women continued to fight for their cause and eventually achieved the right to vote in 1918.
Citation: [Emmeline] Pankhurst is arrested by police outside Buckingham Palace while trying to present a petition to George V in May 1914
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The Pankhurst Family
The Pankhurst family was a prominent family of political activists in the United Kingdom. Several members of the family were involved in the suffrage movement and the temperance movement, including:
- Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928): A British political activist and suffragette who is best known for her role in leading the fight for women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom. She was a founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was a strong advocate for women’s rights, including the right to vote.
- Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958): Emmeline’s daughter was also involved in the suffrage movement and was a leading member of the WSPU. She was known for her public speaking abilities and was a key figure in the suffrage movement.
- Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960): Emmeline’s daughter was also involved in the suffrage movement and was a leading member of the WSPU. She was a strong advocate for women’s rights and was particularly involved in promoting the cause of working-class women.
The Pankhurst family was instrumental in promoting the suffrage and temperance movements in the United Kingdom, and their activism helped to bring about important social and political reforms. The family’s legacy continues to be celebrated today as an important part of women’s history and the fight for gender equality.
Other Prominent Suffragettes and Supporters:
- Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929): A British suffragette and political leader who was a key figure in the women’s suffrage movement. She was a leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and was known for her commitment to non-violent tactics in the fight for women’s rights.
- Louisa Garrett Anderson (1873-1943): A British physician and suffragette who was a leader in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality. She was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was involved in several high-profile suffrage demonstrations.
- Annie Kenney (1879-1953): A British suffragette who was one of the first women to be arrested for her involvement in the suffrage movement. She was a leading member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was known for her dedication and commitment to the cause of women’s suffrage.
- Edith Rigby (1872-1962): A British suffragette and political activist involved in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality. She was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was known for her public speaking abilities and involvement in several high-profile suffrage demonstrations.
- Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917): A British physician and suffragette who was the first female doctor in the United Kingdom. She was a leader in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality and advocate for women’s education and career opportunities.
These figures, along with others, helped to bring attention to the important issues of temperance and suffrage and worked tirelessly to bring about social and political change. They continue to be remembered and celebrated for their contributions to women’s history and the fight for gender equality.
Citation: Emily Davison, c. 1910–1912
Attribution: Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emily_Wilding_Davison.jpg
Deaths and Militancy
The British suffragette Emily Davison died after being hit by King George V’s horse during the 1913 Epsom Derby. She was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was a dedicated and passionate advocate for women’s suffrage. Her death at the Derby is seen as a turning point in the suffrage movement, bringing widespread public attention to the cause of women’s rights and inspiring other suffragettes to redouble their efforts.
Emily Davison is remembered as a martyr of the suffrage movement in Britain, and her death is still remembered and commemorated today as an important part of women’s history and the fight for gender equality. Others were equally impassioned, such as:
- Margaret McMillan (1860-1931): A British educator and political activist who was a leading figure in the fight for women’s rights and the advancement of education. She was arrested multiple times for her involvement in suffrage demonstrations and is remembered as a pioneering educator who worked to improve the lives of children and women.
- Ada Nield Chew (1870-1945): A British suffragette and political activist member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was involved in several high-profile suffrage demonstrations. She was arrested multiple times for her activism and is remembered as a dedicated advocate for women’s rights and gender equality.
- Flora Drummond (1878-1949): A British suffragette who was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was known for her leadership and organizational skills. She was arrested multiple times for her involvement in suffrage demonstrations and is remembered as a dedicated and passionate advocate for women’s rights.
These women, and many others too, demonstrate the sacrifice and commitment that was required in the fight for women’s suffrage and gender equality. They are remembered and celebrated as important figures in women’s history and the struggle for social and political change.
Leading Male Supporters
There were several male supporters of the suffrage and temperance movements in Britain. Here are a few notable examples:
- Henry Lansbury (1859-1940): A British socialist and political activist who strongly advocated for women’s rights and was involved in the suffrage movement. He was the editor of the socialist publication “The Labour Leader” and was a leading figure in the socialist and trade union movements.
- Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891): A British political activist and freethinker who was a prominent advocate for women’s suffrage. He was a founding member of the National Secular Society and was known for his commitment to social and political reform.
- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950): the Irish playwright and political activist was a strong supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. He was a leading figure in the Fabian Society, a socialist organization, and was known for advocating progressive social and political reforms.
These male supporters and others played important roles in the fight for women’s suffrage and gender equality. They helped to bring attention to the cause and to build support for the movement among the broader public. Their legacy continues to be remembered and celebrated as an important part of women’s history and the struggle for social and political change.
There were several British politicians who supported the suffrage and temperance movements in Britain. Some of the most notable include:
- David Lloyd George (1863-1945): A British statesman who served as Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922. Lloyd George was a strong supporter of the suffrage movement and helped to push for women’s rights, including the extension of the franchise to women.
- Herbert Asquith (1852-1928): A British statesman who served as Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916. Asquith was initially opposed to women’s suffrage but later changed his position and became a supporter of the movement. He played a key role in passing the Representation of the People Act 1918, which extended the vote to women.
- Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965): The British statesman who served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill was a strong advocate for women’s rights and a prominent supporter of the suffrage movement. He played an important role in securing the passage of the Representation of the People Act of 1918 and the Equal Franchise Act of 1928.
These politicians, along with others, played important roles in advancing the cause of women’s rights and supporting the suffrage movement. Their efforts helped to bring attention to the cause and to build support for the movement among the broader public. Their legacy continues to be remembered and celebrated as an important part of women’s history and the struggle for social and political change.
Opposition to the Temperance Campaigners
In some instances, there was significant opposition to the temperance campaigners, especially towards The Salvation Army, with Skeleton Armies being formed to mock the Salvationists. But there were also lower-key demonstrations, which disturbed the tranquillity of Sussex villages and towns such as Steyning, Horsham and Cuckfield.
In 1897, the Mid Sussex Times referred to an incident when a crowd filled the lower part of Cuckfield, indulging in what was described as “ill-timed frolic and indiscreet refreshment”. A ‘spectator’ from Handcross wrote about “covert indecencies” being hurled at “respectable females when the opportunity offered. More drunken men were to be seen rolling about between Pease Pottage and Handcross than ever was seen on days of clubs and fairs”.
Changes following Suffragette Action
The suffrage movement in Britain led to several important changes in the status of women. Here are a few key milestones:
- The Representation of the People Act 1918: This act extended the right to vote to women over the age of 30 who met certain property qualifications. It marked a significant step forward for the suffrage movement, as it extended the franchise to many women for the first time.
- The Equal Franchise Act of 1928: This act extended the right to vote to women on an equal basis with men, giving women over the age of 21 the right to vote regardless of their property status. It marked the achievement of one of the main goals of the suffrage movement, as women were finally given the same political rights as men.
- The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919: This act removed the legal barriers that prevented women from pursuing certain professions and careers. It marked a major step forward for gender equality, as women were given greater opportunities to enter the workforce and pursue their chosen careers.
- The Marriage Act of 1949: This act abolished the concept of coverture, which had previously meant that a married woman’s legal identity was subsumed by her husband’s. It marked a significant step forward for women’s rights, as women were finally given greater legal independence within marriage.
- The Abortion Act of 1967: This act legalised abortion in certain circumstances, giving women greater control over their reproductive health. It was a major step forward for women’s rights and marked a significant moment in the fight for gender equality.
- The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975: This act made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their gender in the workplace and other areas of life. It was a major step forward for gender equality, giving women greater protection against discrimination and helping to level the playing field in many aspects of life.
These changes, along with others, were the result of ongoing efforts by the suffrage movement and its successors to bring attention to the cause of women’s rights and to fight for gender equality. They represent important milestones in the struggle for women’s rights and continue to be celebrated and remembered as important moments in women’s history. The changes, along with others, resulted from decades of activism and advocacy by the suffrage movement. The movement’s tireless work to bring attention to the cause of women’s rights and to fight for gender equality helped to bring about these important reforms and to lay the foundation for further progress in the future.
Timeline of key events
Here is a timeline of key events in the suffrage campaign in Britain:
- 1832: The Reform Act expanded the franchise to include more middle-class men, but women were still excluded from the voting process.
- 1866: The first women’s suffrage petition is presented to Parliament by John Stuart Mill, a prominent philosopher and politician. The petition was signed by over 1,500 women but failed to gain significant support in Parliament.
- 1870: The Education Act is passed, making primary education available to all children, including girls.
- 1872: Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton visit Britain and meet with suffrage supporters, including Millicent Fawcett.
- 1897: The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) is formed, with Millicent Fawcett as its leader. The NUWSS adopted a constitutional and non-violent approach to women’s suffrage and became the largest suffrage organisation in Britain.
- 1903: The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), also known as the suffragettes, is formed by
Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. The WSPU adopts a more militant approach, including acts of civil disobedience such as window-smashing and arson.
- 1906: The WSPU launches its “Militant Tactics,” which include acts of civil disobedience and disruptions of political events.
- 1906-1914: The suffragettes carry out a series of high-profile protests, including hunger strikes and vandalism, which draw attention to their cause. Many suffragettes were arrested and imprisoned, and their treatment in prison became a subject of national controversy, including the use of force-feeding on hunger-striking suffragettes.
- 1908: The WSPU stages its first large-scale demonstration in London, with over 3,000 women marching in support of suffrage.
- 1913: The Suffragette Derby is staged, where suffragettes attempt to stop the running of the Epsom Derby horse race. Some suffragettes were arrested, and several were injured in scuffles with police.
- 1914-1918: The First World War disrupts the suffrage campaign, but many suffragettes continue to push for the vote while also participating in the war effort.
- 1918: The Representation of the People Act is passed, granting the vote to women over the age of 30 who meet certain property qualifications. This law represents a significant step forward for the suffrage movement, but many suffragettes are disappointed that the franchise is not extended to all women.
- 1919: The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act is passed, removing barriers to women’s participation in the professions.
- 1928: The Representation of the People Act is passed, granting equal voting rights to women and men over the age of 21.
It’s important to note that the suffrage campaign in Britain was not without loss of life. The most notable death was that of Emily Wilding Davison, a suffragette who was struck and killed by King George V’s horse Anmer at the 1913 Epsom Derby. Her death became a rallying point for the suffrage movement and was widely mourned by suffragettes and their supporters.
The Temperance and Suffragette Movements had several specific links and connections:
- One of the main ways that the movements were linked was through their membership and leadership. Many suffragettes were also involved in the temperance movement and saw the fight against alcohol abuse as a crucial part of their broader struggle for women’s rights. For example, prominent suffragette leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were both involved in the temperance movement and saw the fight against alcohol as a key part of the fight for women’s rights.
- Another link between the two movements was their shared goals and values. They were part of the broader movement for social reform that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and both were inspired by similar ideals such as individual freedom, equality, and social justice. Additionally, both movements saw the restriction of alcohol as a way to promote these ideals and improve the lives of women and other marginalised groups.
- The two movements also shared similar tactics and approaches to activism. Both movements used public demonstrations, political lobbying, and media campaigns to spread their message and achieve their goals. For example, suffragettes staged public protests and hunger strikes, while temperance advocates organized rallies and petition campaigns to promote their cause.
- The movements sometimes worked together and supported each other’s causes. For example, suffragettes would use temperance meetings as opportunities to speak about women’s suffrage, and temperance advocates would support the suffrage cause by lending their support and resources. In this way, the two movements helped to amplify each other’s message and achieve their goals more effectively.
- The movements were linked by their shared goals of improving women’s lives and promoting social justice, their similar ideals and values, and their overlapping membership and tactics.
Citation: Gin Lane by William Hogarth, 1751
Attribution: William Hogarth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Hogarth_-_Gin_Lane.jpg
You might ask: why did it start? The temperance movement in Britain was a social movement that campaigned against the recreational use and sale of alcohol and promoted total abstinence.
In the 19th century, high levels of alcohol consumption and drunkenness were seen by social reformers as a danger to society’s well-being, leading to social issues such as poverty, child neglect, immorality, and economic decline. Temperance societies sprang up in the 1830s to campaign against alcohol. Specific groups were created over periods of time dedicated to the different aspects of drinking. For example, in 1847, the Band of Hope was created to persuade children not to start drinking alcohol. Most of these temperance groups were aimed at the working class. Temperance was also supported by some religious groups, particularly the Nonconformist Churches.
Although the temperance movement met with local success in parts of Britain, it failed to impose national prohibition and disappeared as a significant force following the Second World War. But, without the temperance movement, would the suffragettes and the chartists have succeeded? I think probably not.
Reference Sources for Further Reading
- Suffragettes: The Fight for Votes for Women, by Joyce Marlow (2015), published by Virago
- The Splendid Mrs McCheyne and the East London Federation of Suffragettes, by Jane McChrystal and Vera Brice (2020), published by The Choir Press
- East London Suffragettes: Voices from History, by Taylor (2014), published by the History Press
- Suffragette: My Own Story, by Emmeline Pankhurst (2014), published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
- The Life and Writings of Amelia Bloomer, by Dexter (D.C.) Bloomer (2020), published by Legare Street Press
- Victory for the Vote: The Fight for Women’s Suffrage and the Century that Followed, by Doris Weatherford and Nancy Pelosi (2020), published by Mango
- The Suffragette Timeline: An introduction to the Suffragette’s epic struggle to win Votes For Women, by Suzanne Keyte (2018), published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
- Working-Class Suffragette: The Life of Annie Kenney, by C M Talbot (2018), published by Oldham Writing Cafe
- Suffragette: The Battle for Equality, by David Roberts and Lauren Laverne (2018), published by Two Hoots
- The British Women’s Suffrage Campaign, 1866-1928, by Cheryl Law (2003), published by Palgrave Macmillan
- The Women’s Movement in Wales, 1870-2007, by Angela V. John (2008), published by the University of Wales Press
- Women and the Vote: A World History, edited by Jean H. Quataert (2018), published by Oxford University Press
- The Rebel Suffragette: The Life of Edith Rigby, by Beverley Adams (2021), published by Pen & Sword History.
- History of the Temperance Movement in Great Britain and Ireland (Hardcover), by Samuel Couling (2018), published by Franklin Classics
- The Temperance Battle in England: A Study in Religion, Politics and Society, 1815-1872, by Eric H. Monkkonen (1974), published by Cambridge University Press
- Suffrage Tales, The National Archives, at: https://youtu.be/ETP-J5X-hJE
- British Heritage, at: https://youtu.be/egzhwKAK6Bo
- Votes for women: the first mass suffrage petition, at: https://youtu.be/16J96t7k5MQ
- History on Stage | Deeds Not Words: Women’s Sunday and the Suffragette Movement (English Heritage): at: https://youtu.be/kZ1thNFlrq4
- Suffragettes: 100 years since women won the right to vote – BBC News, at: https://youtu.be/Zbdskuuocpg
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End Notes and Explanations
- Source: Mainly from machine-generated artificial intelligence answers to interrogative questions to https://chat.openai.com/chat ↑
- Source: for some of the text listed in this section: https://spartacus-educational.com/REtemperance.htm ↑
- Source: https://white-ribbon.org.uk/our-history/ ↑
- Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Ribbon_Association ↑
- Note: In 1853, inspired by the Maine liquor law in the US, the United Kingdom Alliance was formed with the aim of promoting a similar law prohibiting the sale of alcohol in the UK. ↑
- Explanation: Temperance Hotels: these were hotels providing an alcohol-free alternative to corner public houses and residential hotels. By the 1870s, they could be found in every town and city, some quite large and elaborate. ↑
- Source: https://www.rowntreesociety.org.uk/explore-rowntree-history/rowntree-a-z/temperance-movement/ ↑
- Source: https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/electionsvoting/chartists/overview/chartistmovement/ © Crown copyright duly acknowledged ↑
- Explanation: Chartism was a working-class movement for political reform in the United Kingdom that erupted from 1838 to 1857 and was strongest in 1839, 1842 and 1848. It took its name from the People’s Charter of 1838 and was a national protest movement, with particular strongholds of support in Northern England, the East Midlands, the Staffordshire Potteries, the Black Country, and the South Wales Valleys. The movement was fiercely opposed by government authorities who finally suppressed it. Support for the movement was at its highest when petitions signed by millions of working people were presented to the House of Commons. The strategy employed was to use the scale of support which these petitions and the accompanying mass meetings demonstrated to put pressure on politicians to concede manhood suffrage. Chartism thus relied on constitutional methods to secure its aims, though some became involved in insurrectionary activities, The People’s Charter called for six reforms to make the political system more democratic: (1) A vote for every man aged twenty-one years and above, of sound mind, and not undergoing punishment for a crime. (2) The secret ballot to protect the elector in the exercise of his vote. (3) No property qualification for Members of Parliament (MPs), to allow the constituencies to return the man of their choice. (4) Payment of Members, enabling tradesmen, working men, or other persons of modest means to leave or interrupt their livelihood to attend to the interests of the nation. (5) Equal constituencies, securing the same amount of representation for the same number of electors, instead of allowing less populous constituencies to have as much or more weight than larger ones, and (6) Annual Parliamentary elections, thus presenting the most effectual check to bribery and intimidation, since no purse could buy a constituency under a system of universal manhood suffrage in every twelve months. Eventually, after Chartism died out, Britain adopted the first five reforms. Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartism and https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/electionsvoting/chartists/overview/chartistmovement/ ↑
- Source: https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/history-politics-society/scandal-salvation-and-suffrage/ ↑
- See: https://www.anglocelt.ie/2020/08/15/anne-jane-carlisle-a-life-of-loss-temperance-and-hope/ ↑
- See: https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/about-us/our-story/our-history/founders-william-and-catherine-booth/ ↑
- See: https://www.alliancehousefoundation.org.uk/single-post/2017/07/01/temperance-the-great-exhibition-and-the-crystal-palace ↑
- See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardinal_virtues ↑
- Sources: https://memorialdrinkingfountains.wordpress.com/the-temperance-movement/the-national-temperance-league/ and https://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/38734.html ↑
- Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Robinson_(activist) ↑
- See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope_UK ↑
- See: https://www.hopeuk.org/2017/02/welcome-hope-uk/ cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperance_movement_in_the_United_Kingdom ↑
- Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnes_Weston. See also: “You Don’t Make a Torpedo Gunner Out of a Drunkard:” Agnes Weston, Temperance, and the British Navy at: https://www.cnrs-scrn.org/northern_mariner/vol09/nm_9_1_1to22.pdf ↑
- See: http://www.sussexhistory.co.uk/history-east-grinstead/east-grinstead-history%20-%200282.htm ↑
- Source: https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/womans-christian-temperance-union ↑
- See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperance_movement_in_the_United_Kingdom ↑