Suffragettes with Lucy Worsley (2018) - full transcript

An overview of the events of the Suffragette Movement for Votes For Women. It follows the individual women who were part of the movement and uses dramatised testimony to tell their stories at key points of their dangerous campaign.

The year is 1913.

In Britain, women are burning
buildings and planting bombs.

And all this for something
that in 100 years' time

we'll completely
take for granted -

a woman's right to a vote.

You'll have heard
of the suffragettes.

You probably know the name

that they chained themselves
to railings,

and that one of them
was trampled by a horse.

But these women did so much
more than that,

resorting to outrageous
criminal acts,

fighting a decade-long campaign

of escalating violence.

I'm going to show you
how ordinary women

had been driven
to these extremes,

and how they've become

the single most prolific

terrorist organisation
this country's ever seen.

Come on, hurry!

In 2018, it's 100 years

since women, well,
some of them at least,

won the right to the vote.

The story of how
that really happened

is much more difficult
and dangerous

than you could possibly imagine.

- Good morning, ladies.

- At the heart of that story
is an organisation

called the Women's Social
and Political Union,

or the WSPU,

and they're not
what you might expect.

Meet the suffragettes.

Some of these women
you already know.

The middle-class Pankhursts.

Emmeline, the matriarch,

and two of her daughters,
Christabel and Sylvia.

But there are others,

and this story also belongs
to them.

Women like Flora,

factory manager and
logistical mastermind.

Lilian, dancer
and undercover activist.

Mary, Canadian artist
turned ardent arsonist.

And Annie, millworker
and devoted militant.

Well, ladies, what else

have we on the agenda this

- Flora?
- Well, we've got two members

in Liverpool...

- In 1913, these women are
a force to be reckoned with.

So much so that they
actually pose a serious threat

to national security.

But how has it come to this?

I'm going to take you back
to the beginning,

to re-examine the chain
of events

that have led to them doing

these horrifying things.

And they are going to tell
you their story,

in their own words.

- I was extremely annoyed
at the difference between

the advantages men had
and boys had

to the ones girls had.

It irritated me simply

Why should God be male?

- I want to tell you why,
as a wife and mother,

I am an organiser of this union.

It is because I want my sex
to be recognised as a person

in the eyes of the law,

and I want my political rights.

If I cannot change
the wicked law

which holds in bondage
the womanhood of this country,

I will at least die
in the attempt to change it.

- In Edwardian England,

life for women was governed

by a strict set of social rules.

Most working-class women
had access only

to poorly-paid jobs in factories

or domestic service.

Middle-class women

could set their sights
mostly on marriage.

None had any say in how
their country was governed.

Since the 1860s,

campaigners known as suffragists

had been trying to change
that fact,

but 40 years of asking nicely
simply hadn't worked.

In 1903, from their
Manchester kitchen table,

the Pankhursts and some
like-minded women

started a new,

more proactive organisation
- the WSPU.

The suffragettes
would demand change.

But change wouldn't come easily,

because this is what
they were up against.

Giving women the vote
would mean changing the law,

and the power to do that

rested with the all-male

here at Westminster.

In May 1905,
a debate was planned

about women's suffrage,

so the WSPU led a large group

of suffragettes to Parliament.

But women weren't allowed
beyond these doors.

The issue had been debated
many times before.

So far, members of Parliament

had thrown out
19 suffrage bills.

Now, a Liberal MP proposed
a new bill,

to give women the vote.

Out there in the lobby,
Emmeline Pankhurst

and hundreds of suffragettes
were waiting to hear

what was going to happen.

But the bill got talked out,

which meant that MPs
deliberately spent

so much time talking about
another bill

that there was no time left
to discuss votes for women.


The suffragettes reacted

and there was a scuffle
in the lobby.

The women got shoved out
onto the street.

They'd been quite literally

from the corridors of power.

The suffragettes had seen

There would be no more
asking nicely.

- We resolved to be satisfied
with nothing

but action on our question.

"Deeds not words" was to be
our permanent motto.

- With a general election

after ten years
of Conservative rule,

the Liberals were looking
likely victors.

The suffragettes decided
to pressure Liberal MPs

to commit to votes for women.

It was here,
at the Free Trade Hall

in central Manchester in 1905,

that Christabel Pankhurst
and Annie Kenney

came to a public meeting.

They wanted to ask about
votes for women.

At the meeting would be a man

who was at that point
a Liberal MP,

Winston Churchill.

Now, Churchill in principle

was in favour of female

but he was a pragmatist.

He cared more about getting
votes for his Liberal Party.

If women didn't have the vote,

their needs were pretty low
on his agenda.

The meeting was getting
towards its end,

and nobody had said anything
about female suffrage.

There sat
Christabel Pankhurst, 25,

self-styled leader and a
precocious student of law,

and her 26-year-old
working-class ally,

Lancashire millworker
Annie Kenney.

Very few women attended
these events,

and they would certainly

have been expected
to stay silent.

Annie got to her feet.

She wanted to ask her question

in front of this vast
audience of men.

We listened very attentively
to the speeches,

and then at the very end
the questions were asked.

Some Labour men

putting questions about
the unemployed.

Then I rose and put mine.

No reply.

The chairman asked
for other questions.

I rose again and was pulled down

by the enthusiastic Liberals
behind me.

Annie and Christabel

now did something
even more outrageous.

They unfurled a banner

which read, "Votes For Women".

Christabel said that the result
was explosive,

the meeting was aflame
with excitement.

The women were dragged out.

Hold still, please.

- On what grounds, sir,
have we been ejected?

Just hold still, madam.

- I wish to return to the hall.

We didn't hear an answer
to our question.

Madam, I cannot permit that.

- Christabel knows exactly
what to do

because of her legal training.

And what she'll do next

changes everything.

- The matter must not, I knew,
stay where it was.

For simply disturbing
the meeting,

I shall not be imprisoned.

I must use the infallible
means of getting arrested.

I must assault the police.

The vote depended on it.

- Madam, I cannot permit that.

It is a public meeting...

- Madam.
- And I...

- Madam.
- a member

of the public.

Madam, hold still, please.

- In this single act,
the battle lines are drawn.

These women have been denied
access to political debate.

These policemen
are the public face

of political power.

They've never had to police
respectable women

like this before.

Spitting at a policeman
constitutes assault.

The unladylike spit,

his hands on her.

By Edwardian standards,

this is rule-breaking
in the extreme.

For the first time,

this raises a question
for the authorities -

what are they going to do
about these women?

It's a question
they'll be asking

for the next nine years.

Suffragettes versus
the establishment.

The battle begins.

Both women were charged
with obstruction,

and Christabel, with assault.

Crucially, they refuse
to pay their fines

and this made Annie Kenney

and Christabel Pankhurst

the first suffragettes to go
to prison for militancy.

This was what 'deeds not words'
looks like.

But I don't think anyone

had any idea just how far
deeds would go.

The next day, the papers
were full of it,

and the suffragettes recognised

that the press furore
drew more attention to the cause

of female suffrage
than it had had in years.

In January 1906,

as predicted, the Liberals
won the election.

To ramp up pressure on MPs,

who would now be
Cabinet ministers,

the WSPU moved their
headquarters to London.

They organised rallies,

heckled MPs, attempted to get
into Parliament.

And while it was shocking
for women

to so openly break the law,

they made arrest
and imprisonment

their key tactic.

Many were brought to Canon Row,

the police station
closest to Westminster.

Get yourself arrested,
refuse to pay your fine,

have your day in court,

so that the newspapers
would report what you said.

This was the way
that the suffragettes

drew attention to their cause.

The suffragettes

are deliberately breaking
the law to get attention,

but prison is a high price
to pay.

The women,
like Annie and Sylvia,

will willingly go through
those doors,

sacrificing their

Well, I think
it's quite remarkable.

The women you'd expect
to find inside

will probably have been

of crimes to do with poverty,

like vagrancy or prostitution.

But these women, they're not
the usual criminal type.

And nobody knows quite
what to make of them.

- We were marched about barefoot

from place to place.

Here to give up our money,
there to be searched.

Raising our arms in the air

whilst the officer
rubbed her hands over us

and examined our hair

to ensure we had nothing
concealed about us.

All the prisoners
seemed quiet now.

There was an atmosphere of...


You, undress.

Come on.

- When the women come
into the prison,

they're stripped
of their clothes

and their individuality

and their dignity.

The women have never experienced

anything like this before.

They've broken the rules...

they've crossed a line.

It seems to me that this
is a kind of baptism.

I think it's safe to say

that none of them will ever
be the same again.

Prison clothes,

prison food,

they'll all be treated
like common criminals.

But these women will
tolerate these indignities

because they're convinced

they have right on their side.

The cell is six feet
by nine feet.

And I just can't imagine
only being let out

for one hour a day.

But the thing is,
everyone's in the same boat.

In the prison,

the women meet as equals
and middle-class women

come face-to-face with poverty.

And this experience

will politicise them all

For some, like school teacher
Mary Leigh,

prison felt necessary.

We condemned ourselves
to prison.

Therefore it was no prison
to us.

We had a mission to pursue,

just as Joan of Arc pursued
her mission until she became

such a nuisance in the country,

that they had to burn her.

One comes out of prison
knowing that

the suffering for others
is essential

to the formation of character

and to the furtherance
of a great cause.

- Prison will change
these women.

Not only because of their
experiences inside,

but how they're treated

by their fellow suffragettes
when they get out.

- The joy of release,

it was almost worthwhile
going to prison

for the supreme happiness
of getting out.

Morning, welcome to the Savoy.

Nice to see you.

When the suffragettes
came out of prison, they got

almost the exact opposite
of the harsh treatment

they'd had inside.

They were greeted at the gates

and then they were
whisked off to a welcome banquet

at a lavish location

like this one -

The Savoy Hotel in the Strand.

Welcome breakfasts

and suffragette banquets
were pretty grand affairs.

Here's the menu for one of them.

You get eight courses
plus coffee.

There were 250 guests,
and here's the seating plan.

They were all set out
at these big, long tables.

The proceedings kicked off
with all the loyal toasts.

Toasts to His Most Gracious
Majesty, the King,

and the Queen and the
Prince and Princess of Wales

and the rest of all
the Royal Family,

before you got to success
to the women's suffrage cause.

And all this very
conspicuous loyalty

was witnessed by a lot
of other guests

who were members of the press.

Some of the suffragettes
would never have been

to such a fancy place before.

It must have made them feel
awfully special.

These banquets served
as a sort of graduation ceremony

for the suffragettes
who'd served their time,

and who'd proved
their commitment to the cause.

Through these rituals,

I think the WSPU

was creating a distinct
identity for itself.

Becoming a movement to which

increasing numbers of women
wanted to belong.

For me and for many other
young women like me,

militant suffrage

came like a draught of fresh air

into our padded, stifled lives.

It gave us the feeling
that we were part of life

and not just outside
watching it.

These arrests worked miracles
for the cause.

They inspired new recruits

and inflamed those older
in the fight.

They inspired deeds of daring.

In fact, jailbirds
created jailbirds.

Halls were crowded,

pockets were emptied,
prisons filled.

- In February 1907,

at the opening
of the new Parliament,

the suffragettes were
expecting female suffrage

to feature in the King's speech.

When it failed to appear,

they descended angrily
on Westminster

and 50 were arrested.

The largest number
at a single event so far.

But the men inside
were unimpressed.

Later that month,

another bill came before
the House of Commons,

but again, it got talked out.

There were angry protests.

Outside Parliament, this time
74 women were arrested.

In the months that followed,

324 women got themselves

The mass arrests

were causing uproar
in the press, and yet,

the suffragettes' message
wasn't getting through.

They'd become
objects of ridicule.


the social media of their day,

caricatured them

as failed mothers and wives.

So the WSPU decided to try

to take back control.

- With the close of September

and the commencement of October

starts our great winter campaign
for the vote.

The first week will be spent...

- It's October 1907

and this is the first edition
of 'Votes For Women'

the suffragettes' own newspaper.

This was a foray into what
would become

a really key battlefield,

the public image
of the suffragettes.

They're also working
on a new publicity campaign.

- Ready to go?

- This is a new suffragette

chaining themselves to railings.

But this isn't quite
what it seems.

It's actually less about protest

and more about propaganda.

This iconic image created by
the suffragettes themselves,

will be made into postcards
and distributed.

There's something
really fascinating

about this imagery,

the women in chains,

the most powerful metaphor
there is

for oppression.

The really interesting thing is

that suffragettes only
chained themselves to railings

on a handful of occasions.

The images of them doing it,

though, were so widely

that they form our idea
of the suffragettes to this day.

I think this illustrates

just how canny
the suffragettes were

at controlling their image.

There's something very modern

about their mastery of PR.

In February 1908, back here
in the House of Commons,

another bill came and went.

Angered by yet another
failed bill,

the suffragettes are
planning a show of strength

the Government cannot ignore.

So if the columns
come together here,

we should be able to avoid

and keep things moving
all the way through the park.

That should work.

That's Flora Drummond.

She left school when she was 14

and she trained to be
a postmistress.

But she ended up
as the manageress

of a typewriter factory.

She's bringing all of her

and organisational skills
to bear

on what's going to be
the biggest demonstration yet,

that the suffragettes
have organised.

Now, the speakers' platforms
are also some distance

from the main entrance.

- The suffragettes are spending

the modern equivalent
of 110,000 pounds

publicising their women's
Sunday procession,

fully expecting it to be
lapped up by the press.

The WSPU have chosen
the moment of the Women's Sunday

to launch their colours,

purple, green and white.

That's white for purity,

green for hope and purple
for dignity.

This is a genius piece
of branding.

The Pankhursts advised
the members

to always wear these colours
in a fetching,

charming and ladylike manner.

The point is, to show the world

that they're still real women,

that they've still
got feminine qualities,

and that this isn't incompatible

with having the vote.

On 21 June 1908,

seven separate processions

got ready to converge
on Hyde Park, and Flora,

who was now known
as the General,

wore a gold cap and epaulettes

to inspect each one.

On Women's Sunday,
which became known as

the day of the Monster March,

30,000 people took part
in the procession

and they were watched
by half a million more.

Hyde Park here
was absolutely packed.

The masterstroke was to ensure

that the march was captured,

not just by newspaper

but also by newsreel cameramen.

Flora made sure they had
prime positions

from which to film the event.

By now, cinema audiences
were growing rapidly,

and feature films were preceded

by early forms of newsreel.

The women carried arrows,

like those on prison uniforms

as emblems of honour.

They created a spectacle,

watched not just only
by the crowds,

but by many millions more.

And the spectators
were impressed

by the womanliness of the people
taking part.

This journalist says that

"the dignity, the grace,
the beauty, the courage

"of the processionists
carried conviction everywhere.

"Scoffers were converted."

"Some who had evidently
come to jeer stayed to cheer."

This was a glorious day

for the public image
of the suffragettes.

- This organisation
is becoming so powerful

and so determined, and women
are coming in in every way,

coming forward to us

and giving all their lives
to gain this point.

The government can see
for themselves

that this agitation

is extending all over
the country.

- The Women's Sunday

had swung the public
in the suffragettes' favour.

Now they were determined

to use that force of numbers
to persuade

politicians to take them

While the women's Sunday
was entirely peaceful,

the police are worried about
what the suffragettes

are going to do next.

Christabel, Emmeline
and Flora are planning

a sort of mass invasion

at the House of Commons.

They're calling it a rush.

The suffragettes have printed

50,000 leaflets publicising

their illegal assault
on Parliament.

- We're going to want to cut off
the bridges

and we need to make sure
we don't get a big crowd

gathering around
the house itself.

- It's supposed to take
place on the 13th of October,

but the police have come up
with a plan.

They're going to arrest

the suffragette leaders
in advance

in the hope that the rush
will never happen.

Two days before the event,

the WSPU held a rally
in Trafalgar Square,

imploring the crowd
to attend the rush.

Rather than arrest them
on the spot for incitement,

the police issued the leaders

with a summons to attend court,

which they ignored.

Mrs Pankhurst not here, then?

Back at six?

We'll have to wait then.

Make yourselves comfortable.

- What the police don't know

is that someone else
is waiting too -

a photographer, Arthur Barrett -

he's hiding in that cupboard.

Good afternoon, officers.

Ma'am. Information has been
laid this day

by the Commissioner of Police

for that you, in the month
of October,

in the year 1908,

were guilty of conduct

liable to cause a breach of
the peace,

calling upon and inciting
the public to do

a certain wrongful
and illegal act.

As you wish.

- Knowing they were
about to be arrested,

they'd planted Arthur Barrett
in the cupboard.

Capturing the moment
and spinning it for publicity

was a provocative move
that worked.

This photo appeared in the
papers the next morning.

The leaders were found
guilty of incitement

and sentenced to two months
in Holloway.

Meanwhile, the rush
took place without them.

60,000 people descended on
Parliament Square,

only to be met by a cordon
of 5,000 policemen.

The numbers are huge.

They show how votes
for women had become

one of the most incendiary
issues of the 20th century.

Everyone was talking about
the suffragettes

and they were quick to

In May 1909, they staged

a women's exhibition
in Knightsbridge.

On the face of it, this was
a traditional Edwardian bazaar,

selling sweets, dresses,
ribbons and cakes.

But it was also rather radical,

with a mock-up of a prison cell
showing visitors

what their sisters inside
was suffering.

To me, this is a snapshot
of a world in flux.

We've got the womanly traditions

still held dear by Edwardian

combined with the brave
new world

of independent, political women.

In March 1909, another bill

came before
the House of Commons.

This is the Electoral
Reform Bill.

It did pretty well, this one,

it got a second reading,

but the Liberal Prime Minister,

Herbert Asquith, abstained.

And this was despite

his public declarations
of support

for female suffrage.
What a cad.

In the eyes of the suffragettes,

this made Asquith
public enemy number one.

Six years of WSPU militancy,

the arrests, trials,
prison sentences,

the rallies and the rush
on Parliament,

all of it counted for nothing
if Cabinet ministers,

the men at the table of power,

still refused to budge.

So now the suffragettes

decided to set their sights
on them.

- Morning, ladies.
- Morning.

- Let's see who you all know.

Now, first one.

- That one's easy,
Winston Churchill on the right.

Lloyd George on the left, there.

- Nice hats.
- Well done, Flora.

- Very good, Flora.

- That's Gladstone,
you'd recognise him anywhere.

Home Secretary,
likes to look after his own,

that one does.

Not sure he's a fan
of female suffrage.

The plan is to develop a new
militant tactic.

It's to be a campaign
of harassing and heckling

Cabinet ministers.

Not at public meetings,
but out on the streets.

Cabinet ministers don't have
any particular security.

You can get right up to them

and that's what this lot
plan to do.

Grey, Edward Grey.

Foreign Secretary.

They're all foreign to me,
the lot of them.

- Now this one,
if you don't know this one,

you can go home.

- Asquith.
- Asquith.

- At the forefront of assaults
on ministers

was schoolteacher Mary Leigh.

She was the leader
of the WSPU marching band.

She climbed onto a roof,

removed slates with an axe,

and threw them at Asquith's
car down below.

She was sentenced to four months
in Winson Green jail.

Over the next few months,

there were dozens more
attacks on Cabinet ministers.

Asquith was assaulted again
on a golf course,

and later with a catapult.

While Winston Churchill

was attacked by a suffragette
with a dog whip.

Heckling Cabinet ministers
was one thing,

physically assaulting them
was quite another.

Causing actual physical harm
to another human being

was definitely crossing
a moral line.

And if the suffragettes
were willing to use violence

as a means to achieving
their ends,

how far were they prepared
to go?

Right, so we've got
two new officers coming today.

We need to get them up to date
as quickly as possible.

- The assaults on ministers

have made the Government
take note,

but not in the way
the suffragettes might hope.

They've drafted in
Special Branch,

headed by Patrick Quinn,

experienced in dealing with
the terror threat

posed by Irish nationalists

and European anarchists.

The Home Secretary's
just approved

the recruitment
of 16 new officers,

just to give protection
to Cabinet members.

Cabinet Square.

- It's never, ever happened

that individual members
of the Cabinet

have needed routine,
daily protection.

And it's quite extraordinary
to think that

they needed it because of
the threat

from the nation's mothers,

daughters and wives.

The authorities have already
locked up

some of these mothers,
daughters, wives.

Among them, Asquith's attacker,
Mary Leigh.

But the Government aren't ready

for what these women
will do next.

One suffragette has come up
with a new weapon

in this war for women's rights.

This seems to be the first time

anyone's used refusing food

as a form of political protest.

In fact, you could say that
Marion Wallace Dunlop

invented the political
hunger strike.

The suffragette leaders
will be quick to see

the power of the action
and others will follow.

But it will all come
at a terrible cost.

- On my arrival at jail,

I protested against

the treatment to which I was

and broke the windows
in my cell.

At nine o'clock in the evening

I was taken to the punishment

and was then stripped
and handcuffed.

On Thursday,

food was brought in.

But I did not touch it.

- I feel so weak.

Breakfast has just been put in.

I said I didn't want any,

God help me.

I wonder if those outside
are thinking of us?

I hear knocks on the walls

and all the prisoners
are shouting that they

haven't eaten any of their food.

Neither have I.

I am getting disinclined
to even write.

When you are on hunger
strike and thirst strike,

your suffering is very great.

Your tongue is swollen and
your lips are swollen,

the whole body twitches

and you have unendurable

But you have no fear at all.

For you know perfectly well

you may never leave prison

- After just a few days
on hunger strike,

the women are so weak,

the prison authorities
are worried they might die.

The Home Office has ordered
their release,

ending their sentences early.

Now, the reason
that hunger strike

is such a potent and
much-copied form of protest

is that it shows that a person's

willing to die for their cause.

And you can see that it put
the Government

into a really tricky position.

Obviously they didn't want
women dying in prison,

but if they let them out,

it was making a mockery of
the criminal justice system.

The early release
of the hunger strikers

may have seemed to be

a victory for the suffragettes,

but they didn't bank
on what would happen next.

It's 24 September 1909,

and Mary Leigh about to be
the first suffragette

to face the Home Office's
new directive.

- Where are we going?
- Come.

- About noon on Saturday,

I was told the matron
wished to speak to me.

And was taken
to the doctor's room

where I saw the matron,

the wardresses and a doctor.

There was a sheet on the floor

with an armchair on it.

The doctor said
I was to sit down.

And I did.

While I was held down...

a nasal tube was inserted.

The sensation is most painful.

The drums of the ears
seemed to be bursting,

and there is a horrible pain

in the throat and the breast.

The tube was pushed down
20 inches.

One doctor inserted the end
up my nostril

while I was held down
by the wardresses.

During which process

they must have seen my pain.

- It seems to me that being fed
by force in this way

is the very definition
of torture.

To go through it even once
is unthinkable,

yet many of these women
will be forcibly fed

three times a day
for several weeks.

A few of them will go through it

more than 200 times.

So the nozzle turned

at the top of my nose
to enter my gullet.

It seemed that my left eye

was being wrenched
out of its socket.

The food was poured

into the funnel, and down
into my aching,

bruised, quivering body.

I felt as though
I was being killed.

Absolute suffocation
is the feeling.

I forgot what I was in there

I forgot women,

I forgot everything

except my own sufferings,

and I was completely
overcome by them.

- Some sections of the press

were appalled by forcible

and some supported it.

Postcards were produced
that made mockery

of the suffragettes yet again.

They, in turn, produced
their own images

depicting the horror
of what was happening.

In the escalating war

between suffragette and state,

this was a watershed moment.

Forcible feeding was
enormously controversial.

It had been done for a long time

in asylums on so-called
fasting girls.

Today they'd probably be
diagnosed with anorexia,

but the Government had never

sanctioned it being done before

on people of sound mind.

It really divided
the medical profession.

117 doctors all signed

a petition to the Prime Minister

saying, "Don't do this".

One of them felt so strongly

that he's added
a personal note saying

that it's an absolutely beastly

and revolting procedure.

And that sooner or later,

there will be fatal results.

On the other hand though,
this doctor,

who was a member of the
Royal College Of Physicians

that was then based
in this building,

it's now the Canadian
High Commission,

he wrote privately
to the Home Secretary

saying that force-feeding
was fine.

He said that hundreds of lives

have been saved by it
and that in some cases,

the patient grows positively

So the Government went ahead.

It continued with
the forcible feeding.

And this was a pivotal decision,

both for the Government
and the suffragettes

there would be no turning back.

Suffragettes persisted
with hunger strikes

and on their release from

the WSPU rewarded them
with welcome breakfasts

and specially-made medals.

This one belongs to Elsie Duval,

and it was awarded for
hunger strike.

I'm very struck by the fact that
the medal says "For Valour,"

exactly like The Victoria Cross.

The hunger strike, then,

was becoming an extra
rite of passage

for the suffragettes.

And these medals made them

look like war heroes in the eyes

of the other women.

They'd become soldiers
for the cause.

If you experienced brutality
in prison

and then, when you came out,
got rewarded

by the suffragette leadership,

I can see that you might
very well become radicalised.

It's a modern word, but I
think it's relevant here.

The forcible feeding didn't
break the suffragettes -

it made them stronger.

Forcible feeding was fuel
to the fire of their militancy,

and the flames of that fire

were getting ever harder
to contain.

I go deeper and deeper in my
enthusiasm to the women.

And even for their tactics,

as I understand it more
and more.

Not only what they do,

but what has been done to them

to drive them to these tactics.

Holloway has been the greatest,

most wonderful experience
of my life.

- And if these women
were being radicalised

by hunger strikes

and forcible feeding,

what would be next?

Now, this is a letter

from the head of the
Metropolitan Police

to the Home Secretary,

and he says
there have been reports

of two suffragettes

practising with revolvers
at a shooting range

that then stood here
on the Tottenham Court Road.

Incongruously, its name
was Fairyland.

He said that he fears
the real possibility

of the Prime Minister's
being fired at

at the entrance
to the House of Commons.

And he says that there's
something nearly amounting to

a conspiracy to murder.

By the end of 1909,

things were in danger
of spinning out of control.

The violence had grown,
and demonstrations

and deputations, to assaults
and forcible feeding.

Then, to the suffragettes'

it looked like the Government
was finally

willing to find a peaceful

Out of the turmoil,

a special Parliamentary

was formed of 54 MPs,

to try to solve this question
of female suffrage.

They came up with
the Conciliation Bill.

It was the best chance
of change for 50 years.

After so many failed bills,

there was a genuine desire

on both sides for this one
to succeed.

The suffragettes called off

and the Home Office stopped

Both sides declared a truce.

It's spring, 1910.

The Conciliation Bill

is being considered
by Parliament,

and the suffragettes
who've been on hunger strike

are slowly recovering.

- It's votes for women.

- In six years,

the WSPU had come a long way

from the Pankhursts'
kitchen table.

They now counted celebrities
in their ranks,

like the goddaughter
of Queen Victoria,

Indian princess
Sophia Duleep Singh.

They occupied 23 rooms

of their headquarters,
with 110 paid staff,

including men,
in all departments

from editorial and advertising

to duplication and dispatch.

They were a sophisticated

hoping that all this hard work
was about to pay off.

On the 12th of July,

the Conciliation Bill passed
the first hurdle,

a majority of MPs,
more than 100 of them,

voted that it should get
a second reading.

But then, political differences

between the Liberals
and the Conservatives

meant that it didn't go
any further.

The Government had
something else

at the top of its agenda -


The Liberal Party's big project

was the people's budget,

designed to improve the lives
of the nation's poorest

through a fairer
distribution of wealth.

In order to get the mandate
he needed

for the people's budget,

Asquith decided to call
another general election.

This meant that the other
big social reform project,

votes for women,

got side-lined.

Yet again.

The suffragettes had held to
the truce for almost a year,

but the failure
of the Conciliation Bill

reignited their anger.

There was not one of us

who would not have gone
to our death at that moment

had Christabel so willed it.

It was a mercy
for the militant movement

when the truce was broken.

- On Friday, 18 November 1910,

300 women marched
on Westminster.

Anticipating trouble,

extra police officers were
drafted in from the East End.

Women tried repeatedly
to get into parliament,

but were kettled by the police.

They were contained within
Parliament Square.

What happened next

was violence
of a whole new order.

In this moment,

the battle lines between

and state are redefined.

Drafting in police
from a rougher part of town

has introduced a dangerous

Where before,
handling these women at all

broke Edwardian rules
of respectability,

this deliberate sexual contact

was totally transgressive,

and deeply shocking.

After six hours
of running battle,

there were 119 arrests,

and many injuries.

Was he wearing a uniform?

No, but I'm sure he was police.

He had that look about him.

He didn't look me
in the eye once

while he did what he did.

The police rode at us
with their horses.

So I caught hold of the reigns,
and would not let go.

A policeman caught hold
of my arm,

and twisted it round, and round,

until I felt the bone
almost breaking.

That's Henry Brailsford.

He's a journalist.

He walked out of his job
at the Daily News,

when the paper came out
in favour

of the forcible feeding
of suffragettes.

He's come here today
to take down testimony

from the women who experienced
Black Friday.

Can you tell me what
happened to you?

Several times constables

and plain clothes men
who were in the crowd

passed their arms around me
from the back,

and clutched hold of my
breasts from...

in as public a manner

And men in the crowd
followed their example.

I also had my chest pummelled,

and my breast clutched by

one constable from the front.

As a consequence,
three days later,

I had to have medical
attention, as...

my breasts
were discoloured...

and very painful.

One policeman put his arm
around me

and seized my left breast.

Nipping it, and wringing it
very painfully.

Saying as he did so,

"You have been wanting this"

"for a long time, haven't you?"

One gripped my thigh,

and when I demanded that he
should cease

doing such hateful action
to a woman, he said,

"Oh, my old dear,"

"I can grip you
wherever I like today."

My skirt was lifted up,
as high as possible.

And the constable attempted
to lift me off the ground

by raising his knee.

This, he could not do.

So he threw me into the crowd.

And incited the men to...

to treat me as they wished.

- The report, compiled by
a female doctor, Jessie Murray,

and Brailsford, makes for
quite distressing reading.

He interviewed 135 women,

and 50 of them said that
they experienced injuries

that gave them pain days
or weeks afterwards.

And 29 of them made claims

that they'd suffered
from indecent conduct,

which means a sort of
sexual assault.

Brailsford used
all this evidence

to call for a public inquiry.

He wanted to know how far
the police had been

instructed to behave like this.

The Home Secretary,
Winston Churchill, refused.

He said that the police
had behaved

with the forbearance
and humanity

for which they'd always been

And he repudiated the
"unsupported allegations

"of that copious fountain
of mendacity,"

"the Women's Social And
Political Union."

Despite the fact the Government

tried to have the negatives

this photograph appeared

in the papers the next day.

This was bad press
for the men in power

at Number Ten Downing St,

who were more accustomed

to having the newspapers
on their side.

As you walk up the staircase,
you pass centuries worth

of British Prime Ministers,
and it goes without saying,

that they're all
man, man, man, man,

until you get to
Mrs Thatcher, right at the top.

When it was Asquith's turn
in power,

all the members
of Parliament were men too.

So were the lawyers,

the police officers,
and the bishops.

Not only were women excluded
from the establishment,

but some of these men

colluded with each other
to keep it that way.

Now, here is an excellent
example of a cosy,

chummy relationship

between one politician
and a press baron.

Lord Northcliffe owned a
whole string of newspapers,

including The Observer,
and The Times.

And he was pretty friendly
with Winston Churchill.

He sent Churchill a present,

and this is Churchill's
thank you letter.

He says, "My dear Northcliffe",

"thank you very much
for the beautiful"

"and sumptuous walking stick."

He says he's going to use it

as a weapon to be applied

to the suffragettes.

Then he goes on to say,

"Really, your papers have been

"very good to me" this year.

What about some golf?

"PS, When do you want me"

"to take you down
in a submarine?"

He'd become a British icon,
but Churchill,

like many politicians
of his age,

closed ranks and made light

of the harsh treatment
of the suffragettes.

They, in turn, resolved to
scale up

their response
with a new offensive.

Hello, ladies.

- Welcome.
- So, choose your weapon.

- Rocks, or hammers?

- After Black Friday,
women are reluctant

to put themselves in harm's way.

But there are still hundreds
of them

ready to sign up for this
latest assault.

Normally, the suffragettes

their demonstrations in advance,

but this time, they secretly
coordinated a mass action

that's going to take
everybody by surprise.

I want you to continue,
do not stop.

God speed, ladies.

On 1 March 1912,

an army of women made their way
to central London

to await their cue.

I took up my station

with others outside Liberty's

We walked up and down,

and tried to look interested
in the goods displayed.

Throughout the West End
shopping area,

with a unanimity that was
near to being magical,

as the first stroke of Big Ben

boomed out the hour of 11,

100 hammers came out of

pockets and sleeves.

- In an unprecedented,

coordinated attack,
hundreds of women vandalised

property throughout
the West End.

They'd smashed windows before,

but never on this scale.

It is quite true,

I used a hammer and stones
to break windows.

Because I realise that that
is the only

effective means of protest
left to us.

Votes and riot are the only

two forms of appeal

to which this Government
will respond.

They refuse us votes, therefore,

we fall back on riot.

Do not mistake our object.

It was not an attack

upon West End shopkeepers.

But upon the Government,

through the medium
of insurance companies.

- The damage was estimated
at 6,500 pounds.

Equivalent to about
500,000 pounds today.

9,000 police were called
to the area,

that's almost half of the
Met's entire force.

And over 200 women
were arrested.

Clearly, the suffragettes

putting themselves in harm's way

was a serious business,
but now they were attacking

the property of other people.

The response was

to decapitate the WSPU -

Special Branch raided

the WSPU offices

and arrested the leadership.

And they were charged
with incitement,

and sentenced to nine months
in Holloway.

This time, the suffragettes
had found a way

of hitting the establishment
where it hurt.

The Government was in no mood
to negotiate.

Shortly afterwards,

when another revised

Conciliation Bill came before
the Commons,

it was categorically defeated.

The MP Sydney Buxton

said that if the House
of Commons pass this bill now,

it would be an endorsement
of the methods

and the actions
of the suffragettes.

So militancy was
increasingly divisive,

and even at the heart
of the WSPU

there were concerns

that it was alienating
public opinion.

Some members opted to leave,
and set up other groups.

To avoid arrest, Christabel
had gone into exile in Paris,

but tried to keep control
over those who remained

through her right-hand woman,
Annie Kenney.

- Then started my life
of real responsibility.

The editors of the paper,
the most eloquent speakers,

and the creative leader
all swept away.

What a responsibility for me.

- Special Branch
are now watching

the suffragettes' every move
to try to

pre-empt further militant

When there's due cause,

the Special Branch have
the power to intercept

letters and telegrams.

By now, and it's March 1912,

these powers have been
enormously extended.

The Home Secretary
has given them permission

to read every single telegram

sent either to or from the WSPU.

In total, 262 of these
telegrams will be

forwarded to the Director
of Public Prosecutions.

This is classic intelligence

The Government was clamping
down on the suffragettes.

Then, in June 1912,

a month into her prison

Emmeline Pankhurst went on
hunger strike.

Reluctant to forcibly feed

one of the figureheads
of the movement,

the authorities released her.

Soon afterwards, at an
Albert Hall meeting,

Emmeline addressed the doubters.

She reminded the audience
of the cause,

and she said explicitly

that she was going to incite
ever-greater militancy.

"We have a great mission,"
she said to the audience.

- The greatest mission
the world has ever known.

I incite this meeting
to rebellion.

Be militant, each in your
own way.

I accept the responsibility
for everything you do.

- For the core of committed
militants who remained,

this was a clear call to arms.

In the early hours of
13 July 1912,

a suffragette was arrested

outside the house of a
Cabinet minister.

Court records show
that in her basket

she had firelighters,
pick locks,

tapers, matches,
and two cans of inflammable oil.

There was also a chilling
little note, it read,

"I've taken part in every
peaceful method

"of propaganda and petition,

"but I've been driven to realise

"that it's all been of no avail."

"So now I have done
something drastic."

This new tactic of arson
is a big shift in gear.

The aim is to inflict
maximum damage to property,

and the point isn't to get

the point is to get away
with it.

So what kind of women

are prepared to commit
these crimes?

Lilian Lenton,

a carpenter's daughter
from Leicester,

she heard Emmeline speak

and vowed to sign up
when she came of age.

Mary Richardson,
raised in Canada,

moved to Britain at 16,

force-fed, and clearly


The word had haunted me so long,

I had known I should not
escape in the end.

I must pay the full price
demanded of a suffragette.

I had no home, so there was
no one to worry over me,

and over whom I should worry.

I had to do more than
my fair share

to make up for the women

who stood back from militancy,

because of the sorrow

their action would have caused

to some loved one.

I was at suffragette
headquarters and announced

that I didn't want to break
any more windows,

but I did want to burn
some buildings.

And I was told that another girl

had just been in

saying the same thing.

So we two met,

and the real serious fires

in this country started.

- The suffragettes may only be

targeting empty properties,

but this is a dangerous,
illegal act.

I do understand how they got
to this point.

The right to vote depends on

a man's ownership of property.

Looked at in a certain way,

Edwardian society
puts more value on property

than it does on women.

You can see why they might
want to burn it down.

Come on, hurry.

- But it's hard to imagine

that this violence is going
to persuade

the Government to give women
the vote.

By spring 1913,

suffragettes were targeting
exclusively male sites

like cricket pavilions.

But they also sabotaged
postboxes with ink or acid,

they cut telegraph wires
and they damaged paintings.

Most famously,

Mary Richardson would use
a hatchet

to smash a nude by Velazquez.

It seemed nothing was

The suffragettes are serving
longer prison sentences,

they're still going on
hunger strike

and being forcibly fed.

But many will reoffend just
as soon as they're released.

The authorities are
desperate to keep track

of what has become

a dangerous band
of wanted women.

The prison authorities regularly

take mugshots of convicted

But the suffragettes know

that if they move about
and struggle

when the photograph's
being taken

it'll come out blurred,

exposure times are still
relatively long.

So the prison governors

have decided that they're
going to photograph

the suffragettes secretly,

without their knowledge,
or consent.

The suffragettes have gone
to great lengths

to control their public image,

how the world sees them.

And now the tables have
been turned, once again.

Covert photographs of

including Lilian Lenton
and Mary Richardson

were distributed to warn

police stations, museums
and galleries.

These were Edwardian women

as they'd never been seen

I think the forces
that created them

were propelling them towards
ever-greater extremes.

It was not long to wait

before I heard what my new
task was to be.

Once again, my companion
and I were called upon

for the almost superhuman effort

of remaining calm and collected,

while all the time,

the hot terror of what lay
in front of us

burned in our brains.

- You might well be wondering

where the suffragettes have
learned their

bomb-making skills.

Well, one of them has got
a husband who's a chemist.

Edwy Clayton is a member of
the men's league

for women's suffrage.

I think he's been giving
them lessons.

Even if there's no intention
to endanger life,

clearly, bomb making
is a high risk tactic.

It's terrifying that things
have escalated this far.

In February 1913,

a bomb damaged a house
that was being built

for the Chancellor of the
Exchequer, Lloyd George.

The damage may not have been

but it was hugely significant.

I can see how years of
frustration and ill-treatment

may have driven them to it,

but the suffragettes
had crossed a line...

into terrorism.

That night, there was a big
suffragette meeting,

and Emmeline Pankhurst took
full personal responsibility.

"I have advised," she said,

"I have incited,
I have conspired."

That gave Special Branch

grounds to arrest her again
for incitement.

This time she was sentenced

to three years penal servitude.

Already in poor health,
she immediately

went on hunger strike again.

With Emmeline Pankhurst
in prison,

and on hunger strike,

the authorities were getting

increasingly anxious that she,

or maybe some other suffragette,

might die while on their watch.

So they came up with a new act,

the Prisoner's Temporary
Discharge For Ill Health Act.

This meant that when the
suffragettes got too weak,

they'd be released from prison,

they'd be allowed to build up
their strength,

then they'd get rearrested

to finish off their sentences.

Now, unlike all the other bills,

this one got a very swift
journey through Parliament.

The act solved one problem,
but it created others.

The authorities spent
considerable time and resources

tracking released suffragettes

who went to great lengths
to evade them.

It became known

as the Cat and Mouse Act.

Using disguises and a
network of safe houses,

Lilian Lenton became one of

the best-known suffragettes
on the run,

and her exploits were avidly
followed in the press.

When I was released
from Armley Jail in 1913,

I was taken to the home of a
local suffragette in Leeds.

When I got there I noticed
large numbers of detectives,

both at the front door,
and at the back -

it was a terraced house -

whose job it was not to let me
get away.

within a few hours,

I was out, I got to Edinburgh,

and walked up to a policeman,

and asked him the way
to somewhere,

so I could get to this house.

So then he says, "Let me
carry your case for you."

He was a very polite man.

It struck me as a joke

to let the policeman carry
the bombs,

so I said, "Thanks very much,
it is rather heavy."

The suffragettes set their
sights on empty houses,

train stations, and some
high-profile targets

in the centre of London.

On the 14th of April,

the so-called milk can bomb

was discovered just here,

outside this side entrance
to the Bank of England.

The Times newspaper reported

that this bomb was

"an ingenious and elaborate

Inside the milk can
there was a watch timer,

a battery, there was
blasting powder,

and it was all connected
together using hairpins.

Then a few weeks later,
on the 7th of May,

something happened
in St Paul's Cathedral.

In the early hours
of the morning,

the under verger, Mr Harrison,

was checking things out,

and doing a bit of dusting

when he heard an ominous
ticking sound.

It was coming from just here,

underneath the Bishop's chair.

It was a square box,
about six inches across,

and wrapped in brown paper.

Another bomb. He took it to
the verger's office,

where they put it
in a bucket of water

and then rushed it
out of the cathedral.

Underneath the brown paper

the bomb was then wrapped
in a page torn

from the suffragette newspaper.

And under that, there was
a metal mustard tin

packed with enough dynamite

to have caused
a very serious fire,

right here in the heart
of the cathedral.

At a time of deference
and faith,

bringing a bomb into a building

as sacred as a cathedral

was profoundly shocking.

It shows the suffragettes
had lost all regard

for the very institutions
like the Church of England,

and the Bank of England,

upon which society was built.

Now, this is the actual
mustard tin

that was discovered
underneath the Bishop's chair.

It says on it,
Keen's Mustard, London.

It's surprisingly heavy.

And here on the top

is a very sophisticated timer
that you twist.

And this here, well, this is

the milk can
from the Bank of England.

You can just make out
the word 'dairy'

on the top of it.

And these two items
are highlights

of the City of London
Police Museum.

What strikes me is the way

that they are made
out of such domestic items,

the mustard, the milk,
the hairpins.

It seems particularly

for bombs that were made
by women.

Although, they were
no less deadly for that.

Christabel is in exile.

Annie is in-and-out of jail,

and taking turns
as acting leader.

And the bombing campaign
is intensifying.

- Militancy will be
more furious than before.

You, who sympathise
with the militants,

surely will come forward tonight

and join the militant ranks

and give, in your name,

to do one deed
within the next 48 hours.

There are many things
you can do.

You don't need me to tell you.

You all know.

When you have done it,

don't forget that you have got
to get away,

so that you can do it again.

- From piers to pavilions,
to MP's houses,

in April 1913 alone

there were 33 bomb

or arson attacks.

The object was to create

an absolutely impossible

of affairs in the country.

To prove that it was
impossible to govern

without the consent
of the governed.

It was a rule that we must risk

no one's lives but our own, but,

if you take a bomb somewhere,

however great the precautions,

you can't be 100% sure.

I hated the whole business.

We all did.
And would much rather

have had the vote than do

this sort of thing to get it.

- In response to the bombing

the authorities struck back
at the WSPU,

pursuing women under
the Cat and Mouse Act,

and seizing documents,

and their newspaper
was censored.

In these first months of 1913,

several properties of the WSPU

will get raided by the police.

The headquarters gets a
going over,

and so, too, does
Annie Kenney's house.

So, with censorship
and surveillance,

and police raids,

and women on the run,

that question that was asked
way back

at the Manchester Free Trade

of "What are we going to do
about these women?"

is clearly testing the powers

of the state
to their very limits.

It was starting to look like
an impossible situation

where neither side could afford
to capitulate.

But then, on 4 June 1913,

one event occupied
all the headlines.

Emily Wilding Davison

died after attempting
to attach a banner

to the King's horse
at the Epsom Derby.

The suffragette leadership

had not been party to her plan,

but they took charge
of her funeral,

a spectacular event watched
by millions.

Her death spurred
the militants on,

but there were fears
on all sides

that it would just be
a matter of time

before there'd be further
loss of life.

In May, June and July,

there were 60 bomb
or arson attempts.

And when all the suffragette
militancy is added together

this is what it looks like.

In total, there were

more than 160 attacks.

In October, Annie made a speech

just there in
the Pavilion Theatre.

The police came onto the stage
and arrested her.

She was sentenced to 18 months
in Holloway,

but she immediately went on
hunger strike,

and had to be released after
four weeks

on the grounds of ill health.

Annie made two more speeches
after that,

but by now she was so weak

that she had to do it
from a stretcher.

- The only way you can stop
militant methods

is by giving women the vote.

And the sooner you realise that,
the better.

We shall go on, and on,

and go to prison,
and come out of prison,

and be as bad as ever,

in fact, we shall go
from bad to worse.

There is something
in this movement

that no power of opposition,

whether of the government,

or the people, can stop.

- The suffragettes went on
to attack Buckingham Palace,

Westminster Abbey and
Holloway Prison.

The total cost of damage
caused by bombs and arson

has been estimated at
56 million pounds

in today's money.

By February 1914,

1,241 prison sentences

had been served
by the suffragettes,

and 165 women
had been forcibly fed.

There was a real sense
that militancy,

and the Government response
to it,

had become something
of a runaway train.

The Home Secretary said

that this was a phenomenon

absolutely unprecedented
in our history.

And after a decade
of protest, and arson,

and bombs,

the suffragettes seemed
as far away

from getting the vote as ever.

But then, everything changed.

Overnight, the war transformed

the political landscape
of Britain completely.

The WSPU ceased militancy,

and the Government released
all imprisoned suffragettes.

While some sought to keep

the flag of women's suffrage

many suffragettes,
like Emmeline and Christabel,

focused solely on the war

But as men left for the front,

the Government's attitude to
women's place in society

began to change,

by necessity.

More than a million women
joined the workforce,

and the value of their

could no longer be denied.

On 6 February 1918,

Parliament passed

the Representation of
the People Act.

Finally, after more than
50 years of campaigning,

and a decade of militancy,

it gave women over 30,

who met a property requirement,

the right to vote

for the very first time.

The ten years
of suffragette militancy

forms one of the most
important chapters

of British history.

Once you understand
the chain of events

that led to the escalating

you can't excuse
their more extreme acts -

violence is always wrong -

but they do raise
some important questions.

Who should have a voice
in society?

How far should they go
to get their voice heard?

When does the end
justify the means?

And what would you do
to defend your rights?

Whatever you may think about
the suffragette violence,

they themselves believed

that the right to vote
was worth the fight.

- The standard set was high...

and we lived up to it.

The discipline stern,
we accepted it.

The work hard, we did it.

The oppression fierce,
we overcame it.

The dangers many, we faced them.

And in the end, we won.

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