Sunday, May 9, 2010

Women and the vote

My cyber friend Diana has an interesting blog on English suffragettes:

We forget how much women a century ago endured to open the door to women today having a part in the political process. Does anyone know if Quaker women in Britain were involved in the woman's movement there? I also wonder what would motivate a wealthy, aristocratic woman like Lytton to see so thoroughly through the eyes of the underclass--the view from below--that she would throw herself wholeheartedly into the woman's movement of her time.


Diana Birchall said...

Thanks for linking my post, Diane! I know there were Quakers involved in the English Suffrage movement. For one, Alice Paul got involved with the Pankhursts:

If you read Constance Lytton's compelling narrative, you see at once that she was a natural and passionate advocate of the underdog from an early age, despite being born into an aristocratic family herself.


Hystery said...

Anne Knight was inspired by her outrage at the World Antislavery Convention in London (1840) in which they infamously decided to exclude female participation. She went on to publish and agitate for suffrage writing a pamphlet on the subject in 1847, a year before Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (also present at and insulted by the behavior of male abolitionists at World Anti-Slavery Convention) called for suffrage in Seneca Falls.

I know much less about British suffragists than I do of Americans, but it is not uncommon to find middle and upper class activists investing a great deal of time and attention to concerns of economic inequality and the abuses that result from it.

Diane said...

Diana, I should have known Alice Paul was a Quaker but I studied the suffragists before becoming a Quaker was even remotely on my screen.


I actually did my senior history thesis on connections between American and British suffragist movement around the turn of the 20th c and how they energized each other. I know very little about the 1840s, so it's interesting to hear. I'm thinking more and more about the Quaker woman's voice of indignation and thinking it was a good thing.

Hystery said...

In many ways, antebellum feminists were more radical and diverse than that generation that finally realized the suffrage dream. I believe a good part of that is because of Friends' influence and a more direct and lively conversation with patriarchal religious orthodoxy which became muted or even disparaged in later suffragist generations. Even Anthony participated in this more socially conservative approach by the end of her life.

Gil S said...

Anne Knight [1786-1862] is certainly an important figure but was on the fringes of British Quakerism, partly because from 1847 until her death she lived mainly abroad in France and Switzerland.

In general British Quaker women tended to be on the 'suffragist' rather than the more activist 'suffragette' side of the movement, hoping to change minds by their arguments and 'womanly' behaviour rather than by shock tactics, which some saw as going against the peace testimony.

Not all Quakers, or all Quaker women, agreed with the suffrage cause at all, as a reading of the (very full) reports of contemporary Yearly Meetings in 'The Friend' makes clear.

There's obviously research to be done on this and if I wasn't in the 18th century at present I might do it myself!

Diane said...

Dear Gil,

Interesting how Quakers were and weren't involved. What are you working on in the 18th century?