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Anniversary of group formed to get votes for women

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On the 10th October 1903 the Women’s Political and Social Union (WPSU) was formed in Manchester by a small number of women to campaign for the right for women to vote. The founders formed a women-only group to campaign initially for social reforms and also campaigned for an extension of women’s suffrage, believing that this was central to social equality. It became the first group to be known as ‘suffragettes’ - members of a women’s right to vote movement.  

Following the failure of a Parliamentary Bill in 1905 to extend the right to vote to women obtaining of the right to vote became the central demand of the WPSU with other social reforms being abandoned. The organisation adopted a more confrontational approach, illustrated by the slogan ‘deeds not words’.

In 1908 the WSPU adopted purple, white, and green as its official colours. These were chosen because "Purple...stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette...white stands for purity in private and public life...green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring". In June 1908 the first major public use of these colours was when the WSPU held a 300,000-strong ‘Women’s Sunday’ rally.

The WSPU was very active in keeping the issue of women’s suffrage in the public eye by a combination of militant activity and large demonstrations. Involvement in acts of militant activity sent many of its members to prison, some for lengthy periods; in prison the hunger strike was undertaken by some. The organisation faded following the start of the First World War in 1914 and was dissolved in 1917.

Meg commented:

“Today in the UK we take the vote for granted both men and women. It is important to recognise these rights were hard won and still not everyone in the world enjoys them.”


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