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Elections & Voting Explained

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Suffragette Christabel Pankhurst

Speech in 1908 about why women should get the vote by the 1909 General Election.

The speech

The militant Suffragists who form the Women’s Social and Political Union are engaged in the attempt to win the parliamentary vote for the women of this country.

Their claim is that those women who pay rates and taxes and who fill the same qualifications as men voters shall be placed upon the parliamentary register.

The reasons why women should have the vote are obvious to every fair-minded person.

The British constitution provides that taxation and representation shall go together. Therefore, women tax payers are entitled to vote.

Parliament views questions of vital interest to women such as education, housing and the employment questions and upon such matters, women wish to express their opinions at the ballot box

The honour and safety of the country are in the hands of Parliament. Therefore, every patriotic and public spirited woman wishes to take part in controlling the actions of our legislators.

For forty years, this reasonable claim has been laid before Parliament in a quiet and patient manner. Meetings have been held and petitions signed in favour of votes for women but failure has been the result.

The reason of this failure is that women have not been able to bring pressure to bear upon the government and government moves only in response to pressure.

Men got the vote, not by persuading but by alarming the legislators. Similar vigorous measures must be adopted by women.

The excesses of men must be avoided, yet great determination must be shown.

The militant methods of the women today are clearly thought out and vigorously pursued. They consist in protesting at public meetings and in marching to the House of Commons in procession.

Repressive legislation make protests at public meetings an offence but imprisonment will not deter women from asking to vote.

Deputations to parliament involve arrest and imprisonment yet more deputations will go to the House of Commons.

The present Liberal government profess to believe in democratic government yet they refuse to carry out their principles in the case of women.

They must be compelled by a united and determined women’s movement to do justice in this measure…[inaudible]… we have waited too long for political justice; we refuse to wait any longer.

The present government is approaching the end of its career. Therefore, time presses if women are to vote before the next general election.

We are resolved that 1909 must and shall be the political enfranchisement of British women.

Transcript taken from The British Library.