I’m fascinated by the early part of the twentieth century; it was such a turbulent time in British history. The First World War aside, one of the most significant features of that period was the campaign for votes for women. By the outbreak of war only New Zealand, Finland and Norway had universal suffrage. By the end of 1918 another eight countries had joined them. The United Kingdom was one of another handful that had moved some way towards electoral equality but it would be another ten years before men and women had equal voting rights. By then we were lagging way behind Sweden, Albania and Mongolia amongst others.
Nowadays the campaign for votes for women in this country is largely synonymous in the popular consciousness with the so-called Suffragettes. Fronted by Emmeline Pankhurst and her eldest daughter Christabel, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) became noted for its acts of violence in pursuit of its aims. But there is a much deeper history to tell.
And, in this excellent book, David Roberts tells it. Beginning with an overview of the situation up to 1903, he then focuses on the newly formed WSPU and details the key events of the militants’ campaign, as well as their contribution to British society at war, concluding with universal suffrage in 1928 . The book ends with an overview of the international perspective.
Inevitably Roberts uses pictures along with his words and together they provide an excellent introduction to the subject for younger readers. It is not, however, simplistic even though it is accessible. An adult reader looking for an overview of the subject would find it here. The illustrations are vibrant and dynamic, designed to capture interest at the same time as educating.
The book is a desirable item in its own right. Two Hoots has packaged David Roberts’ work attractively and sympathetically, frequently including full-page illustrations alongside smaller details giving the book an expansive feel. It’s a book that I expect to dip into time and again and I am sure that any young teenager fortunate enough to acquire a copy would feel the same.