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On 6 February 1918, after campaigning for over 50 years, British women were finally granted the vote. In November 1919, the first woman MP, Lady Nancy Astor, was elected to the House of Commons. History was made.
A hundred years on, it is time to reflect on the daring and painful struggle women undertook to break into a political system that excluded them. In the voices of key suffragettes, Rise Up Women! chronicles the founding of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in the 1860s, led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, and the formation of the more militant Women's Social and Political Union in 1903.
'Deeds Not Words!' was their slogan - and they took increasingly violent action, enduring police brutality, imprisonment and force-feeding. Charting the history of the movement through the lives of those who took part, Rise Up Women! illuminates the stories of lesser-known figures and depicts a truly national and international struggle. Brilliantly researched, vividly rendered and celebratory, it is an essential reminder of what it took to get where we are today - and the progress yet to be made.
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A Great Story delivered as a long list
The stories of the suffragettes were incredible and should be taught at school, they were a phenomenal and formidable group of people. The issue I had with the book itself was that it was delivered too much like a list and became repetitive. I didn't want a sensationalised history, but the book could be less like an Excel spreadsheet. Excellent in parts when there was a narrative, poor where delivered person, event, person, event. You should read at least one book about the suffragettes.
Not Just the Pankhursts
This is a story with a very large cast; it is the story of the Suffragettes with the Pankhursts just providing the framework. Most of the characters are the multitude of ordinary women who fought the militant fight to achiieve the vote for women in numerous different ways. It is extremely well researched and a useful source of social history. The narrator did a brilliant job.
My major reservation is whether this works as an audio book. At times it felt like just a list of broken windows, prison sentences and descriptions of force feeding. There were so many people it was not possible to feel too much for any of them.
The heroine of this book is the fight itself and I was left with more mixed feelings about this than when I started. Were they terrorists? Definitely not. Were they mentally unstable? In more than a few cases, I suspect the answer was yes. Did they do more damage to the cause than good - I think the jury is still out.on that one.
As a woman I am very aware that I owe those who struggled for the liberty I take for granted a great debt. This book has given me a broader view of the whole picture and I now want to know more about the others who struggled on without the militancy and - it has to be said - without all the publicity.
12 people found this helpful
- Mary Carnegie
Does the end justify the means?
I’m glad I listened to this book because it has modified my hitherto adulatory attitude towards militant suffragettes. I couldn’t approve of many of their actions even if they did suffer greatly by imprisonments, force feeding, assault and insults. Arson attacks on churches? And Burns’ Cottage!
My imagination ran to considering how recent women politicians would have dealt with the terrorism of suffragettes if some freak of the space-time continuum had permitted. Thatcher & May (as Home Secretary) would have been far more severe!