Tony Cliff


Class Struggle and Women’s Liberation


7. Women’s movements in England

The sharp demarcation between women workers and bourgeois feminists that occurred in Germany and Russia was absent in England. There are a number of reasons.

First, in both Germany and Russia it was the socialist party which founded the trade unions, while in Britain the unions founded the Labour Party. These unions, except in the cotton industry, were for a long time closed to women.

Secondly, the political movement of the working class in England was extremely confused and conservative. Its leaders continued to hold a hotch-potch of conservative and liberal ideas mixed with narrow-minded trade unionism. The “Marxists” were mainly in the sectarian Social Democratic Federation (SDF), some of whose leaders were anti-feminist (and racist) to an extreme. The socialists who were pro-feminist were by and large in the ILP, the Independent Labour Party, a muddled party which sought co-operation with the Liberals, and hence even more strongly favoured co-operation between working- class and Liberal women. Where working women rub shoulders with grand ladies, it is obvious who will influence whom.



Working Women in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century

In the first quarter of the nineteenth century women participated in the illegal trade union movement and were active in the campaigns for the repeal of the Combination Acts. The reform agitation which started at the time of the French revolution and was renewed after the end of the Napoleonic wars, took on a mass character in some manufacturing districts, particularly among the cotton workers of Lancashire. The movement included many women, who formed women’s political unions with their own committees and officers. In the famous demonstration for parliamentary reform at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester on 16 August 1819 many women took part. [1]

When, in the summer of 1834, Robert Owen founded his short-lived Grand National Consolidated Trade Union, a general union open to all irrespective of trade, craft or sex, tens of thousands of women joined it. Unfortunately it disintegrated some five years later.

When it came to working-class politics, which for the years 1837-48 meant the Chartist movement, women again played a significant role. They formed a number of Women’s Charter Associations, and were very active in all three Charter campaigns. At the movement’s largest mass meeting in Birmingham in 1842 as many as 50,000 women took part, besides tens of thousands of men. [2] But this was a short chapter of history, followed by a long period of reaction. To quote from Dorothy Thompson’s excellent article Women and Nineteenth Century Radical Politics: A Lost Dimension:

The gains of the Chartist period, in awareness and in self-confidence, the moves towards a more equal and co-operative kind of political activity by both men and women, were lost in the years just before the middle of the century ... One of the losses of this process in the Victorian period was the potential contribution to politics and society generally of the women of the working-class communities. [3]

When, in the late 1840s and early 1850s, a formal structure was established for the emerging unions, it was skilled men who organised themselves, leaving behind unskilled workers in general, including women. The only exception was the Lancashire cotton union which not only made serious and successful efforts to organise and activate women, but also negotiated rates based on “the rate for the job” and not a rate according to the sex of the worker doing the job. [4] The exclusion of women from other unions was aided by the fact that outside the cotton industry women were dispersed in very small workplaces: dressmaking in sweatshops or at home, lace-making, small pottery workshops and so on, where it was difficult to organise.

Emma Patterson (1848-86) began to organise those women not catered for by the unions. She was the daughter of a schoolteacher, and married to a cabinet-maker. In 1874 she founded the Women s Provident and Protective League, of which she became honorary secretary. This was an alliance of leisured and working-class women concerned with the problems of women workers. The name “trade union” was deliberately rejected as being likely to antagonise middle-class supporters. It was “anxious to disclaim any views of antagonism towards employers of female labour”. Striking was deprecated as “rash and mistaken action”, and arbitration was promoted. [5] While the experience of bourgeois ladies helping’ working women to organise was the product of sexist divisions in the working class, it was itself a further cause of disunity, giving many working-class men the ideal excuse for reactionary views on the right to work or the vote.

The aim of the League was to establish women-only trade unions. Its achievements, however, were puny. Between 1874 and 1886 the League established between thirty and forty women’s societies in England and Scotland. Few counted more than a few hundred members or survived longer than a few years. About half succumbed within a year. The most successful, such as the Dewsbury Woollen Weavers and the Leicester Seamers and Stitchers, subsequently joined the men’s trade unions. In 1886 the combined membership of women’s societies was probably less than 2,500 women. During the same period, the female membership of the cotton unions rose steadily from 15,000 in 1876 to 30,000 in 1886, and women shared with men in the progressive advance of wages. [6] The total membership of the League was less than 7 per cent of all organised women.

This failure led Emma Patterson to make a U-turn in the 1880s and seek collaboration with the men’s unions. Another issue on which she and the League made a radical turn was the question of protective legislation limiting the length of the working day for women and children. Protective legislation was supported by many male workers and fought for by the trade union movement generally in the 1870s because men believed they would benefit from the proposed changes. They hoped that the restrictions would make it more difficult to hire women. Men therefore would not have to compete with women for jobs.

This it did not do. Indeed, after the introduction in 1847 of the first Act restricting the working day for women and girls in the textile industry, the percentage of women and girls above thirteen in the industry rose from 55.9 to 57, while that of adult men decreased from 26.5 to 25. [7] Instead what the protective legislation did achieve was a shortening of the working day for men too. As Thomas Ashton, secretary of the Oldham Spinners’ Association, colourfully put it: “The battle for the limitation of hours of adults in general was fought from behind the women’s petticoats.” [8]

The middle-class feminist supporters of the League opposed protective legislation on the grounds that it was discriminatory against women. The League’s stand had, of course, been warmly supported by the employers. [9]



The New Unionism

Until the rise of the New Unions only a tiny minority of workers was organised. The total membership of unions in 1888 was 750,000, some 5 per cent of all occupied people. Among adult male manual workers the proportion of trade unionists was about 10 per cent. [10]

In 1888-9 a wave of industrial unrest swept the country, which brought with it a new outburst of trade union organisation, this time of unskilled men and of women. The strike of the 700 matchgirls working for Bryant and May in East London “was the small spark that ignited the blaze of revolt and the wildfire spread of trade unionism among the unskilled.” [11]

In March 1889 Will Thorne launched the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers. Without even a strike the union won an eight-hour day. The union’s growth was phenomenal. By September 1890 it had 89 branches, including two composed entirely of women, with a total membership of 60,000. [12] The gas workers’ militancy affected the dockers. In 1889 a dock strike started with 10,000 workers and grew to 100,000. The initial membership of 800 in the dockers’ union – the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and Labourers’ Union – grew to 60,000.

From the outset the New Unions did not exclude women from membership, but as they tended to organise mainly in transport and labouring, few women came within their orbit. Still, the spirit of new unionism inspired women, and in the years 1888 and after they engaged in considerable industrial action. Blanket weavers in Heckmondwike, female cigarmakers in Nottingham, cotton workers and jute workers in Dundee took action spontaneously in 1888. Women in a tin box manufactory in London struck and pelted men who continued to work there with red-ochre and flour. [13]

In 1889 a dozen little societies of women workers sprang up in London, and as many in the provinces. The strike of the Leeds tailoresses swelled the ranks of a local Society of Workmen from a mere handful to 2,000 in the space of a few weeks. [14] Many thousands of women joined trade unions in the years 1888-9.

But at the end of 1889 the employers started a general counteroffensive. A dock strike in Liverpool was badly beaten. In London in the early 1890s the dockers’ union was forced out of the docks [15], and its membership went from 100,000 in 1889 down to 56,000 in 1890, 22,913 in 1892 and 10,000 in 1896. A similar development affected the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers, its membership declining from 60,000 in 1890 to 36,108 in 1892, and 29,730 in 1896. The National Amalgamated Union of Sailors and Firemen, which had 58,780 members in 1890, dissolved in 1894. So did the National Labour Federation which in 1890 had had 60,000 members. [16] Almost no women remained in the general unions.

But despite the ebb, the general trend was towards the greater organisation of women in the trade unions, above all by the opening up of the men’s unions to women. The female membership of all trade unions increased from about 37,000 in 1886 to nearly 118,000 in 1896, and about 167,000 in 1906. Of this number 143,000 women belonged to textile unions, within which 125,000 were in cotton unions. By comparison the women-only unions at the time had probably no more than 5,000 members. [17]



The National Federation of Women Workers

The Women’s Trade Union League served as an umbrella organisation uniting women-only unions from different trades. The mixed unions also collaborated with it, getting the services of a woman organiser in return for a small affiliation fee. But because of its mixed-class membership, the League was unable to become integrated into the trade union movement and affiliate to the Trades Union Congress. [18]

Because of this, Mary Macarthur, who had become the League’s secretary in 1903, decided in 1906 to found the National Federation of Women Workers. This was formed on the model of a general labour union, and was open to all women in unorganised trades or who were not admitted to their appropriate trade union. [19]

Mary Macarthur opposed the separation of women from men. She “had always looked to the day when women would be part of a large strong body representing both men and women”. [20] The Federation therefore co-operated as far as it could with the skilled men’s unions, and its membership gave active support to the policy of joint organisation for men and women employed in the same trade or industry. Often a branch of the Federation was transferred to a men’s union which had decided to open its doors to women.

The National Federation “organised more women, fought more strikes and did more to establish women trade unionism than any other organisation”. It was

rooted in the ideas and militancy of the early general labour unions. In its struggle to improve wages and conditions, it usually found that the strike was the only weapon at its disposal. Its record between 1906 and 1914 was largely one of strikes. [21]

Between 1904 and 1914 the membership of the Federation grew from 2,000 to 20,000. [22] By 1914 female membership of all trade unions had risen to 357,956, of which 210,272 were in cotton [23], a growth of 190,000 in eight years.

The years 1910-14, a high point of working-class struggle, saw even closer relations between working women’s and men’s struggles than 1888-9. There were mass strikes of miners, seamen, dockers, railwaymen, engineers and transport workers. At the same time 500 women chainmakers in Cradley Heath, Birmingham, about half of all women in the trade, went on strike. After being locked out for ten weeks they won and the chainmakers’ union membership rose briefly to 1,700.

The impact of the women chainmakers’ victory was dramatic. The whole of the Midlands was affected: workers in the brick trade, in the metal hollow-ware trade, and thousands of unskilled and unorganised men who were labouring for less than 1 a week in the dingy factories and workshops of the Black Country revolted. All of them, like the Cradley Heath women, won recognised rates of wages and trade union organisation. [24]

In the summer of 1911, 15,000 unorganised women working in twenty-one Bermondsey firms came out on strike, leading to the organisation of women in eighteen of them: jam and pickle makers, biscuit makers, tea packers, cocoa makers, glue and size-makers, tin-box makers and bottle washers. The wave of militancy led to a swift rise in women membership of the unions, which doubled between 1910 and 1914. [25]

Nevertheless, despite the great achievements of women workers in the years 1888-9 and 1910-14, they still lagged very much behind men workers. The main cause was the general nature of the British labour movement.



The Conservatism of the British Labour Movement

In Britain the slow process of industrialisation permitted organisation to spread first among those with craft power, encouraging them to be exclusive, unlike Germany, where rapid industrialisation led to rapid organisation in general unions which included skilled and unskilled, men and women. Between 1891 and 1910 British trade union membership grew from 1,109,000 to 2,565,000, or two and a half times. In the same period the German Free Trade Unions escalated from 278,000 to 2,017,000, or seven times, virtually closing the gap with the British. [26]

The Amalgamated Society of Engineers took 50 years before it allowed semi-skilled workers into membership. By August 1914, semi-skilled workers were only 6.1 per cent of the ASE membership. [27] The German Metal Workers’ Union (DMV) although a latecomer, was a much bigger organisation than its British counterpart. In 1914, while the ASE had only 174,000 members [28], the DMV had 545,000. [29] While the ASE did not have one woman member until 1943, the DMV had, in 1914, 22,551 women members (about 7 per cent of all members of the union) and in 1917, 83,266 (or 21 per cent). [30]

Although the craft unions, to achieve economic security, had again and again to fight bitter battles against the employers, when seen in a broad historical context, craft unionism inflicted grave damage on the whole working class, women and men alike. Skilled men in strong unions, the “aristocracy of labour”, had virtually permanent employment while the majority of workers lived in a wonderful buyers’ market for the employers. These skilled men enjoyed superior incomes, education and culture. They were socially nearer to the lower middle class than the working class. Hence, to the extent that they influenced the working class as a whole, they created a tradition of narrow-minded conservatism, which acted as a bulwark against Marxism gaining strength in Britain (and even largely distorted the “Marxism” that did manage to dig roots, that of the SDF).

When a labour party was finally established in 1893 in the shape of the ILP, its leaders did their best to fudge over their differences with the open capitalist parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives. Thus in 1894, at the second annual conference of the ILP, its leaders, aiming not to frighten away the trade union leaders, defeated an attempt to bind its members

to support and vote only for candidates at any election who have adopted the objects, policy and programme of the Independent Labour Party, and who are not members or ... nominees of the Liberal, Radical, Conservative, Unionist or Irish Nationalist Parties. [31]

In 1900 the Labour Representation Committee, which later evolved into the Labour Party, was born out of the ILP and the trade union movement. Ralph Milliband aptly sums up its activities as “largely the history of political manoeuvres to reach electoral accommodations with the Liberals”. [32]

In 1906 the Labour Party conference overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment to make “the overthrow of the present competitive system of capitalism and the institution of a system of public ownership” a definitive objective of the party. “Was it desirable,” Keir Hardie asked, “that those Members in the House of Commons who were not Socialists should be cleared out?” Flirting with the Liberals went on uninterrupted until the First World War.

It was the unique combination in Britain of class collaboration with indifference of the trade union and labour leaders towards unskilled workers in general, and women in particular, that led to the rise of such organisations as the Women’s Trade Union League and the National Federation of Women Workers. Similar organisations could not have arisen in Russia or Germany. There a sharp class abyss separated the economic and political organisations of the workers from those of the employers. There was little place for lady philanthropists to organise women into women s unions.

In the political sphere the differences were even more marked. In Germany and Russia workers were mortal enemies of the state because workers’ organisations there were mainly illegal and frequently subject to brutal suppression. So in both countries the question of suffrage was clearly a class issue. All socialist parties demanded general adult suffrage. No one dreamt of restricting the claim to men only.

Things were radically different in Britain. Here, by a long gradual process, men were given the vote: in 1832 the men of the middle classes, in 1867 many of the skilled men; in 1884 all skilled and all unionised working men. To be entitled to vote a man had to prove a property qualification as a householder, freeholder, copy holder, rent occupier paying 10, university degree or other entitlement. According to one estimate, this left about 70 per cent of the adult population of England and Wales excluded from voting – all women, sons living with parents, domestic servants living with employers and soldiers living in barracks. This included 42 per cent of men. [33] The final condition to qualify for the vote was to be registered at one place for 12 months. This was reckoned to be a particular disadvantage to the working-class voter, especially in London, because it was common for a man to have to move in order to be near his place of work at a time when the cost of public transport was a serious burden. [34]

For those who argued for the vote to be given to women there were two options, either to fight for it to be on the same terms as applied to men, or to fight for general adult suffrage.

The first option would mean that in practice only a tiny minority of women would win the vote. Sylvia Pankhurst explained:

If the vote were to be extended to women on the same terms [as applied to men], the working-class mother would not be able to qualify, for her husband, not she, would exercise the single vote open to them as householders. The ill-paid workman who was a lodger had seldom sticks to furnish a room even if it were rated high enough to carry a vote. On the other hand, the wives, daughters and mothers of the rich would easily provide themselves with the required qualification. [35]

Mary Macarthur estimated that if women were enfranchised on the same terms as men, less than 5 per cent of working women would be eligible. [36]

The second option did not appeal to many in the Labour Party. So long as two-fifths of men did not have the vote, an “impossibilist” call for votes for all – including women – appeared as an abrogation of the party’s “gradualist” philosophy.

There was of course a third position: total opposition to women s right to vote. All three were held by different sections of the ILP, the Labour Party, the Social Democratic Federation and the trade unions.

At the 1905 Labour Representation Conference a resolution demanding votes for women on the same terms as applied to men, on the grounds that there was “no likelihood” of adult suffrage, was argued for by Keir Hardie and Philip Snowden. (Snowden was one of the pioneers of the ILP. He was to become Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour governments of 1924 and 1929, then joined the National Government with the Tories together with Ramsay MacDonald.) the resolution was opposed by Harry Quelch, delegate of the London Trades Council and a member of the SDF, who claimed that this would be in the interests of bourgeois women, so would increase the electoral chances of the Tories and Liberals. Quelch amended the resolution to demand adult suffrage, and the amendment was carried by 483 votes to 170. In the 1906 conference, Quelch’s position was reaffirmed – but this time by a very small majority. Other prominent protagonists of adult suffrage were Mary Macarthur and Margaret Bondfield, a leading member of the Shop Assistants’ Union.

In 1906 an Adult Suffrage Society was formed to co-ordinate opposition to the limited suffrage Bill, with Margaret Bondfield as president. But it was totally ineffectual.

Outright opposition to female suffrage was expressed by some leaders of the labour movement. The most extreme was Belfort Bax, a “theoretician” of the SDF. (It must be stressed that many in the Federation took great exception to Bax’s anti-feminism – and racism. There were many revolutionary socialists in the SDF who were deeply committed to women’s liberation.) To quote just a few of Bax’s outrageous statements:

... in England whilst the woman is practically relieved of all responsibility for the maintenance of her husband, he can be compelled by poor law to maintain her under a penalty of three months’ hard labour ... I think, then, no one can deny that the existing marriage laws are simply a “plant” to enable the woman to swindle and oppress the man. [37]

The husband is compelled, by custom and by law, to do corvée, or to yield up such portion of his earnings as may enable his wife to live in comfort ... The woman possesses the monopoly of ... the means of sexual satisfaction, her body; and for allowing him access to which the law entitles her to demand a rent and dues in the shape of food, clothes, shelter – in short, provision in accordance with the station of life occupied by her “villein”, the husband, without any exertion on her part. [38]

To “prove” that women should not get the vote, Belfort Bax argued from the assumption that women, like people of the black races, were inferior:

... lower races stand in the same relation to higher races that children do to adults. Their minds are so far different from the former, that there is no basis of organic equality between the two.

Relating this to women, he goes on,

I think it is clear, therefore, that we are justified u debarring any order of persons from the franchise if they, as an order, indicate an inferiority based on an organic difference which is likely to render their co-operation in political or administrative life a danger or disadvantage to the community as a whole ... Now the question arises, are we to regard women as possessing a deep-lying organic difference, involving inferiority, to men? If so, we shall be eo-ipso justified in opposing woman-suffrage on the ground that the well-being of the community as a whole would be endangered thereby. [39]

Only a conservative movement, one intellectually as backward as the British Labour movement, could produce a Belfort Bax.



Problems for Working-Class Women

Lib-Lab politics damaged the interests of women workers even more than men. The latent ability of working-class women to struggle was distorted, stunted and never allowed to develop, while being steered into class alliances and conservatism. The potential that did exist may be glimpsed from the story of the suffrage movement among women cotton workers at the turn of the century. This is told by Jill Liddington and Jill Norris in their excellent book, One Hand Tied Behind Us. [40]

In 1893 Esther Roper launched a suffrage campaign among the Lancashire textile workers which had considerable impact on the older suffrage societies, the growing Labour Representation Committee, and eventually upon parliament. From early 1900 until 1906 the campaign gained momentum and showed impressive successes.

On 1 May 1900 a petition was launched in Lancashire. By the following spring the number of signatures of working-class women on the petition was 29,359. On 18 March a deputation of 15 Lancashire women cotton workers took the petition to London to present it to the House of Commons. Fired by this success, the North of England Society activists decided to cast their net more widely, to the wool workers in Yorkshire and the cotton and silk workers in north Cheshire. [41] In February 1902, a deputation of Yorkshire and Cheshire women textile workers presented a new petition to the House.

The 90,000 women members of the cotton unions – representing in 1896 no less than five-sixths of all organised women members – were the backbone of the movement. They wanted general adult suffrage, as part of a list of social and economic demands:

... they were not merely interested in the possession of the vote as a symbol of equality. They wanted it in order to improve conditions for women like themselves ... What was the point of a vote without any idea of how it could be used? Without exception, they were all involved in wider campaigns for working women. As trade unionists they tried to improve women s wage levels and conditions at work. They campaigned for improved education for working-class girls, and better facilities for working-class mothers and their children. [42]

The way they went about their business was rooted in working-class experience: “... their methods were those they had learned elsewhere: factory gate meetings, pushing suffrage motions through union branches, organising through trades councils.” [43]

Unhappily the movement, in failing to get the support it deserved from the wider labour movement, came up against a number of insuperable obstacles. It fell into the arms of bourgeois feminists, and after a few years died away.



The Women’s Social and Political Union

An organisation which left a much greater impression in the history books was that of Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel. In 1892 Emmeline, wife of Dr Richard Pankhurst, barrister, member of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and founder of the Manchester Liberal Association, left the Liberals to join the newly founded ILP. At the end of 1894 she was elected ILP candidate to the Chorlton Board of Guardians, and the following year campaigned for her husband as ILP candidate for Gorton in the general election. In 1898 Dr Pankhurst died.

During the 1890s and until late in 1903 Mrs Pankhurst was more preoccupied with Labour’s progress than with votes for women. In that year she was elected to the national executive of the ILP. All the Pankhurst children – Christabel, Sylvia, Harty and Adela – joined the party. And in the same year, Emmeline and Christabel, the child closest to her mother, introduced a plea for women’s suffrage, on the ground that “it will advance the industrial condition of women.” [44] On 10 October 1903, following months of rising unemployment and short-time working among women cotton workers, Mrs Pankhurst, keen to better the lot of working women, set up a small group, mostly of working-class supporters of the ILP. This was the Women’s Social and Political Union. [45]

It was her intention to conduct social as well as political work; she envisaged the provision of maternity benefit, and other such amenities for the members of the new organisation, which at that time she intended should be mainly composed of working women, and politically a women’s parallel to the ILP, though with primary emphasis on the vote. [46]

There were tendencies in the early days of the WSPU towards the adoption of other objects than the franchise alone; indeed towards a general assistance to reform movements. [47]

It took an interest in and acted on behalf of the unemployed, of textile strikers in Yorkshire, of “native races” in Natal, and other causes, besides women’s suffrage. The main activity of the WSPU was to address ILP meetings, trade unions, trades councils, Labour Churches and Clarion Clubs. Though the WSPU was not officially affiliated to the ILP, in practice it was dependent on it for publicity, platforms, and audiences.

But the logic of a women-only organisation, dedicating more and more of its energies to the votes issue, started weakening the social content of its activities. In November 1903 Christabel, the first to seek concentration on the single issue, speaking to the newly-formed Sheffield Women’s Suffrage Society, urged “women not to be divided, to join together on one question – the vote.” [48]

July 1905 saw a march of 1,000 women from the East End of London to Westminster, and November another of 4,000 wives of unemployed men demanding “Food for our Children”, “Work for our Men”, and proclaiming “Workers of the World Unite”. [49]

In 1906 the WSPU leaders moved from Manchester to London, where they contidued at first to focus on working-class women. In the same year they organised the first suffrage demonstration. On 19 February, after a march of three hundred women from the East End, there was a meeting and lobby of parliament, attended also by wealthy ladies, some dressed in their maids’ clothing to avoid recognition. On 27 February the “Unemployed Women of South West Ham” voted to become the Canning Town branch of the WSPU, its first London branch. [50]

A short time later, however, Christabel, who became the dominant figure in the WSPU, decided that a working women’s movement was of no value as working women were the weakest section of the sex: “Surely it is a mistake to use the weakest for the struggle! We want picked women, the very strongest and most intelligent!” [51] Christabel redefined the aims of the WSPU in these terms:

Ours is not a class movement at all. We take in everybody – the highest and the lowest, the richest and the poorest. The bond is womanhood! The socialists are fighting against certain evils which they believe to be attributable to the spirit of injustice as between man and man. I am not at all sure that women, if they had had their due influence from the beginning, would not have brought about a totally different state of affairs ... It comes to this. The men must paddle their own canoe, and we must paddle ours. [52]

The pennies and shillings collected among the hundreds and thousands of the poor counted as little beside the substantial sums beginning to be donated to the WSPU by the affluent. For instance at an Albert Hall rally on 19 March 1908 one woman promised to give 1,000 a year until women could vote, and twelve other women gave 100 each. The treasurer of the WSPU, Mr Pethwick Lawrence, himself promised to donate 1,000 a year. [53] At that time the pound was worth probably thirty times its present value, so these were huge sums. The income of the WSPU grew massively, from 3,000 in 1906-7 to a peak off 37,000 in 1913-4. No comparable organisation, not even the Labour Party, commanded such resources. [54]

The running of the organisation became completely dictatorial. Emmeline and Christabel did not allow any national conference of the union after September/October 1907. They and Mr and Mrs Pethwick Lawrence ran the show, without any committee, until October 1912, when the Lawrences were unceremoniously expelled by Emmeline and Christabel.

Working-class women now found themselves out of place in the WSPU. Furthermore, the WSPU’s slogan, “Votes for Women”, interpreted by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst as meaning votes on the same terms as applied to men, was described by women trade unionists as “Vote for the Ladies”, and repeatedly denounced.



The Road to the Cul-de-Sac

Towards the end of 1906 and throughout 1907 the WSPU demonstrations in many cities besides London grew larger and became more freqent. Every demonstration was followed by large scale arrests: 53 on 13 February 1907, 74 on 8 March, 65 on 21 March. The demonstrations grew bigger. On 15 July 1908, 20,000 came to the WSPU demonstration on Clapham Common in South London; on 19 July 150,000 came to Heaton Park, Manchester; and on 26 July, 100,000 demonstrated at Woodhouse Moor in Leeds. The annual report of the WSPU for 1 March 1907 to 29 February 1908 claimed that the Union had held “upwards of 5,000 meetings” during the year, 400 of which had drawn audiences of over a thousand.

The WSPU demonstrations reached a climax on 21 June 1908, when a vast throng assembled in Hyde Park. The Times thought there were between 250,000 and 500,000, and the WSPU paper Votes for Women claimed: “... it is no exaggeration to say that the number of people present was the largest ever gathered together on one spot at one time in the history of the world.” [55]

Unfortunately all this led nowhere. The Liberal government did not budge on the question of women’s suffrage. And the Pankhursts did not dare try a repeat performance of the 21 June Hyde Park demonstration, rightly believing that a larger demonstration could not be achieved. In frustration, a couple of WSPU members broke some windows at 10 Downing Street on 30 June 1908. Liberal Party meetings were broken up. From August 1909 a new tactic was adopted, with all those arrested going on hunger strike. The government reacted with “cat and mouse” methods, first force-feeding, then releasing the prisoner after a grave deterioration in health ... and rearresting her after her health had improved.

At the same time WSPU politics became more and more anti-working-class. After the death of three strikers in August 1915, in transport strikes in Liverpool and Llanelly – two were shot – Votes for Women merely commented that “several lives had been lost”, but suffragettes had more reason to revolt than working men, for the latter had votes, and so “could gain improvements in their condition without resorting to strikes.” When Tom Mann, Guy Bowman, and Fred Crowsley were imprisoned for an appeal to soldiers not to shoot their fellow workers on strike, the WSPU coldly commented that this offence was more serious than any committed by the suffragettes, and should have been more seriously punished. [56]

On the death of King Edward in 1910, Christabel vied with the Conservative papers in her expressions of devotion to the throne. The WSPU suspended all propaganda and mourned heavily in its paper. [57]

On the question of Home Rule for Ireland, as the Irish Nationalists in the House of Commons did not show any support for the WSPU demands, the WSPU organised a poster parade outside parliament with the slogan “No Votes for Women, No Home Rule”. Instead they gave all their support to the Ulster Unionists who in September 1913 accepted the demand of votes for women.

Continued failure brought forth ever more desperate tactics. On 21 November 1911 Emmeline and Christabel organised a mass window-breaking in the West End of London. In January 1913 they started a long campaign of arson, directed against prominent rich people. On 3 June 1913 Emily Wilding Davison attended the Derby, dashed on to the course and was run down and killed by the King’s horse.

Meanwhile mass activity in the form of public meetings and demonstrations almost entirely ceased. During the massive and critical strikes and lock-outs of 1910-14 the WSPU stood aside.

The campaign also developed an extreme anti-man psychology. Christabel put her ideas forward in a book titled The Great Scourge and How to End It. The great scourge was VD, contracted, as was “widely accepted by medical authorities’ by 75 per cent to 80 per cent of men” before marriage, “that is, out of every four men there is only one who can marry without risk to his bride.” The cure for venereal disease was “Votes for Women, which will give to women more self-reliance and a stronger economic position, and chastity for men.” “Young women ... must be warned of the fact that marriage is intensely dangerous, until such time as men s moral standards are completely changed.” [58] The WSPU launched a campaign called The Moral Crusade to propagate Christabel’s ideas.

By the time Britain declared war on Germany in 1914 the WSPU was about the most chauvinistic organisation in the country. Christabel proclaimed that “the success of the Germans would be disastrous for the civilisation of the world, let alone for the British Empire.” In the following months the Pankhursts led a national drive to recruit women for the munitions industry, and on 15 October the Suffragette was renamed Britannia. Its subtitle was: “For King, For Country, For Freedom.”

In 1915 the WSPU launched an “industrial peace campaign” with the financial and moral backing of prominent industrialists (some of whose country mansions had been burned down by Pankhurst arsonists only a year or two previously). It had salaried officials, often ex-suffragettes. “Bolshevik” shop stewards who were fomenting class struggle were denounced. Women, more proof against foreign theories, must see toit that men understood the dangerous, immature nonsense of socialism and where their duty and true interests lay. The campaign concentrated on the areas of greatest industrial unrest – the north of England, Glasgow and the mining districts of South Wales. Progress reports were sent regularly to the Prime Minister. [59]

It was the WSPU that introduced the practice of sending white feathers to civilians who did not volunteer to join the armed forces.

On 1 June 1917 Mrs Pankhurst asked the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, to send her to Russia. There she met Kerensky and advised him to take a firm line with the Bolsheviks. She reviewed the women’s battalion, the Battalion of Death, which was created by Kerensky in a final desperate attempt to boost patriotism and shame men into fighting, and found it “the greatest thing in history since Joan of Arc.” [60] The battalion was the last defender of the Winter Palace against the Bolsheviks in October. Emmeline Pankhurst called on Russian women to storm the soviets all over Russia and force the men to support Kerensky and the Provisional Government – although in private she expressed the view that Kerensky was a weakling and that only the counter-revolutionary General Kornilov could save Russia. [61]



Sylvia Pankhurst

The only Pankhurst who remained active in the Labour movement was Sylvia, who made a significant contribution to working- class struggles in the East End of London. Unfortunately she suffered from the influence of the conservative labour movement and the bourgeois-dominated feminist movement, and appears from her numerous writings to have had no knowledge of the ideas of the revolutionary thinkers from Marx onwards.

In Sylvia’s first book, The Suffragettes, published in 1911 at the height of WSPU activity, she gave uncritical praise to the WSPU, and dismissed all other groups in a few off-hand remarks. She opposed the window-breaking and arson campaigns, but muted her criticism. She explained why she could not break with her mother and sister at the time in her book The Suffragette Movement, written later in 1931:

I believed, then and always, that the movement required, not more serious militancy by the few, but a stronger appeal to the great masses to join the struggle. Yet it was not in me to criticise or expostulate. I would rather have died at the stake than say one word against the actions of those who were in the throes of the fight. [62]

She opposed WSPU support for a Bill giving women the vote restricted according to income, and “Mrs Pankhurst admitted the truth of my contentions, but declared the matter was decided, and unity essential. I felt the force of the latter argument.” [63]

Despite her efforts at accommodation, and against her will, Sylvia was expelled from the WSPU in January 1914, after speaking at a mass meeting in the Albert Hall in support of the Dublin workers on strike, at which James Connolly was the main speaker.

While Mrs Pankhurst and Christabel lived in West London and spent their time in well-to-do circles, in 1912 Sylvia started organising in the East End, through the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS). On 18 March 1916 this became the Workers’ Suffrage Federation, then in May 1918 the Workers’ Socialist Federation. Until the Russian revolution she was completely dedicated to the question of winning the vote. The first issue of her weekly paper, Women’s Dreadnought, on 8 March 1914, defined its task thus:

The Women’s Dreadnought is published by the East London Federation of Suffragettes, an organisation mainly composed of working women, and the chief duty of The Dreadnought will be to deal with the franchise question from the working woman’s point of view, and to report the activities of the Votes for Women movement in East London. Nevertheless, the paper will not fail to review the whole field of the women’s emancipation movement. [64]

A 6,000-word editorial plus three more of the issue’s eight pages, all written by Sylvia Pankhurst, were devoted to the suffrage. Even when the question of prostitution was dealt with – again in an article written and signed by Sylvia Pankhurst – although the cause was given as low wages and poverty, the solution suggested was: votes for women. International Women’s Day, which coincided with the publication of the first issue of Women’s Dreadnought, was not mentioned.

At the time of Sir Edward Carson’s activities in stirring up Protestant opposition to Irish Home Rule, an article entitled Women and Ulster in the Women’s Dreadnought did not utter a word of criticism of the Ulster Volunteer Force. On 22 January 1916 it devoted 350 words to News from the Clyde dealing with the persecution of shop stewards in the munitions industry in Glasgow, but about 11,000 words – practically four-fifths of the issue – to the question of suffrage.

When the ELFS changed its name to the Workers’ Suffrage Federation the programme of the organisation was defined thus: “The object of the Federation is to secure Human Suffrage: a vote for every woman and man of full age. Membership is open to every woman and man over 18 years.” And that was all. [65]

Totally opposed to the First World War, Sylvia Pankhurst professed pacifism, hoping that peace could be achieved through the agreement of the rival imperialist powers. Hence in Women’s Dreadnought of 3 April and 5 May 1915 she enthused over the imminent Hague peace congress, and on 16 December 1916 called for “peaceful negotiations” and “the establishment of an international court”. In the issue of 27 January 1917 there is an ecstatic welcome for the peace terms put forward by the US President Wilson.

Together with the narrow politics of votes for women and pacifism went concentration on community services in the first two years of the war. Sylvia Pankhurst organised a communal restaurant “supplying first-rate food at cost price” in the ELFS hall at Old Ford Road. [66] About one hundred nursing mothers received a quart of milk and dinner every night from the ELFS. [67] During 1915 nearly 1,000 mothers and babies were seen at the Federation’s clinics, and more than 1,000 was spent on milk. [68] The ELFS also openedanursery for forty children, and a couple of workshops producing garments and toys. The toy factory employed 59 people. [69] Xmas and New Year parties for children used up a lot of energy.

Wealthy patrons were sought out by Sylvia to fund these services. She thus spent a weekend with the Tories Lady Astor and former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour at Cliveden. She gives the following description:

I spoke to them quietly of the hard, grey life in the East End; of the women and girls making toys in our little factory; drudges, errand girls, charwomen learning to paint, the sausage-filler turned designer. I strove to reveal to them within our poor ones the eternal psyche, striving for release from its dull prison ... The collection taken, the crowd swarmed to a buffet laden with glittering delicacies. [70]

Within the same pattern of Sylvia’s ideas was an appeal in the middle of the war to press baron Lord Northcliffe, who was on the extreme right of the Tory Party, to help in the fight for women’s franchise. [71]

It is illuminating to compare Sylvia Pankhurst’s attitude to social work with that of the Bolsheviks in the same period. In September 1916, well before the revolution, the Petersburg municipal council decided to open nine canteens with a daily capacity of 8,000 people – a much larger enterprise than anything Sylvia Pankhurst was involved in. The Bolsheviks considered this a mere palliative. So throughout the factories they moved the following resolution:

... all piecemeal means of fighting the food crisis (for example cooperatives, wage rises, canteens) can only marginally mitigate the effects of the crisis and not eliminate the causes ...

The only effective means of struggle against the crisis is a struggle against the causes producing it, a struggle against the war and the ruling classes which plotted it; in taking all this into account, we call upon the Russian working class and all democrats to take the road of a revolutionary struggle against the tsarist monarchy and the ruling classes behind the slogan of “Down with the war!” [72]

The ELFS also tried to improve conditions in the numerous sweatshops in the East End, without much success. It was also active in supporting rent strikes, successfully preventing evictions, and getting demands for increased rent withdrawn.

In 1915 and 1916 Sylvia Pankhurst started involving herself in the activities of the miners in South Wales, and Women’s Dreadnought became a well-informed journal on the mass struggles there. There was little resonance, however, with the massive upsurges in Sheffield, Manchester, Belfast or Barrow-in-Furness.

Sylvia Pankhurst’s eclecticism led to some odd pursuits. Imitating James Connolly’s Irish Citizens’ Army, she set up a “People’s Army” in August 1913 – “an organisation men and women may join in order to fight for freedom. And in order that they may fit themselves to cope with the brutality of Government servants.” [73] The army drilled every Wednesday night after the Federation meetings in Bow and was observed and cheered on by several hundred men and women. Drilling usually consisted of 80 to 100 people marching in formation, carrying clubs. At its peak it was estimated that over 700 women took part. [74]

Sylvia’s preoccupation with the single issue of universal suffrage, which she regarded as an end in itself, meant that she was unable to develop an effective strategy. She did not understand what Lenin and Luxemburg grasped clearly, that struggles around specific reforms such as the vote are of value, not in themselves, but as a means of raising workers’ confidence and consciousness. Thus she did not grasp that other struggles, above all, those of the shop stewards’ movement in the engineering factories, were essential to the success of any struggle against the war.

Though she totally opposed the war, she lacked Lenin’s understanding that this was a war in which the strongest capitalist powers were competing for domination of the weak. Any peace on the basis of existing society could therefore only reinforce the exploitation and oppression of the mass of workers throughout the world. Lenin argued that workers had no interest in fighting for “their” country – but every interest in fighting for their class. He called for workers to end the imperialist war by declaring civil war against their own governments. Such a position was foreign to Sylvia Pankhurst, who saw the class struggle in primarily moral terms, and wished to alleviate suffering and right wrongs. So she was unable to see, as Lenin did, that the world war represented an enormous opportunity to overthrow the entire system, and so to achieve peace through workers’ revolution. It is hardly surprising that Sylvia Pankhurst’s career as a socialist was so short and confused.



The impact of the Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution was a major turning point in Sylvia Pankhurst’s life. The federation organised two enthusiastic meetings in the East End to celebrate on 24 and 25 March 1917. Seven thousand people attended the first of these. [75] “I am proud,” Sylvia declared, “to call myself a Bolshevist.” [76] But even now her position contained basic inconsistencies. Women’s Dreadnought of 2 July 1917, reporting the annual conference of the Workers’ Suffrage Federation, wrote:

The conference recognises that modern wars are of capitalist origin, and whilst private competitive trading continues, the danger of war will not be entirely wiped out. While working to secure a co-operative system of society which shall render wars impossible, the Conference urges:

  1. The establishment of an International Court for the settlement of international affairs
  2. The establishment of international free trade and the abolition of spheres of influence’, internationalisation of the trade routes and narrow seas and the freedom of the seas.

War is the product of capitalism ... but the solution is an international court and free trade, arrangements within capitalism!

Still, with the October revolution Sylvia Pankhurst made a radical turn. She changed the name of her paper on 28 July 1917 from Women’s Dreadnought to Workers’ Dreadnought, “as members realised that solidarity between men and women was essential if they were going to win their fight.” [77] It also got a new subtitle: “Socialism, Internationalism, Votes for All”, and became the most informed paper in Britain on the policies of Bolshevism. It was the first British revolutionary paper to grasp fully the implications of the Russian revolution. On 17 November, in an article by Sylvia Pankhurst entitled The Lenin Revolution, it stated:

Had the revolution stopped short at Kerensky’s premiership and Kerensky’s policy, it would have meant little more to humanity than an echo of the French Revolution. Now it bids fair to be something very much more ... The Russian Revolution is a Socialist Revolution.

The article concludes: “Our eager hopes are for the speedy success of the Bolsheviks of Russia: may they open the door which leads to freedom for the people of all lands.” The paper was full of praise for the Soviets and juxtaposed them to parliament: “Parliaments, as we know them, are destined to pass away into the limbo of forgotten things, their places being taken by organisations of people built up on an occupational basis” – meaning the Soviets.

In practice, with the October revolution, the suffrage question disappeared from the paper, together with any specific feminist agitation. Russia, the war, and strike reports in Britain completely dominated it.

In addition to its connections with the South Wales miners and East End women, the Federation established close relations with the shop stewards’ movement in London from the beginning of 1918, and reported widely from elsewhere in the country. From March 1918 it regularly published good information about the industrial scene throughout the country – mainly in W.F. Watson’s Workshop Notes.

At the 1918 annual conference the Workers’ Suffrage Federation adopted a seven-point programme:

  1. The organisation to be renamed the Workers’ Socialist Federation (WSF).
  2. Opposition to all war, and the abolition of the armed forces.
  3. Recognition of the Soviet Government and the opening of immediate peace negotiations on the basis of no annexations, and self determination.
  4. An immediate International Socialist Conference to work out peace terms.
  5. Self-determination for India and Ireland.
  6. Abolition of the capitalist system – the workers to organise on an industrial basis and build up a National Assembly from local workers’ committees.
  7. Release of anti-war prisoners. [78]

New branches of the WSF were set up in many parts of England and South Wales and to a small extent in Scotland. By the end of 1918 the WSF had 17 branches in London and 23 in the provinces. In 1918 the total membership was probably about 300. The members of both ELSF and WSF were both women and men, but men now made up the big majority. [79] From 20 July 1918 the subtitle of Workers’ Dreadnought became “For International Socialism”.

Sylvia Pankhurst played an important role in spreading the message of the October revolution, not only by using Workers’ Dreadnought but also by establishing the Russian People’s Information Bureau in July 1918. When the Comintern was established in March 1919, Sylvia Pankhurst was appointed an English correspondent of its monthly paper, The Communist International.

But Sylvia Pankhurst did not basically understand the nature of Bolshevism, and when she made contact with Lenin, in July 1919, the break became inevitable.

On 16 July 1919 she wrote to Lenin, arguing that of all the organisations in Britain which declared their support for communism only her group, the WSF, and the South Wales Socialist Society, were really communists, as they opposed all participation in parliamentary elections and were for keeping away from the Labour Party. Lenin replied critically on 18 August, that to oppose parliamentarism is one thing, but to refuse to participate in parliamentary elections is completely different:

We Russians, who have lived through two great revolutions in the twentieth century, are well aware what importance parliamentarism can have, and actually does have during a revolutionary period in general and in the very midst of a revolution in particular.

We must, he said, use the parliamentary arena. “Soviet propaganda can and must be carried on in and from within bourgeois parliaments.” [80]

Sylvia Pankhurst was not to be persuaded. She was on principle against participation in parliamentary elections, against any united action with the Labour Party, for boycotting the existing trade unions.

When the Unity Conference to establish the Communist Party of Great Britain took place in July 1920, Sylvia Pankhurst did not join but instead jumped the gun by renaming the WSF “The Communist Party, British Section of the Third International”. This was severely rebuked by Lenin in a message to the convenors of the July conference. [81] From then on the break was irrevocable.

On 3 July 1920 Workers’ Dreadnought published Provisional Resolutions towards a Programme of the Communist Party (British Section of the Third International): “The Communist Party, believing that institutions of capitalist organisation and domination cannot be used for revolutionary ends, refrains from participation in parliament and in the bourgeois local government system”. Lenin made a sharp attack on the ultra-left section of British Communists, in particular Sylvia Pankhurst and William Gallacher, in his Left Wing’ Communism – An Infantile Disorder.

Sylvia Pankhurst’s break with Lenin was not accidental. She never had a Marxist world view, and hence, although formally her support for the demand for adult suffrage was identical to that of Lenin, their methods of approach diverged radically. Sylvia Pankhurst had for two decades argued that the demand that parliament give votes for women was crucial in itself. For Lenin, on the other hand, all democratic demands were subordinated to the workers’ class struggle for power and socialism. Hence he never raised the question of suffrage up to the level of being an absolute, which it was for Sylvia Pankhurst. Up to the October Revolution it was for her an absolute imperative – a totem – and after that an absolute abhorrence – a taboo. As a totem it justified Sylvia Pankhurst’s collaboration with bourgeois feminists for many, many years; as a taboo it justified a break with Lenin, who consistently saw in the struggle for the vote not a principle, but a tactic.

In the next three years Workers’ Dreadnought devoted itself almost exclusively to an attack on Lenin and the Communist International. From July 1921 to September 1922 it published a series of articles by and in praise of leading anarchists, and attacking Lenin. Workers industrial struggles disappeared completely from the paper. Instead, from 26 November 1921 there was a regular series of Esperanto lessons as a key to fighting nationalism (Sylvia Pankhurst even wrote a small book on the subject, Delphes, or the Future of International Language).

Possibly the best pointer to Sylvia Pankhurst’s complete loss of direction once she broke with the Comintern can be gauged from the changes in the paper’s subtitles. On 2 December 1922 the subtitle “For International Communism” was removed. Instead there were ever new ones, such as “For Clear Thoughts and Plain Language”, “We Stand for End of Wagedom”, “For Mutual Service”, “For Independence of Thought and Solidarity of Action”, “No Taxes under Communism” or even “The Happy are Always Good”.

What a muddle! Workers’ Dreadnought ceased publication with the issue of 14 June 1924, but Sylvia Pankhurst travelled further. She ended her life as an apologist for the reactionary and tyrannical Emperor Haile Selassie, to whom in 1955 she dedicated a book, Ethiopia: A Cultural History, with the glowing praise: “Guardian of Education, Pioneer of Progress, Leader and Defender of his People in Peace and War”.



British Women Gain the Vote

In 1918 all men got the vote at 21, and women at 30. Women also won the right to be parliamentary candidates. In 1928 women gained the vote on the same terms as men, at the age of 21. Was the Act of 1918 the outcome of the activities of the suffragettes, of women such as Emmeline Pankhurst or her daughters Christabel and Sylvia?

Not at all. Seeing the revolutionary upheavals following the Russian revolution, the ruling classes decided to try to block the road to workers’ power by diverting the growing militancy on to the parliamentary road. The British army faced a series of mutinies. Tanks had to be sent to Glasgow to crush the mighty 40-hour strike movement and Lloyd George was worried whether he could count on the troops to do his dirty work. If in general, as Lenin argued, serious reforms are the by-products of revolutionary struggle, the establishment of the Weimar Republic in Germany and the granting of universal suffrage in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Baltic States ... and Britain, was the by-product of the revolutionary struggle of workers and a measure to block this struggle. Votes were granted to women as a reaction to the struggle of the millions of workers led by Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, and not as a result of the pressure of the suffragettes in Britain or the women’s movement in Germany.



In Conclusion

The story of the women’s movement in Britain at the turn of the century, as well as the movement to organise working-class women industrially and politically, is not a happy one. Conservatism, craftism, sectionalism, dominating the labour movement, did massive damage to the working class as a whole, and especially to its women members. The outcome was a terrible mess. Working-class women were forced into an alliance with liberal ladies, while at the same time imitating all the vices of the bureaucracy of the trade unions and Labour Party. Working-class women’s ability to struggle was badly stunted and distorted. Even Sylvia Pankhurst, the most advanced of the socialist women leaders, could not rise above the intellectual morass dominating the British labour movement. Her great courage and efforts ended in futility.




1. D. Thompson, Women and Nineteenth Century Radical Politics: A Lost Dimension, in J. Mitchell and A. Oakley (editors), The Rights and Wrongs of Women (London 1976), p.116.

2. Thompson, p.124.

3. Thompson, p.138.

4. S. Boston, Women Workers and the Trade Unions (London 1980) p.23.

5. B. Drake, Women in Trade Unions (London 1920), p.11. In some cases bourgeois feminists had a direct interest in keeping women unorganised and weak. Mrs Millicent Garret Fawcett, wife of Herbert Fawcett, a minister in Gladstone’s government, was the most prominent leader of the bourgeois feminists during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and continued to be active up to the First World War. She was a share-owner in the Bryant and May Match Company. No wonder she opposed the match girls’ strike of 1888! (M. Ramelson, The Petticoat Rebellion (London 1976), p.107.) It was the same Mrs Fawcett who argued against family allowances. She wrote: “I am one of those who regard the responsibility of parents for the maintenance of their children as an invaluable part of the education of the average man or woman. To take it away would dangerously weaken the inducements for steady industry and self-control ... and would at the same time involve the country, already overburdened by enormously high taxation, with an annual charge running into hundreds of millions.” (D. Mitchell, Women on the Warpath (London 1966), p.165.)

6. Drake, p.22.

7. B.L. Hutchins and A. Harrison, A History of Factory Legislation (London 1966), p.110.

8. Hutchins and Harrison, p.186.

9. Drake, page21.

10. H.A. Clegg, A. Fox and A.F. Thompson, A History of British Trade Unions since 1889, Vol.1 (Oxford 1964), pp.1-2.

11. Y. Kapp, Eleanor Marx, Vol.2 (London 1979), pp.270.

12. Kapp, p.382.

13. S. Rowbotham, Hidden from History (London 1974), p.61.

14. Drake, p.27.

15. Clegg, Fox and Thompson, pp.70-1.

16. Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p.83.

17. Drake, p.30.

18. Drake, p.30.

19. Drake, p.45.

20. Boston, p.149.

21. Boston, pp.60-2.

22. Boston, p.68.

23. Drake, Appendix Table 1.

24. M.A. Hamilton, Mary Macarthur (London 1925), p.96.

25. Drake, p.50 and Appendix Table 1.

26. H. Pelling, A History of British Trade Unionism (London 1963) p.262; Albrecht, p.47.

27. J. Hinton, The First Shop Stewards’ Movement (London 1973), p.72. It took 91 years from the foundation of the union to take women in! In mid-1942 women made up 31.9 per cent of all employed in the British engineering industry. (R. Croucher, Engineers at War 1939-1945 (London 1982), p.145.) The “exclusiveness” of the engineering union-one of the most craftist of all – crumbled because of its fear of being beaten by the general unions which had started recruiting women much earlier.

28. ASE, Monthly Journal (December 1915).

29. Der DMV in Zahlen (Berlin 1932), p.122.

30. Der DMV in Zahlen, p.122.

31. Clegg, Fox and Thompson, p.292.

32. R. Milliband, Parliamentary Socialism (London 1961), pp.19-20.

33. D. Butler and J. Freeman, British Political Facts 1900-1967 (London 1968), p.155.

34. H. Pelling, Social Geography of British Elections, 1885-1900 (New York 1967), p.8.

35. S. Pankhurst, The Life of Emmeline Pankhurst (London 1935), p.49.

36. Proceedings, National Women’s Trade Union League, USA (1919), p.29.

37. J. Belfort Bax, Essays in Socialism (London 1907), p.109.

38. Bax, p.121.

39. Bax, pp.124-5.

40. J. Liddington and J. Norris, One Hand Tied Behind Us (London 1978).

41. Liddington and Norris, p.149.

42. Liddington and Norris, pp.25 and 29.

43. Liddington and Norris, p.26.

44. A. Rosen, Rise up Women! The Militant Campaign of the Women’s Social and Political Union 1903-1914 (London 1974), pp.35-6.

45. Rosen, p.30.

46. S. Pankhurst, The Suffragette Movement (London 1978), p.168.

47. Pankhurst, p.244.

48. Liddington and Norris, p.177.

49. Rosen, p.59.

50. Rosen, page6l.

51. Pankhurst, p.517.

52. Mitchell, p.35.

53. Rosen, pp.100-1.

54. W.L. O’Neill, The Woman Movement: Feminism in the United States and England (London 1969), p.82.

55. Rosen, pp.104-5.

56. Pankhurst, p.366.

57. Pankhurst, pp.336-7.

58. Rosen, p.207.

59. Mitchell, p.52.

60. M. Mackenzie, Shoulder to Shoulder (London 1975), p.314.

61. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst ended their lives pathetically. They gave up speaking on feminist platforms. Mrs Pankhurst travelled across Canada denouncing the twin evils of venereal disease and unchastity. She returned to England to join the Conservative Party, and died in 1928. The later part of Christabel’s career was even more bizarre. She took up the cause of the Second Coming of Christ, which the deteriorating situation in the 1920s and 1930s led her to believe was imminent, and died in California in 1958, a Dame Commander of the British Empire. (Liddington and Norris, p.258.) Adela, the youngest child of the Pankhurst family, emigrated to Australia. There she passed through the Communist Party, but ended her life as a member of the Fascist movement. (Mitchell, pp.267-8.)

62. Pankhurst, pp.401-2.

63. Pankhurst, p.339.

64. Pankhurst, The Life of Emmeline Pankhurst, p.141.

65. Women’s Dreadnought, 18 March 1916.

66. S. Pankhurst, The Home Front (London 1932), p.43.

67. Women’s Dreadnought, 19 August 1914.

68. Mitchell, pp.280-1.

69. Women’s Dreadnought, 2 January 1915.

70. Pankhurst, The Home Front, p.143.

71. Pankhurst, The Suffragette Movement, p.598.

72. A. Shliapnikov, On the Eve of 1917 (London 1982), pp.206-8.

73. Pankhurst, The Suffragette Movement, p.505.

74. Daily Herald, 29 October 1913.

75. Women’s Dreadnought, 31 March 1917.

76. Workers’ Dreadnought, 17 November 1917.

77. Workers’ Dreadnought, 19 March 1921.

78. Workers’ Dreadnought, 1 June 1918.

79. J. Macfarlane, The British Communist Party: Its Origins and Development until 1929 (London 1966), pp.31 and 46.

80. Lenin, Works, Vol.29, p.564.

81. Lenin, Works, Vol.31, p.202.


Last updated on 19.2.2002