Deeds not Words


- 02/03/2018 -

The claim for women's right to vote emerged in England and in industrialized societies from the mid-19th century with the Suffragists. Pacifists, they tried to influence the government directly with petitions.

Tired of not seeing any change, an alternative movement was created in 1903: the Woman's Social and Political Union (WSPU), whose members would be called the Suffragettes.

Instead of the pacifist persuasion of the Suffragists, which had been ineffective until then, they preferred militant actions to conquer their political rights: "Deeds not Words" became their slogan.

Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst of WSPU, 1908
Dame Ethel during a WSPU meeting, 1912
London School of Economics Library ©
Daily Mirror ©

Protests, disturbances of public order, acts of outbursts such as chaining themselves to the gates of parliament... it is through confrontation that the Suffragettes believe they can make themselves heard by a government and a society that has always turned a deaf ear. Their actions lead to numerous arrests and imprisonment. The trials then become an arena for women to make their voices heard and disseminate their ideas through the newspapers covering these events.

The first support at the European level came from the hunger strike initiated in 1909 by imprisoned Suffragettes. Forcibly fed, their treatment is unworthy of public opinion. In spite of everything nothing changes and the repression intensifies until 1914 when the war stops all forms of protest. As a contribution to the war effort - in the same way as men who demanded the right to vote inherent to the individual and not to private property - the British government granted the right to vote to women over the age of 30 with the "Representation of the People Act 1918". However, this right remained censorial and capacious until 1928, when it became universal for women over 21 years old. Similar demands arose at the same time in the USA and France, where women obtained the right to vote in 1919 and 1944 respectively.


Out of print edition