Who exactly is the ‘suffrage’?

The Headquarters of the Women’s Social and Political Union in Kensington. LSE Library / Wikimedia Commons

The first example of suffrage that comes to mind is probably Winifred Banks, mother of Mary Poppins. But what is the character of Mrs. Banks is an accurate representation of this figure? What exactly suffrage?

This term refers to members Women’s Social and Political Union who, during the first decades of the 20th century, fought to claim their right to vote in England. Unlike other existing organizations, this association was created by Emmeline Pankhurst in Manchester in 1903 was marked by claiming the majority of women’s votes through anti-constitutional and aggressive tactics.

A suffrage meeting at Caxton Hall, Manchester, England, circa 1908. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pankhurst stand in the center of the pulpit.  The New York Times / Wikimedia Commons
A suffrage meeting at Caxton Hall, Manchester, England, circa 1908. Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Emmeline Pankhurst stand in the center of the pulpit. The New York Times / Wikimedia Commons

suffrage vs. suffrage

The term “suffrage” refers to a person who claims the right to vote anywhere in the world and exists in many languages.

say suffrage It was created in 1906 by a British journalist from Daily mail, who used it to refer disparagingly to the members of the guild founded by Pankhurst. Their intention was to mock and condemn their campaign for women’s suffrage and to differentiate them from suffrage. Although both groups of women claim the right to vote, the ways they propose to achieve this goal are different.

Voters opt for peaceful and constitutional means, such as a formal petition to the government or demonstrations. It suffrage who make up the group created by Pankhurst justifies and promotes civil disobedience as the main form of protest, and its leaders support the use of force, as long as it is against property, never against people.

Emmeline Pankhurst addressing a crowd in New York in 1913. Hulton Archives - Getty Images/Wikimedia Commons
Emmeline Pankhurst addressing a crowd in New York in 1913. Hulton Archives – Getty Images/Wikimedia Commons

Pankhurst explained that if anyone suffers or dies because of demanding women’s suffrage, it must be the woman herself suffragewho eventually adopted the term to describe themselves and distinguish themselves from their suffrage and campaign.

Burning mailboxes and attacks on public institutions are some of the most aggressive techniques adopted by suffrage. As a result of these practices, they were eventually arrested and imprisoned on various occasions.

This did not prevent them from continuing their campaign as they found new methods to claim votes from prison. The most common form of protest is a hunger strike. Following the example Marion Wallace Dunloppioneer of this technique, many others suffrage they argued that they would stop eating until the government heeded their request.

A suffragette on a hunger strike is force-fed with a nose tube (The Conversation)
A suffragette on a hunger strike is force-fed with a nose tube (The Conversation)

To prevent them from dying at the hands of the state, Force-eating campaign launched against them. To prevent suffrage If they refuse the procedure, they are tied and restrained, and then a liquid consisting of eggs, milk, and bread is introduced through their mouth or nose through a tube, causing choking and severe throat or chest pain.

Despite the brutality of this process, suffrage they continue to ignore food intake, which shows their commitment to the struggle and how far they are willing to go for votes.

It suffrage yesterday and today

It suffrage they offer positive representations of themselves and their struggles and rely on the power of symbolism and propaganda to attract followers and get their message across. However, the majority of men, and even many women, were against it because in society at that time it was considered that a woman’s duty was spend all your time doing housework and taking care of the family.

The reflection of this is the advertisements that have appeared all along to counter the propaganda campaign suffrage and voting rights. This anti-suffrage publication caricatures women activists he’s inhuman you presenting him as a criminal or a madman.

Even though it belongs to the past, the figure suffrage continues to prevail in contemporary popular culture and has been the subject of much readjustment. An example is the case Mary Poppins.

Winifred Banks sings ‘Sister Suffragette’ in “Mary Poppins” (1964)

Disney movies depict suffrage not only does it convey a perverse perception that prevailed in 1910, the time in which the story takes place, but it also reflects the conservative conception of gender roles that was still prevailing in the North American context at the time it was released.

Instead of praising the courage, effort and sacrifice that characterizes suffrage, Winifred Banks appears as a negligent woman who does not carry out her duties as a mother and wife because she is busy demanding her right to vote which is presented as a mere hobby. Another woman, Mary Poppins, is needed to restore order to the family and make up for the shortfall caused by Mrs. Banks in public life.

A more faithful contemporary representation of this feminist icon is film suffrage. Translated into Spanish as suffrage, aired three years before the centenary of women’s suffrage for some women in England. The film pays homage to these women and includes real historical figures, such as movement leaders Emmeline Pakhurstinterpreted by Meryl Streepmake a strict recreation of major historical events The aim of this film is not to change this icon for commercial purposes, but to honor this group and their achievements.

movie pictures "suffrage".  movie affinity
Image from the movie “Suffragettes”. movie affinity

More than an icon

Given the proliferation of popular and often superficial representations of suffrage (in various literary works and audiovisual productions) it is very important to adopt a critical point of view. It is important to distinguish between products that demean, belittle or criticize him, and products that convey a loyal image of this person. Doing justice to these women’s roles is key to highlighting the relevance they had in the past and which they must continue to have today.

Even though we women take the right to vote for granted, we must not forget that it is a woman’s achievement like suffragewho suffered and, in some cases, gave their lives so that today we can enjoy such basic and fundamental principles.

*Mariana Ripoll Fonollar is Professor of English and Researcher in Gender Studies, University of the Balearic Islands.

Originally posted on Conversation.

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