The Sufragett Manifesto

October 9, 2013
“The time for argument is past! The time for action has come! The working women of London are aroused. The long struggle for political existence is in view.”
In 1832 new groups in Great Brittain gained the right to vote. Up until then women and men had the same political rights but at this moment the same reform that gave the middle class a new plattform for power, through an explicit formulation in the law text, excluded women and denied them the right to vote. This was the start of an new movement called the Suffragettes.
Although new laws were introduced in the wake of industrialism and women slowly gained new rights and access to schools and factories, the struggle for womens right to vote would not bear fruit until 1918 when women over the age of 30 could vote but it took another 10 years for the King to proclamate the equal rights for women and men over the age of 21 to vote.
The result of this long struggle was a cooperation between women from different classes of society, involving the poorest factory workers and farmers as well as the aristocracy and the middle class.
It was a struggle containing organisation, demonstration, speeches, jail sentences with forced feeding, violent actions of resistance as well as violence directed toward specific targets, spontanious actions as well as long term strategic planning. When the womens movement of the late 50′ s started they already had a long heritage of struggle to fall back on.
A  Manifesto not only shapes the experiences of the persons writing them but also includes the public it is aiming for in a sort of “avant garde” position. Positioning them and including them in a process that already has a long history. The shaping of the Manifesto goes hand in hand with the shaping of its audience. It is a divergence point when the past, the present and future creates a meaningful whole.
The Sufragettes formulated many writings, slogans and manifestos uniting a movement with diverse groups and classes. They developed the skills to react immidiately to oppressive actions with a wide range of various strategies. These could be invitations aimed to selected males that in the future could become supporters or appeals to violent action in the face of torture and imprisonment.
The Manifesto above invokes different ideas. One is the reference to the past struggle when there was still hope for a peaceful agremeent amongst the upperclasses. With time that hope died.
Adressing the “working” women would here include both the factory workers as well as the middle class. As the movement grew it spread among the middle class. A group that by now was well educated but still were entangled in traditional expectations preventing them from going to any kind of work.
The fact that some of the strongest figures of this movement was upperclass as well as women from the working classes is reflected, I think, in this Manifesto that speaks of shared meaning and struggle.
Döne Heijkenskjöld Delibas

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