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Women's Suffrage

An introduction to primary resources in Glasgow University Library's Special Collections

 Punch 13th June 1910

Selection of pamphlets from Sp Coll f255

Scottish Women Graduates Appeal

Sp Coll 1328

Punch, 5th March 1912

Some Grave Considerations For Liberal Members

Ms Gen 1645/102

Punch, 19th March 1913

Australia's Advice

Sp Coll f255/1


1893: New Zealand becomes the first Commonwealth Country to introduce universal suffrage

New Zealand's women were able to vote from 1893, and when Australia followed suit in 1903, suffragists asked why the commonwealth had accepted universal suffrage before Britain.  Attention also turned to Finland (here, women could vote in 1906 and Europe's first female MPs were elected the following year) and to the continued agitation for the vote in the US.  Some colonial statesmen, such as Lord Curzon, believed that other nations could not be reliably compared to Britain, an opinion argued against in Colonial Statesmen and Votes for Women. Meanwhile, the writer Israel Zangwill asked in Old Fogeys and Old Bogeys if a New Zealand woman visiting London would find it barbarous that women could not vote in the capital of the empire.  Zangwill warned that: "the time is fast coming - coming at motor speed - when in no civilised country will be seen cars without electricity or women without votes".

Colonial Statesmen and Votes for Women

Sp Coll f255/9

Women's Vote in Australia

Sp Coll f255/37


America and Woman Suffrage

Sp Coll f255/62

Old Fogeys and Old Bogeys

Sp Coll f255/66

To Adult Suffragists.  The Present Suffrage Position - Its advantages and dangers.

Bissett Add. 228

NUWSS Pamphlets

Home and Politics

Sp Coll f255/18


1897: Foundation of National Organisation of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) by Millicent Fawcett


Publications from the NUWSS are well represented in our collection of 70 official publications from suffrage organisations and transcribed speeches, shelved at Sp Coll f255.


The NUWSS' argument in Some Reasons Why Women Want The Vote is that "only those who wear the shoe know where it pinches".  Further to this, in Home and Politics, Millicent Fawcett counters the argument that suffragists were seeking to be seen as the same as men, stating: "if men and women were exactly alike, the representation of men would represent us; but not being alike, that wherein we differ is unrepresented under the present system".  Later distancing herself from the militancy of other groups, Fawcett remained sympathetic to their actions and in Wanted: A Statesman condemned those who withdrew from the movement when it strayed from its peaceful origins, arguing that the violence perpetrated by some Christians was no cause to abandon Christianity. 


Other authors represented in this collection include Emmeline and Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Israel Zangwill and J. Keir Hardie.  Similar pamphlets from the years 1900-1910 featuring works by Constance Lytton, Emmeline Pankhurst and Eva Gore Booth are held at Sp Coll 1326-1333.


Similar pamphlets are held in the Bissett collection, which features two items published by the socialist Fabian Women's Group.  Formed under the leadership of Mrs. Pember Reeves in 1908, their aim was to investigate the social and economic circumstances of women, but also to take part in NUWSS and Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) processions under the banner "equal opportunities for all".  Although not exclusively campaigning for Suffrage, added to their agenda in Three Years Work is a question of whether women should contribute to the Fabian Parliamentary Fund  "as long as women are as a sex denied the Parliamentary franchise".

Fabian Women's Group, Three Years Work

Bissett Add. 126

Some Reasons Why Women Want the Vote

Sp Coll f255/43

Women's Suffrage.  Wanted: A Statesman

Sp Coll f255/20


"Women's Freedom League Birthday Book, a miscellaneous item from the Murray collection.  The birthday book features quotes chosen by member of suffrage organisations.

The Citizenship of Women - A Plea for Women's Suffrage

Sp Coll f255/25


1906: Enfranchisement bill supported in Parliament by J. Keir Hardie


The Independent Labour Party, led by Keir Hardie, broadly supported women's suffrage; however, in not making it their party's priority, some members - such as Emmeline Pankhurst - left in protest.  Hardie introduced a 1906 Bill for the franchise. He writes in the 4th edition of The Citizenship of Women that the I.L.P. gives the cause their support - but, he warns that without a combined effort from all sections of the movement, factions will form that will prevent a parliamentary bill.  Aiming to "restate in plain and homely English the case for woman suffrage", Hardie also writes that just as nations like Finland that enabled women to vote are an inspiration to suffragists, the example set by Britain is copied elsewhere.  To support this, he cites the example of a British delegation advising the Persian Shah on his 1906 constitution: they are unable to prevent him from denying certain democratic rights to the Persian people because some British citizens are still denied a vote.

MS Gen 1465/4

A diary entry from Alexander MacCallum Scott, July 1910. Having been unsuccessful in making his case in Parliament, he planned to:  "Write some magazine-articles on women's suffrage. 
 Formerly one could not get such articles accepted.  Now the papers will be more ready to take them"

Ms Gen 1465/422


1909: First Hunger Strike by woman imprisoned for suffrage protest

Marion Dunlop was arrested in 1909 for her involvement in suffrage militancy.  While in prison she began a hunger strike, a tactic not endorsed by the WSPU but one that became a mainstay of their protests.  As a result of her action, Dunlop was released from prison because the authorities did not want to risk her health.  To prevent other suffrage prisoners from avoiding full sentences by being released in this way, force feeding was introduced.  The tactic of hunger strikes strengthened the stance of some anti-suffragists; they argued that hunger strikes demonstrated the irresponsibility and lack of concern for authority of the perpetrators.

The 1909-1914 diaries of Alexander MacCallum Scott evidence the efforts of an anti-suffrage campaigner. As Liberal MP for Glasgow's Bridgton area, MacCallum Scott used the physical force argument to support his view that women should not be allowed to vote in parliamentary elections - that only those able to physically resist foreign intervention or the government acting against their wishes should be able to vote, and that, as such, women should be excluded from the franchise as a weaker sex. Despite his strong stance (his diary frequently discusses his activities as a member of an anti-suffrage committee in the Liberal Party), he nonetheless was sympathetic towards women arrested for their political activities. In 1913 he wrote in a letter to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence that in prison women "are entitled to make whatever political capital you can out of the spectacle of sincere and disinterested men and women resolutely incurring the same penalties as the most abandoned criminals", appearing to support publicity seeking tactics.

The position that MacCallum Scott held was not strictly in opposition to all that suffragists stood for, and his writings show the more complex composition of his opinions. Although he would not accept that those imprisoned for suffrage militancy could rightfully be referred to as political prisoners, he respected the strength of their belief and believed that the treatment given to those charged with suffrage offences was unfair. Writing to Frederick Pethick-Lawrence before his imprisonment in 1913, MacCallum Scott offered to write to the Home Secretary to have Frederick's sentence reduced to that of a minor misdemeanour.  

For more information, see the MacCallum Scott Papers.

Ms Gen 1465/2



Letters to Frederick and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Entries from Alexander MacCallum Scott's diary

Ms Gen 1465/424


Ms Gen 1465/4


Ms Gen 1465/106

Anti-suffrage newspaper articles written by Alexander MacCallum Scott

Punch, 10th January 1912


1912: Increased militancy in the suffrage movement

Punch magazine provides a record of both suffrage campaigns and parliamentary activity.  Founded in 1841, and subtitled the London Charivari, Punch offers a satirical view of British society and politics through articles and cartoons. Bound in annual 'almanacks', the years 1910-1914 cover women's suffrage with particular frequency, demonstrating how it was one of many issues - along with Irish Home Rule and the beginnings of the First World War - that the Liberal Government faced.

As well as Parliamentary conflict over franchise (seen here in a January 10th 1910 depiction of pro-suffrage David Lloyd George and anti-suffrage Lewis Harcourt trying to rally crowds to their opposing causes), Punch also depicts conflicts within suffrage organisations.  The 1912 expulsion of Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence from the WSPU - after she disagreed with a campaign of shop window smashing endorsed by Emmeline Pankhurst - is shown in the illustration of two women whispering over a table "are you a Peth or a Pank?". The arrest of suffragettes is treated both with humour in "the suffragette who knew jiu jitsu" and more seriously, in a figure of liberty being described as the movement's first martyr.  Other news items, such as the 1912 burning of David Lloyd George's home are also featured in cartoons. 

Copies of Punch Almanacks are available from the library stack.  As this is a closed collection, items must be ordered and will be made available for consultation in the Special Collections reading room.  The main library website provides further information on accessing stack items.

Punch, 5th November 1913

Punch, 6th July 1910

Punch, 30th October 1912

Punch 15th March 1913

Woman in the Nation

Sp Coll f255/12

 Charlotte Despard had both joined and left the WSPU and NUWSS, for lack of success and poor organisation respectively.  In 1907 she was a founder member of the Women's Freedom League,
and in 1908 the Irish Women's Freedom League, hoping the groups would focus on non-violent methods.

Hansard vol. 52, April 21 to May 8 1913


1913: Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act passed

The Department of the Official Report provides transcriptions of British parliamentary debates known as Hansard.  Contained in bound volumes that are kept in the Maps and Official Publications Department (MOPS) on level seven of the library, debates from the early 20th century provide evidence of general attitudes towards suffrage and opinion following major events. Hansard can be particularly useful to show how legislation - such as the 1913 Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health), or "Cat and Mouse" Act - was created.  The treatment of suffragettes in prison had become a topic of heated debate as force feeding of suffrage prisoners had caused injury and, in some cases, death.  Discussion of solutions that avoided the ethical problems of force feeding included suggestions that the king should use the prerogative of mercy to release hunger strikers, and that women could be imprisoned under the mental deficiency act if arrested during protests; Lord Cecil even asked whether deportation to remote islands was a feasible alternative to prison sentences! 

Hansard reports of debates are shelved chronologically; the final volume of each year is an index. A further index volume is kept for the end of each parliamentary session. Search by keyword to find the volume and column number of relevant debates. Visit the Maps and Official Publications homepage for more information, or see the library's online guides to finding government publications.



Ms Gen 1465/447

Letter written by Alexander MacCallum Scott to Emmeline Pethick Lawrence in which he explains his position on hunger strikes and votes for women.

1914: Mary Richardson damages Wallace Collection painting with an axe


Personal correspondence can provide contemporary opinions of suffrage from people without direct involvement in campaigns. 

The MacColl collection includes a 1913 letter to its namesake, DS MacColl, Keeper of the Wallace Collection, warning that Scotland Yard believe a "suffragist outrage" may occur in the gallery.  The warning does not seem to have been adequately heeded, as in 1914 Mary Richardson slashed the Rokeby Venus by Velazquez, supposedly in protest to the re-arrest of Emmeline Pankhurst in Glasgow.  As a result, many art galleries were closed to the public, much to the annoyance of Emily Lawless, who was unable to see the Wallace Collection "because of those horrible suffragettes". 

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, Christina Lawson writes to her nephew about a march of suffragettes from Edinburgh to London; although she believes that they deserve the vote, she does not think that if universal suffrage was gained it would be exercised, as - in her experience - many women able to vote in municipal and school elections choose not to do so.

For details on finding other MS Gen items see the general manuscripts collection record.

Letter from Christina Lawson to her nephew, Stephen, written in 1912

Ms Gen 525/5


Letter from the Hon. Emily Lawless to Prof. Albert Venn Dicey, in agreement with his anti-suffrage writing

Ms Gen 508/47

Letter from Samuel James Camp to DS MacColl, keeper of the Wallace Collection,  stating that Scotland Yard have warned of an attack on the collection

MS MacColl C27

Letter from Annabel Jackson to DS MacColl requesting visitor passes to the Wallace Collection after its closure to the public following Mary Richardson damaging the Rokeby Venus

MS MacColl J1

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This page was created by Ellen Cole: December 2007.