The difference between suffragette and suffragists is evident, but people frequently confuse the two. Both were a part of the women’s suffrage movement and contributed to shaping history.
Suffragettes and suffragists both fought for the same cause. Granting women’s right to vote was their objective. The root of both words is “suffrage”, which is defined as the right to vote.
Until the end of the 19th century, women had no voting rights in western countries. This quickly caused an uproar and women started taking a stand. Demonstrations, protests and riots broke as they still had freedom of assembly.
Suffragettes and suffragists took part in the movement and made history when they were finally granted the right to vote. The difference between suffragettes and suffragists lies within their methods of protest.
The suffrage movement was divided into two parts | The difference between suffragettes and suffragists isn’t vast but history distinguishes some characteristics
The term “suffragist” refers to the members of the women’s groups who fought for the right to vote. But, this doesn’t only a term describing women in favor of equal voting rights, but all those who were in support of the cause.
The term “suffragette”, on the other hand, is used to describe female members of the movement who fought for women’s suffrage. In short, suffragette had a narrower meaning, referring only to women.
The difference between suffragettes and suffragists is noted mainly in their ways of promoting voting rights, although both advocated universal women’s suffrage.
The history of the movement: how were they created and what is the difference between suffragettes and suffragists?
Women have been fighting for suffrage as early as the mid-1800s. The 1866 Reform Act was supposed to grant men and women equal political rights. After the Kensington Society was deprived of the latter, the London Society of Women’s Suffrage was established.
British feminist, intellectual, writer, political and union leader Millicent Fawcett joined the society in 1867. Lydia Becker, a leader in the early British suffrage movement and an amateur scientist, was the head of one of the leading suffrage groups in Manchester.
Later, these suffrage groups decided it would be best to join together and create a large women’s suffrage society. In 1887, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was created, and they were known as suffragists.
Following Lydia Becker’s death in 1890, Millicent Fawcett took charge of the society.
Emmeline Pankhurst established the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in October 1903 with her Christabel and Sylvia. The union was created due to the unchanging routine of the NUWSS’s protests.
Believing that the campaign led to nowhere, they broke away from the suffragists and created their own union. The WSPU became the first suffragettes movement. Their means of campaigning was more direct than that of suffragists.
The difference between suffragettes and suffragists lies in the movements’ campaigning
History has countless examples of suffragette and suffragist actions. The first main difference between suffragettes and suffragists is how they delivered their message. Suffragists used pamphlets and leaflets, presented petitions and organized meetings as they believed in protesting legally.
Arguing their case with MPs, they thought approaching it legally would lead to them being taken seriously. Other than women’s suffrage, they also showed their concern for other causes as well. A great example of this is when suffragists helped Josephine Butler in her campaign.
The latter fought against white slave traffic, which referred to female prostitution. Josephine Butler was among national figures who believed that action must be taken in order to reduce prostitution in Britain.
Child prostitution was also included in their concerns and they demanded the age of consent to be raised from 12 to 16. Almost of suffragist leaders were middle or upper-class members of society and they campaigned mainly for the middle-class, property-owning women’s suffrage.
Suffragettes had a different approach.Their motto was “Deeds not Words” and they took action accordingly. Seeing that the suffragists’ protests were ineffective, they worked towards having a militant campaign. Compared to their counterparts, they were more violent.
They threw stones at the prime minister’s house and smashed windows to get their attention. In contrast to suffragists, the suffragettes adopted direct action tactics and involved more working-class women. Their extreme protests included being chained to railings, disrupting public meetings, vandalizing public property.
Emily Wilding Davison, a suffragette and a member of the WSPU, was a militant fighter and got arrested multiple times. Out of the 9 times she was arrested, she went on a hunger strike 7 times and was force fed 49 times. The suffragette died on June 8, 1913, when she stepped out in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby during the race and was hit. She died from her injuries.
The leader of the WSPU, Emmeline Pankhurst, had been jailed and released 11 times. Initially, suffragettes who protested in prison by hunger strike were force fed.
The Prisoners Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health Act, also known as the Cat and Mouse Act, was passed in 1913, which allowed prison authorities to release women on hunger strikes when they were weak. They were only able to re-arrest them when they had regained their energy.
Summing up the difference between suffragettes and suffragists, we understand through history that the movements were not as similar as they sound
Suffragists were both men and women, whereas suffragettes was a feminine term and referred only to women. Suffragists took actions legally, respected the law and believed in campaigning peacefully. Suffragettes, on the other hand, believed in violence and militancy.
The magnitude of the movements are also different: suffragists were a national organization, suffragettes were a faction that broke away from them with only 2000 members at its peak. The smaller organization received a lot more publicity due to their campaigns.
Among similarities were having the same objective and fighting for the same cause: granting women’s suffrage. Both used propaganda to spread awareness and they aimed at influencing national figures’ opinion.
Fun facts about the difference between suffragettes and suffragists
- Suffragettes were deemed unladylike and failed their goal of achieving motherhood. They were considered masculine and bitter, and they allegedly feminized men.
- The 1872 US Presidential election had 15 women voting illegally, among them being Susan B. Anthony. She was later tried and convicted of violating the 14th Amendment.
- Women only got to vote on the same terms as men in 1928.
- Suffragettes trained in Jiu-Jitsu defend themselves during violent protests.
- The women’s suffrage movement started after abolitionism.
- There were anti-suffrage movements led by women
In conclusion, what does history teach us about the difference between suffragettes and suffragists and the movements?
Women who fought for suffrage in Britain inspired women worldwide to take actions and have their voices heard in the Parliament. Many countries took examples from them and made changes as well.
The movement helped women have a bigger role in society and gain respect as well. The suffrage movement was a step closer to abolishing inequality between men and women. With more women being active in society, the economy blossomed.
Although women didn’t make money as men, it was better than not making money at all. Other than having voting rights, the biggest achievement was that women were now able to own land, securing their place in their country.
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