Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Suffragette mayhem

I had no idea the Suffragettes were so active in Northern Ireland until Jenny and I went on a tour of Belfast's Crumlin Road Gaol and discovered that many suffragettes were sent there for bombings and arson attacks.

The gaol is no longer in use, but in the early 19th century militant women campaigning for the right to vote were often inmates.

There were the same moderate and militant factions that existed in the movement generally. It was the more forceful women who planted bombs, set fire to buildings, destroyed mail in post boxes and smashed windows.

They included Dorothy Evans and Madge Muir who were arrested for possessing explosive materials.

During the court hearing, Dorothy Evans put up so much resistance she had to be restrained by six constables and the hearing had to be reconvened in Crumlin Road Gaol.

Remanded in custody, they promptly went on hunger strike and were released.

Then they hired a car, decorated it with suffragette flags and drove defiantly round Belfast before being rearrested.

Thanks to the persistence of women like them, in January 1918 the Representation of the People Act gave the vote to certain women, and in 1928 the Equal Franchise Act granted the vote to all women over 21.

And now huge numbers of people entitled to vote don't bother to do so - but that's another story.

(Information from leaflets available at Crumlin Road Gaol)

16 comments:

Grannymar said...

Interesting tale Nick, one I had not heard before.

Baino said...

Bomb's and explosives! My, so much for the petticoat revolution! Great being a tourist in your own city isn't it? We do it from time to time and there's always a little gem to discover.

Wisewebwoman said...

Interesting stuff, Nick, I had no idea about such things, "suffragette" being a very bad word in my convent school and only used in reference to underwear ;^)
Oh those heroes of yesterday!
We take so much for granted.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Grannymar - Fascinating. That little episode has certainly been kept very quiet.

Baino - Indeed, no petticoat revolution there! It's amazing what you discover when you put on the tourist hat.

www - Underwear? What was the connection? I assume they weren't burning their bras! You're right, we take a lot for granted, many youngsters are woefully ignorant of how many things in their lives were laboriously fought for.

Wisewebwoman said...

Apparently the suffs. had the absolute gall to ride bikes in their knickers and chain themselves to railings disgracefully displaying same.
Purity of womanhood was thus destroyed by these flaming hussies.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - Ah, now I understand! What brazen defiance! Of course nowadays they'd have to do a lot more to be noticed, visible underwear is practically compulsory!

conortje said...

Do you know what I just learned. I am an Irish citizen but cannot vote in Irish elections because I'm living in NL. However A Brit living in Ireland is allowed to vote in Irish elections.NOT FAIR. Sulk...

Nick said...

Conor - That's outrageous that you can't vote in Irish elections but the Brits can. Also Brits can vote in British elections from whatever country they're living in. Does this mean you'll be out bombing the Irish Embassy tomorrow?

conortje said...

Well I may present them with a peace flower in protest :-)

Nick said...

Conor - No no, bombs are the only thing tyrannical governments understand, comrade.

Caro said...

I'm similarly disenfranchised. I can't vote in Italy, not being a citizen, and I can't vote in Ireland because there is no provision for expat voting. There's been a bit of debate in Italy recently about giving the vote to tax-paying non-national immigrants, but I can't see it happening.

Nick said...

Caro - That's outrageous too that you can't vote at all. Presumably you'll only be allowed to vote if Berlusconi thinks it'll be to his benefit!

Quickroute said...

I wasn't aware of this either - makes me feel guilty for the times I couldn't be bothered to vote - mind you the options weren't / aren't always that enticing

Nick said...

Quicky - I think it's important to vote even if it's on the 'lesser of two evils' principle, just because it's a democratic cornerstone that people struggled to achieve.

Fate's Granddaughter said...

Thanks for that, Nick. I was totally unaware of all of that. Must make a trip to the Crumlin Road sometime soon - had been meaning to do so.

Nick said...

FG, the Crumlin Road Gaol is really worth a visit. As long as the condemned prisoner's cell and the hangman's noose won't upset you!