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Turning Back the Pages

Suffragettes smash windows

Emmeline Pankhurst, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence and Emmaline Pethick-Lawrence, leaders of the militant suffragettes, were found guilty at a trial conducted in the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court in London, England, for conspiracy and sentenced to nine months in jail without hard labor. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence are the editors of Votes for Women and were charged with conspiracy and leading their followers in a window-smashing campaign. The Woman’s Social and Political Union withdrew their support of the prisoners.

The Old Bailey was crowded with spectators who were looking for excitement and they were not disappointed as Mrs. Pankhurst kept the courtroom in an uproar by loudly arguing with and interrupting the judge.

(Note: In 1776, the U.S. declared that “all men are created equal,” but apparently they weren’t weren’t talking about women, Native Americans and African-Americans. In the late 1800s and at the turn of the 20th century, women all over the United Kingdom and U.S. were fighting — and some even going to jail — for the simple right to cast a vote in a federal election.

In 1914, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn wrote about America, “It’s a rich, fertile, beautiful country, capable of satisfying all the needs of its people. It could be a paradise on earth if it belonged to the people, not to a small owning (governing) class.”

In 1918, at the end of World War I, American women “won” their battle, but this only applied to mature females over 30 years of age. Suffrage was a hot topic and it was not until 1929 that women over 21 years of age achieved the right to vote in England. Even then, it was a common belief that women were only to be permitted to vote as their husbands and fathers instructed them — and the true expression of political opinion should only be kept in the hands of men.

Readers are welcome to contact Adirondack Journal correspondent Jean Hadden at jhadden1@nycap.rr.com or 623-2210.

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