Rise Up Women!

Diane Atkinson
Hardback
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Marking the centenary of female suffrage, this definitive history charts women's fight for the vote through the lives of those who took part, in a timely celebration of an extraordinary struggle.
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An Observer Pick of 2018

A New Statesman Book of 2018

Between the death of Queen Victoria and the outbreak of the First World War, while the patriarchs of the Liberal and Tory parties vied for supremacy in parliament, the campaign for women's suffrage was fought with great flair and imagination in the public arena.

Led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, the suffragettes and their actions would come to define protest movements for generations to come. From their marches on Parliament and 10 Downing Street, to the selling of their paper, Votes for Women, through to the more militant activities of the Women's Social and Political Union, whose slogan 'Deeds Not Words!' resided over bombed pillar-boxes, acts of arson and the slashing of great works of art, the women who participated in the movement endured police brutality, assault, imprisonment and force-feeding, all in the relentless pursuit of one goal: the right to vote.

A hundred years on, Diane Atkinson celebrates the lives of the women who answered the call to 'Rise Up'; a richly diverse group that spanned the divides of class and country, women of all ages who were determined to fight for what had been so long denied. Actresses to mill-workers, teachers to doctors, seamstresses to scientists, clerks, boot-makers and sweated workers, Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English; a wealth of women's lives are brought together for the first time, in this meticulously researched, vividly rendered and truly defining biography of a movement.
 

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A Fantastic Chronicle of the Fight for Women's Suffrage Review by Paul
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It is 100 years ago that some women finally gained the vote, after years of fighting for the right to do so. 110 years ago, this year close to half a million-people gathered in Hyde Park, London, and celebrated “Women’s Sunday”. This was a peaceful, good humoured event that still did not persuade the Members of Parliament or the Government to extend the franchise to women. Peaceful campaigning had gained nothing in the fight for suffrage, others began to look at other ways to protest.

Today, even as someone has studied history and both undergraduate and post-graduate level, I had forgotten the humiliation that the suffragettes suffered. When you listen to the government today lecturing the world about democracy, one just to look back at how women were treated, and all they wanted was the vote.

Diane Atkinson has managed to bring this to the fore, with her brilliantly written and researched Rise Up Women! She brings some clarity and honesty to the vitriol the suffragettes faced, as the white middle-class and upper-class males protected their monopoly on the levers of power.

What comes through this excellent volume is the power of the bloody difficult women who continued to challenge the establishment and at the same time changed the perception of women, for the better, before the war in 1914.

I must admit I do like the riposte Kitty Marion gave to the magistrate, who has said women may get the vote if they behaved, Marion replied “Men don’t always behave properly and they the vote.” When one thinks what these men did to the suffragettes is unforgiveable, force-feeding with maximum violence. Nose and throats widened with knives to insert the unwashed feeding tubes.

It must never be forgotten that by 1903 seven countries, among them two countries in the Empire, Australia and New Zealand, had some form of female suffrage. It was Emmeline Pankhurst, Mancunian social reformer and her three daughters who founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in October 1903, that Atkinson rightly begins with, after discussing the previous reform acts.

From here Atkinson gives a voice to the hundreds of unsung women who fought and supported the suffragette campaign. While Atkinson gives as many women as possible a voice, it can sometimes feel like an encyclopaedia, and it is the first encyclopaedia I have read cover to cover and enjoyed.

What does scream out from every page is the sheer bloody mindedness of the women, the courage of large numbers of women campaigners. It also reminds us of the disgusting brutality by the government and their agents of violence, the police against the women. The so-called national hero, Winston Churchill, when Home Secretary, told the police to “throw the women around from one to the other.”

Sometimes history is never straightforward, leaves some questions unanswered, and those answers we do get are not necessarily easy or pleasant. The research that went in to this book and the accounts relayed reminds us that the battle for female suffrage was not easy, pleasant.

This is a wonderful book, totally engrossing read, and with over 600 pages to read and digest, an education and a reminder of what we have now and that work still needs to be done.
(Posted on 08/03/2018)

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Additional Info

ISBN 9781408844045
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing
Format Hardback
Publication date 8 Feb 2018

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