It seems that Sadiq Khan has a way with the ladies. Barely a week in office and he has already agreed to have a statue of a suffragette placed in Parliament Square, to the applause of wimmin everywhere.
I want to to go on record that I oppose this. There should be no statues of suffragettes placed in Parliament Square.
I presume that the statue would be erected to commemorate the part that the suffragette movement had in getting votes for women. This would be a mistake.
There is, of course, one person who had greater responsibility for the extension of the franchise, not only to women, but to all adult males. But he was a man. I refer, if you had not already guessed, to one Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albrecht von Preußen, King of Prussia, Supreme Warlord of the Second Reich and the third and final German Emperor.
It is also interesting to note that, had there been equality in the royal line of succession in the late 19th Century, he could have also added King of Great Britain and Emperor of India to those titles in 1901 following the swift sequence of the deaths of Queen Victoria and her eldest child who was also named Victoria and who was the Kaiser’s mother. Sometimes equal rights can be a bad idea.
At least the suffragettes and the Kaiser had the same approach to their ambitions, which was to cause violence and disruption. In the Kaiser’s case, this included invading Belgium, sending dreadnoughts to bombard innocent British civilians living on the North Sea coast with fifteen-inch naval shells, having Zeppelin airships and Gotha bombers drop bombs on yet more innocent British civilians, and having his soldiers commit war crimes against civilians in the European countries occupied by his armies, thus ushering in the horrors of the 20th Century.
By comparison, the suffragettes challenged an economic parable of Frédéric Bastiat to see if breaking windows could boost the Imperial economy, added to the wear and tear of various tools such as the hacksaws and bolt-cutters needed to part the chains they used to attach themselves to the railings of prominent buildings, and invented the dangerous sport of hoof-surfing as a adjunct to the festivities of the Epsom Derby. But these women’s hearts seemed to be in the same place as their Teutonic partner-in-crime by causing trouble in this country to drive change.
It was the fact that the British government had to make use of those to whom they had not provided the the right to be represented in Parliament in order to restore peace and justice amongst the Europeans that compelled the extension of the franchise. The need by elected politicians to fill an army with the men who could not vote due to their economic and social status, and to fill armaments factories and other places of work vacated by those men fighting to liberate Europe from the scourge of unrestrained Prussian militarism with women, who were denied representation by the fact of their sex, drove these same politicians to permit universal adult suffrage. Not a broken window, not being chained to railings, but the consequences of a shot that was heard around the world.
It can be safely assumed that no-one in this country wants a statue of the Kaiser in Parliament Square for his contribution to women’s suffrage.
There are no public statues to Joe Gormley, Jack Jones or Hugh Scanlon in this country either. These 1970s union barons, whose members’ disruption and sabotage of commerce crippled the British economy to the point of national bankruptcy, are only celebrated by a blindly supportive minority. For the rest of us, their activities ensured eighteen years of Conservative government as no-one wanted to return to the era when a Labour government required these trades unionists to tell them how to run the country. Put simply, we do not put up public statues to people in this country who used direct action against the people of this country to achieve their aims, especially not in Parliament Square.
Here, I have to digress to address the inevitable comments by leftists about Churchill sending troops to Tonypandy. Khaki did stalk the streets of South Wales, but they kept public order and restored the rule of law against mob violence after rioting and looting had disfigured the town. Although resented for their part in stopping a strike, no-one found themselves with a circular hole of .303” diameter in their body. This is just typical leftist moaning because there has never been such a thing as a Labour statesman with anything approaching the same stature. It is also typical muddled socialist thinking, trying to find equality where none exists.
It is a historical conceit due to a distressing state of public ignorance, amplified by news organisations who should fire their researchers, to assume that there was only one organisation advocating women’s’ suffrage and that they only used one name. This is simply not true. In addition to the suffragettes, there were also the suffragists.
In fact the suffragettes were an organisation that splintered from the suffragists, whose divergence was the use of violence to further their aims. Given that they had the same major objective, the distinctiveness of the suffragettes was the violence. It would be ironic in the extreme if the statue erected after that of Gandhi, a man dedicated to non-violent political protest, should honour the polar opposite.
There should, however, be a statue to celebrate the campaign to gain voting rights for women. As discussed, it should not be of a suffragette. It should instead to be of Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett.
Millicent Fawcett was a Victorian intellectual who wrote articles and books on the political economy from a liberal perspective. She wrote a nine-page article on communism in the Ninth ‘Scholars’ edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica that was published in 1877. She was the sister to Elizabeth Garret Anderson, the first female doctor in Britain. Millicent was also a caring wife and mother. Her husband was Henry Fawcett, a Liberal MP who helped the theories of Darwin gain respectability. Fawcett had been blinded in a shooting accident in his mid-twenties and Millicent became his eyes, acting as his secretary. With her help, Fawcett achieved the office of Postmaster-General in the government of William Gladstone. Fawcett’s monument in Westminster Abbey recognises the work of his wife, asserting that she ‘won citizenship for women’.
She was also a co-founder of the women-only Newnham College in Cambridge as part of her campaigning to permit the entry of women into academia in Britain. Millicent united the disparate groups campaigning for women’s suffrage and became the first president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). It was the group that started by breaking away from this organisation that started breaking windows. In addition to campaigning for women’s political rights, she also campaigned for various social rights that we take for granted today, including the right for a female rape victim to be heard in court.
It was the NUWSS that made the case for women’s suffrage during World War I, pointing out the participation of women in the war economy in producing the tools for the liberation of the Continent from wicked German oppression. By contrast, the suffragettes ceased their activity of civil disobedience when war was declared and their participation in the debate seems to have ceased with this retreat from violence.
Millicent’s work for equality is carried on today by the Fawcett Society, which is a successor organisation to the one she helped promote. It has lost its way of late, becoming a left-wing feminist pressure group with trustees like Natalie Bennett. It was this organisation that coerced some cowardly politicians into wearing a feminist t-shirt that cost £64 in UK shops but was manufactured for a pittance by women in the Third World who were exploited by sweatshop work conditions and cramped accommodation. I am sure Millicent would have been ashamed of how her name was being used today.
So, as far as statuary is concerned, I say no to the suffragettes, but an emphatic yes to the suffragists. A Victorian intellectual woman of letters and a proponent of peaceful and reasoned advocacy, I say Millicent Garret Fawcett deserves be known for more in the 21st Century than a duff t-shirt-based campaign promoted in her name. Let her be celebrated in bronze.
Sadiq Khan, please take note.
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