Women’s History Month is dedicated to the insanely brave and remarkable women who went above and beyond and left their mark on history. There’s no ranking these women. They are all extremely amazing in their own respect, for their own reasons. But this post is dedicated to my three favourite influential women in history.
You all know I had to include a fellow Mancunian girl!
Born in Manchester in 1858, Emmeline Pankhurst was incredibly influential to the British suffragette movement. In 1889, she founded the Women’s Franchise League, allowing married women to vote in local elections, and in 1903, she helped to found the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). This group was notorious for its activity in the movement and produced some of the most famous suffragette figures we know.
They demonstrated public protests which included hunger strikes, in which some women were detained against their will and force-fed. Emmeline herself was arrested countless times, another victim of violent force-feeding. Her militancy paused however when the 1914 war began, and she temporarily stopped her efforts to give her assistance in the war. In 1918, women over the age of 30 were given the right to vote, thanks to the suffragettes hard work, and Emmeline passed away in 1928, knowing that women had equal voting rights to men.
First of all, let me just say. This woman was an outright badass. I love her. Anyway, Emily Davison was yet another crucial figure of the suffragette movement. She spent her early life studying at University including Oxford, even though women were not allowed to obtain a degree. In 1906, she joined Emmeline Pankhurst in her efforts, becoming a member of the WSPU, and even giving up her job as a teacher in order to focus on being a suffragette full time. In 1909 she was sentenced to a month of labour in a prison in Manchester for throwing rocks at David Lloyd George’s carriage (a chancellor at that time). Whilst in prison, she barricaded her door to avoid force-feedings, and as a result, the prison guards set a water hose on her, nearly filling her entire cell and drowning her. She then sued them. And won. (Seriously. Badass.)
In her last act of protest, in true militant fashion, Davison took the ultimate sacrifice, and on the 4th of June, 1914, she ran into the King’s Horse at the Epsom Derby, supposedly trying to pin the suffragette flag onto the horse’s collar, dying four days later. The media coverage for the suffragette movement swelled as a result of her bravery, and she left a permanent mark on the movement that propelled the suffragettes forwards.
Elizabeth Blackwell was only a young girl when her father died and left his wife and nine children in considerable debt. After another range of unfortunate circumstances which affected their financial situation greatly, she made it her mission to train as a physician. Applying to numerous medical schools, she was rejected by all but one: Geneva Medical College. Her admission was not one of respect, but of humour. For a laugh, the committee voted yes to her application, and she was admitted. She faced much resentment during her time as a student, and yet still managed to become the first woman to receive an M.D. degree from an American medical school. In 1874, alongside many other female physicians, she created the London School of Medicine for Women. Nearing the end of her life, Elizabeth contributed to many more movements and acts in support of educational equality, before dying in 1910. Her work contributed to the fact that in 1881, there were only 25 female doctors registered in England and Wales but by 1911 there were 495 registered.
There are hundreds of other women that I could have written about in this post. Hundreds. Each one sacrificed their reputations, their livelihoods and their health for the sake of our equality. They each deserve individual recognition, but this is simply a short list of the ones I know and love. Happy Women’s History Month! Let’s keep breaking the boundaries…