As of yet, my blog posts have considered and presented how men and women, from different backgrounds and even countries (Australia) – aside from Britain, have helped towards seeking the enfranchisement and suffrage. In today’s blog post I will be talking about the anti-suffrage movement and the widespread support it had and received. The anti-suffrage movement (aka ‘Antis’) is often overlooked in comparison to the Suffragists and Suffragette movements. Regardless of its defeat, it is an important factor and discourse of history and citizenship.

There were many different political parties and groups who belonged to this movement, with different aims. For instance, Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League (1908-18), were against the enfranchisement of the parliamentary vote, but were in favour of women having the vote for municipal and local elections. [1] It is important to remember that the anti-suffrage movement was also an attack on male suffrage, despite the lack of representation often found in propaganda.

suffragettes home
John Hassall, “A Suffragette’s Home” (1912).

A famous anti-suffrage propaganda example of is ‘A Suffragette’s Home’[2] published for the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage in 1912. This poster displays a worn-out lady, who cannot keep up her duties as a wife and mother, due to the suffrage campaign. This can be inferred as the house is displayed as a mess, a baby is seen crying on the floor and a husband who has just returned home after work is bemused. This poster is one of many anti-suffrage propaganda which highlights the typical notion of why women should not be enfranchised and refrain from breaking the gendered ideals which were put in place.

Antis, were predominately Conservative and from a middle-class background, this can suggest the notion that the movement started as a class movement. [3] Aside from the typical reasoning of anti-suffrage beliefs which are focused on. Many also believed that the working-class lacked the correct education and intellect for such an important decisions and policy making, and therefore, believed by opposing the vote they were doing what was right for their nation.  This makes sense as the one of the most basic and pinnacle arguments and issue of the anti-suffrage movement was that, understanding the details of the empire and its right was incapable by an average labourer. [4] Historian, Julia Bush, has argued that ordinary women did not have much interest in the enfranchisement, before the first World War and after the suffrage had been granted. [5] This supports the notion that, ‘ordinary’ (in this case) women had no interest and understanding with political affairs and can be linked to the ‘Flapper Election’ of 1929, where women aged between 21-29 voted for the first time.

Personally, what I find the most interesting about the anti-suffrage movement is the supporters. One of the leaders of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League was Gertrude Bell – a remarkable and notable British woman, who is renowned for a number of things. One of the most notable being, a traveller, who worked to directly shape the border of modern-day Middle East! During Bells travels, she had successfully managed to enlist fellow females towards the anti-suffrage campaign, this suggests that Bell was always actively thinking of the movement and spreading her views to women of different backgrounds. Bell describes in a diary entry which she wrote:

‘My travelling companion was a Mrs Broadridge, an intelligent little woman wife of an engineer who is now on the W coast of Africa. She had been all over the world. We talked of the suffrage and I enlisted her among the Antis.’ [6]

It is interesting to see how Bell actively combated against the struggle of the typical female perceptions and expectations of 19th and 20th century and was a lady of female empowerment, yet actively supported the anti-suffrage movement in Britain.

Nevertheless, those who have not come across Gertrude Bell, I urge you to look into her work, story and life!

[1] Edith M Phelps, “Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League Manifesto” in Selected Articles on Woman Suffrage (London: Forgotten Books, 2013) pp. 257–9.

[2] John Hassall, “A Suffragette’s Home”, The National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage, (1912), accessed from Alfred J. Andrea and James H. Overfield, The Human Record: Sources of Global History, Volume II: Since 1500, (Northway: Cengage Learning, 2011), p.288

[3] Genna Duplisea, Writing in the Masculine: Gertrude Lowthian Bell, Gender, and Empire,Terrae Incognitae, 48:1, (2016), p.61.

[4] Eliza Riedi, “Women, Gender, and the Promotion of Empire: The Victoria League, 1901–1914,” The Historical Journal, 45.3 (2002), pp. 597–598.

[5] Julia Bush. Women Against the Vote: Female Anti-Suffragism in Britain. (Oxford University Press:2007), p.311.

[6] Gertrude Bell, Thurs 21. [21 January 1909] http://www.gerty.ncl.ac.uk/diary_details.php?diary_id=648

Bibliography

Andrea, J. Alfred and Overfield, H. James. John Hassall, “A Suffragette’s Home”, The National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage, (1912)in The Human Record: Sources of Global History, Volume II: Since 1500. Northway: Cengage Learning, 2011.

Bell, Gertrude. Thurs 21. [21 January 1909] http://www.gerty.ncl.ac.uk/diary_details.php?diary_id=648 (Accessed 13th February 2019).

Bush, Julia. Women Against the Vote: Female Anti-Suffragism in Britain. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Duplisea, Genna. Writing in the Masculine: Gertrude Lowthian Bell, Gender, and Empire,Terrae Incognitae, 48:1, (2016),  55-75.

Phelps, M Edith. “Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League Manifesto” in Selected Articles on Woman Suffrage, London: Forgotten Books, 2013.

Riedi, Eliza. “Women, Gender, and the Promotion of Empire: The Victoria League, 1901–1914,” The Historical Journal, 45.3 (2002), pp. 569-599.

 

2 thoughts on “Antis

  1. I liked how you introduced the topic for your blog by making some references and connections to your previous posts. I have never seen the primary sources you used within your blog post, so these made the content extra interesting for me! This gave me a new viewpoint on the Flapper Election of 1929 I had not previously considered!
    I like the way you personalise your blogs with your own opinions and do not just give a general overview as it makes it more personal and conversational to read. My only (small) criticism would have been to have found out more about how the anti-suffrage movement was also an attack on male suffrage! But that’s just my curiosity! Overall, an enjoyable blog and set of sources.

    Like

  2. I really enjoyed reading this blog and the way you interacted with your readers by mentioning your previous blogs in your intro. Your writing style is easy to understand and the structure of your blog is good. I agree with the previous comment and how you always ensure to include your own opinions.
    What I found particularly interesting was how you linked Gertrude Bell to her travels in the Middle East as I never knew this before! Perhaps it would have been interested to hear of what Bell thought about males but that is only a small criticism.

    Like

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