Mythes et Héros / Myths and heroes : The Suffragettes - Anglais - Terminale ES

Mythes et Héros / Myths and heroes : The Suffragettes - Anglais - Terminale ES

Notre professeur vous propose un cours d'anglais consacré à la notion Mythes et Héros (Myths and heroes).

A travers cette fiche, vous vous intéresserez aux Suffragettesmilitantes féministes qui se sont battues, à l’aube du vingtième siècle, pour le droit de vote des femmes au Royaume-Uni. Vous étudierez également les moyens employés par les Suffragettes pour revendiquer leurs droits ainsi que les conséquences de leurs actions. Les mots soulignés seront expliqués dans le lexique à la fin de la fiche.

Téléchargez gratuitement ci-dessous ce cours d'Anglais sur les Suffragettes, en lien avec la notion "Mythes et Héros".

Mythes et Héros / Myths and heroes : The Suffragettes - Anglais - Terminale ES

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Although women started to work full-time during the Industrial Revolution, it was assumed that they were meant to be housewives who could not think for themselves. Thus, in the nineteenth century, women had no place in national politics.

Yet, in 1867, a first step towards equality could have enabled women to vote. John Stuart Mill, one of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism, proposed an amendment that would have given the vote to women on the same terms as men. However, among 194 voters, a majority of 121 rejected the amendment.

While they were working, women had opportunities to discuss political and social issues. By the end of the century, they mainly talked about the struggle for equality, commonly called “The Cause”.


Suffragists and suffragettes

The term suffragette is commonly used to refer to any British woman who campaigned for the right to vote. However, originally the suffragettes were activists belonging to the Women’s Social and Political Union and were born out the suffragist movement.


The suffragists

By the late nineteenth century, in 1897, feminist activist Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. The NUWSS was composed exclusively of middle-class women.

The NUWSS argued that since women had to obey laws, they should be allowed to participate fully in politics. The NUWSS also aimed at proving that women were as intelligent as men and could take responsibility in political matters. They were convinced they could obtain the right to vote using peaceful tactics such as petitions and non-violent demonstrations. In the early twentieth century, several bills in favour of women’s suffrage gained considerable support in Parliament. Some members of the suffragists thought it was only a matter of time until women would obtain the right to vote.

However, one of the members of the suffragist group, Emmeline Pankhurst, had grown impatient with the peaceful tactics of the NUWSS and believed they needed the support of working-class women. Thus, Pankhurst decided to create a separate society.


The Suffragettes

Emmeline Pankhurst was married to a lawyer who supported women’s suffrage. In 1903, after her husband’s death, she founded with young working-class women the Women’s Social and Political Union. The term suffragette was rapidly given to the feminist movement by the newspaper The Daily Mail.

In 1907, the WSPU split into two groups after Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel came into conflict with other members of the movement. The disagreement within the WSPU was related to the tactics used by the suffragettes. The seventeen suffragettes who left the WSPU founded the Women’s Freedom League while Emmeline Pankhurst reinforced her methods of campaign.


“Deeds not words”

Deeds not words” was the motto of the suffragettes. They were convinced that violence was the only language men listened to. Thus, Emeline Pankhurst called for a more militant action, even if this meant breaking the law.

In 1905, Christabel Pankhurst and her colleague Annie Kenney interrupted a political meeting to claim women’s rights. There, they assaulted a policeman and were arrested. Instead of paying the fine, they preferred to be sentenced to seven days in jail; it was prison or the vote for women.

This event was the beginning of more violent methods of campaign. The suffragettes committed acts of vandalism, burnt institutions symbolising men’s supremacy and set bombs. They even chained themselves to the railings outside the Prime Minister’s front door.


The Cat and Mouse Act

The more violent the suffragettes were, the more frequent the imprisonments were. In prison, the suffragettes started hunger strikes. Thus, the government decided that women would be force-fed with nasal tube. However, this method was denounced by public opinion.

In 1913, the government voted the Temporary Discharge for Ill Health Act. This act enabled to put an end to force-feeding of suffragettes. In prison, the suffragettes became weaker and weaker until they were released when their health status were concerning.

Anything that could happen to them after their release would not be under the government’s responsibility.

After they regained strength, the suffragettes were imprisoned again and restart hunger strikes. This is the reason why this act was called the Cat and Mouse Act by the press.


Victory of the women’s suffrage

Several factors led to women’s suffrage. Public opinion assumed that methods used by the government were cruel and violated fundamental human rights. Consequently, the suffragettes won the sympathy and the support of the population. By 1909, the WSPU published a newspaper called Votes for Women which sold 20,000 copies each week.

In 1913, Emily Davidson died while she tried to stop King George V’s horse at a derby. Davidson was regarded as a martyr by public opinion.

A year later, when the First World War broke out, the WSPU called for a ceasefire and suspended their activities in the face of a greater threat to the nation. In addition, because men were sent to the front, women started to replace them at work. The admirable behaviour of women during the war proved that they could be reasonable and responsible.

In 1918, Parliament voted the Representation of the People Act 1918. This act gave the vote to property-owning women and graduated women over thirty. Women were given the vote on the same terms as men ten years later, in 1928.



To think for oneself : penser par soi-même

To enable : permettre

A demonstration : une manifestation

A deed : une action

A fine : une amende 

A railing : une rambarde

A hunger strike : une grève de la faim

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