Little Bits of History

Mud March

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 7, 2012

Millicent Fawcett

February 7, 1907: More than 3,000 women slog through the mud. It was the first large march organized by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). The weather was cold and the London streets were full of mud. The women left Hyde Park and made their way to Exeter Hall. The march and the NUWSS were led by Millicent Fawcett. Ms Fawcett was helped with organizing the event by Lady Strachey, Lady Balfour, and Keir Hardie. Phillipa Strachey, daughter of Lady Strachey, was one of the leaders of the procession and helped bring together the 40+ organizations included for the demonstration.

The NUWSS was a group of suffragists as opposed to suffragettes. The former were “committed by definition to non-military activity” while the latter employed military tactics of protest. The NUWSS was formed in 1897 by the merger of three groups and Fawcett was the leader for 22 years. In 1903 the Women’s Social and Political Union broke away to form a more militant group. Even with the split, the NUWSS grew and by 1914 there were greater than 100,000 members in more than 400 branches. NUWSS, unlike the militant group, permitted men to join in the fight for women’s rights.

Dame Millicent Fawcett, nee Garrett, was both suffragist and feminist. She came from a liberal family and was charged, by her sister and when she was just 13, to turn to politics and get women the vote. Her sister became the first female doctor in Britain. Millicent met and married Henry Fawcett, a Liberal Member of Parliament. He was blind and his wife worked as his secretary and amanuensis. She was permitted to attend political meetings with her husband and gained an insight into politics. She also wrote a dozen books and numerous articles on a variety of topics. She is considered to have been instrumental in the creation of the 1918 laws giving at least some women the right to vote.

The Fawcett Society was named for Millicent. They have been “closing the inequality gap for women since 1866” when Millicent first began her life’s work. They have a vision of a society blind to gender with men and women receiving equal representation in public life, equal pay and pensions, and equality within the justice system. While great strides have been made in 140 years, there is still work to do. Women earn less per hour than men. Women make up less than 20% of MPs and only 4% of directors of the top 100 UK companies are women. There is an abysmal record for the prosecution of rapists in the UK.

The London weather did its worst against us; mud, mud, mud, was its prominent feature, and it was known among us afterwards as the “mud march.” – Millicent Fawcett

A gay enough procession by most accounts, despite the weather. Little touches of red and white splashed its length with rosettes and favours, posies bound with red and white handkerchiefs programmes, and above the line, white banners with vivid scarlet lettering. – Lisa Tickner

Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions – it only guarantees equality of opportunity. – Irving Kristol

Equality of opportunity is freedom, but equality of outcome is repression. – Dick Feagler

Also on this day:

Pluto v. Neptune – In 1979, Pluto moved inside Neptune’s orbit.
Finally – In 1971, Switzerland gives women the vote.
The Little Tramp – In 1914, Charlie Chaplin first plays The Little Tramp in the  Kid Auto Races at Venice.

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