In celebration of International Women's Day, here are the kick-ass women you should thank for the rights we have today

Girl power.

06 Mar 2018

If 2018 is anything, it's the year to be a woman. From the women's marches that have taken place this year, to all the kick-ass speeches from our favourite feminist stars, ladies have been loud and proud this year. To celebrate International Women's Day, which takes place on March 8, we've rounded up all the world-changing women you need to thank for the rights you have today. Prepare to feel seriously inspired.

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On Tuesday February 6, women were given the right to vote. Before 6 February 1918, women were not allowed to vote. Their opinions didn’t matter. Every political decision, from economics to health, was made by men. Women could only make their opinions heard via their husbands, brothers and fathers - that is, if they were lucky enough to be listened to.

Today that would be unthinkable, and rightly so. But if it wasn’t for the women who dedicated their lives to campaigning against this, we wouldn’t have the right to vote today. We’d still be banned from the ballot boxes, consigned to the kitchens while we waited for our ‘men’ to come home.

So much has changed in the last century. We have come so far as women, with true gender equality closer than ever, and we owe it all to the women who died many years ago. Women from working class backgrounds. Women from upper class backgrounds. Women who ignored society’s instructions to stay in their place, and fought anyway.

These are the women we need to remember and thank today.

Emmeline Pankhurst

The leader of the British suffrage movement, she was the women who began the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) that made fighting for the vote their mission. Her speeches roused thousands to join the movement, but she wasn’t just a talker. Like many suffragettes, she was arrested several times for her campaigning, and she was force-fed after going on hunger strike. She did a lot for the movement, not least bringing two more major women’s rights campaigners into the world - her daughters Christabel and Sylvia.

Christabel Pankhurst

The woman nicknamed ‘The Queen of the Mob’ by the media. She was a co-founder of the WSPU with her mum, and a committed suffragette who fled to France to escape jail. But she was jailed with fellow suffragette Annie Kenney for interrupting a Liberal Party meeting, and the subsequent news coverage inspired many more women to join the movement.

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Sylvia Pankhurst

Just like her sister and mother, Sylvia was desperate for women to secure the vote. But she disagreed with them when it came to politics and was against their support for the First World War. She was repeatedly imprisoned for her campaigns, and worked hard on the marketing side of things, creating banners and jewellery.

Emily Wilding Davison

This suffragette gave her life to the cause when she stepped out onto the Derby tracks in front of King George V’s horse in 1913. Before then, she was a committed activist, jailed nine times and force-fed 49 times. Her gravestone in Morpeth, Northumberland, reads “Deeds Not Words”.

Lady Constance Lytton

Born into Victorian privilege, Lady Lytton threw herself into the cause. She was arrested for her actions, and when she realised she wasn’t subjected to the same conditions as other suffragettes because of her class, she gave a fake name the next time she was arrested. Her antics were seen as scandalous at the time, and it is thought her death may have been linked to being force-fed.

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Princess Sophie

The Indian god-daughter of Queen Victoria, she played a prominent role in the suffragette movement. Even though the empire had destroyed her father’s life, she spent her life fighting for women’s right in the UK instead of returning to India. The propaganda she achieved for them was important, as well as sending out a wider message that all races were included in the fight, and she was in Emmeline Pankhurst’s close coterie of friends.

Edith Garrud

One of the western world’s first female martial arts teachers, she ended up becoming Emmeline Pankhurst’s bodyguard and training up other women in jujutsu. Their efforts were in response to the 1913 ‘Cat and Mouse Act’ where hunger strikers were released only to be rearrested as soon as they’d regained their strength.

Millicent Fawcett

The suffragist was more moderate than the militant figures of Christabel Pankhurst and Emily Wilding Davison. But her efforts reached many. She wrote the short book ‘Political Economy for Beginners’ that was published for decades, and she never gave up. Even once women over 30 were given the vote in 1918, she kept campaigning for it to be lowered, which eventually happened in 1928 when it became 21 - the age men had been able to vote at for years.

Here's to another century of kick-ass women.


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