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Last year I was interviewed on BBC Radio as an expert on Suffragettes because it was the centenary of David Lloyd-George’s second home in Walton Heath being bombed. The thrust of the interview was “Were the Suffragettes Terrorists?”. Given the huge number of events during the fight for the vote for women, the centenary of many of which were either last year or this, it has intrigued me that it was this bombing that was selected by the BBC as being particularly worthy of coverage.
It is 40 years since the TV drama series Shoulder to Shoulder portrayed the Suffragette struggle. Since then we’ve seen next to nothing on our screens, documentary or drama, about Suffragettes. Last year saw a Channel 4 documentary about Emily Davison’s protest at the 1913 Derby, but despite the success of Edwardian era dramas such as Downton Abbey and Mr Selfridge, and TV’s present enthusiasm for all things Great War, during which women aged over 30 (with other provisos) won the vote, Votes for Women seemingly remains a taboo subject with TV documentary and drama makers.
Suffragettes went out of their way not to harm anyone (other than themselves), but do TV producers ignore them because they perceive them to have been terrorists? Is the problem for TV that Suffragettes were brave freedom fighters, and Prime Minister Asquith and his small band of supporters (only 5 of the 19 strong cabinet were actively against women gaining the vote, and a big majority of backbenches were in favour) were perpetrators of undemocratic injustice? The women were clearly the goodies, the government the baddies, but in the past 40 terror-filled years nobody has wanted to make a programme that portrayed perceived terrorists favourably.
Given that my Suffragette talks and walks are the most popular of the many I do, and the sales of my novel, Suffragette Autumn Women’s Spring, are so healthy, there’s clearly plenty of interest out there.
It’s time TV producers read their Edwardian history books, realised these brave women were most certainly not terrorists, and gave them the time they deserve.