The Instigator
Pro (for)
6 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

The Role of Emmeline Pankhurst in gaining women the vote (in Britain) has been hugely exaggerated

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/8/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,351 times Debate No: 48674
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)




Considering today is "International Women's Day" I thought this would be a fitting debate. I have seen numerous magazines and websites praising the work of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the Suffragette movement in Britain, some even claiming she is the sole cause of this political change. I however think this is far from the truth.

Arguments and opinions?


Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Franchise League, which fought to allow married women to vote in local elections.

In October 1903, she helped found the more militant Women's Social and Political Union. This was an organisation that gained much notoriety for its activities and whose members were the first to be christened 'suffragettes'. [1]

Like many suffragettes, Emmeline was arrested on numerous occasions over the next few years and went on hunger strike herself, resulting in violent force-feeding.

In 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave voting rights to women over 30. Emmeline died shortly after women were granted the right to vote.

Conclusion: I have shown that the role of Emmeline Pankhurst has not been exaggerated.

Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, with all due respect to my opponent, you have not proven that she hasn't been exaggerated in her role of gaining women the vote, you have provided a statement of what she did during her life, a short biography if you will!

Firstly, there is a phrase you use that I would like to focus on, the idea that the suffragettes "gained much notoriety for its activities". I would be inclined to agree! However, in this case at least though I would say that "notoriety" carries many negative connotations with it, and certainly did to a number of prominent British politicians of the time. Winston Churchill for example, a figure with whom I'm sure we are all familiar, quickly changed his mind on women's suffrage (gaining of the vote) after the suffragettes whipped him at Bristol Temple Meads shortly after getting off his train. Attacks like this by the suffragettes did get peoples attention, but did little to aid their cause in gaining suffrage. In fact, it strengthened one of the British politicians key arguments against women! The thought that women didn't deserve the vote was a popular one among many men and some women (including Queen Victoria herself), by committing such brutal acts, Emmeline Pankhurst's suffragettes played into the hands of these politicians by showing themselves as "brutal" and "savage", an image that much of the media were quite happy to give them. One example being the Morning Post, that openly stated "Nothing could indicate more plainly their lack of fitness to be entrusted with the exercise of political power". It is true that they were in the public eye, but not in a positive light.

Building upon this, you may find it interesting to hear that the number of votes in favour of women gaining the vote went DOWN as the suffragettes gradually got more violent, with the number of voters in their favour dropping rapidly after they began bombing MP's houses and burning churches. I think Lloyd George, a prominent figure in politics who soon became Prime Minister, sums up the countries view beautifully when he said "Haven"t the Suffragettes the sense to see that the very worst way of campaigning for the vote is to try and intimidate a man into giving them what he would gladly give otherwise?" when speaking in 1913. When the suffragists were at work peacefully before Pankhurst founded the WSPU, the number of votes in their favour was steadily rising. Emmeline Pankhurst did not aid women in their war for the vote, she was a curse that destroyed their chances at an increasingly quick rate!

Finally, does it appear significant to you that women over 30 gained the vote in 1918 when the Representation of the People Act was passed? I have a sneaking suspicion something else significant happened in 1918... something that had affected the entire world over the 4 previous years... OF COURSE! World War One! Just a coincidence, I think not! The Suffragettes shut down their protests over the course of the War as women were needed to help Britain. This, I would argue, is the defining moment that really pushed women into the forefront of politicians minds. It was hard to ignore the outstanding work of the WRENS and other organisations of women that were producing weapons, aiding the army and farming the land. The commitment and determination showed by the women of Britain destroyed all the old arguments of "Women can't work as effectively as men" and "Women don't aid Britain in war, why should they have the vote?". Politicians had little choice but to give women the vote at the end of the war, and for many it was a pleasure to reward these women. Emmeline Pankhurst and her suffragettes had no effect on this, even calling off their protests was merely a formality considering that most women left to be with their families anyway.

To conclude, despite the consistent praise given to Emmeline Pankhurst about her skills as a leader and speaker and her role of gaining women the vote is unfair and inaccurate. We have overwhelming evidence to show that politicians, the media and the general public weren't happy with the methods of Pankhurst and it put many off the idea of women's suffrage. Ironically, it was when Emmeline Pankhurst stepped out of the limelight and stopped her ways that women actually did gain the vote! World War One and the collective work of the women in Britain are what gained suffrage for women in Britain, not Panhurst.



While Pro did show that Emmeline Pankhurst didn't play a very large role in winning voting rights for women, he failed to prove that people actually 'exaggerate' her contribution.
Debate Round No. 2


For a start I thank you Stalin for seeing my point of view that she did very little (if anything) towards gaining women's suffrage. As for exaggerations of her role I would be more than happy to supply you with a few.

For a start, the Time magazine, a popular American published read, placed Pankhurst as one of their 100 most Important people of the 20th Century! Describing her as "a crucial element in achieving women's suffrage in Britain". After having read my previous argument, I'm sure you would agree that this is not quite the case, you yourself even agreeing that I have shown that "Pankhurst didn't play a very large role in winning voting rights for women".

Another example I came across just a few months ago that shocked me was a documentary by the BBC on great speeches. Now before I explain what it said, I would like to point out that I cannot quote a source for this as the documentary has long since been removed from the BBC iPlayer, nonetheless I ask your respect in trusting me in this source. The host was going through influential speeches and speakers and soon came to Emmeline Pankhurst. I had to rewind and check my headphones to see if they were working when the host stated that her speaking skills were one of the reasons she was the key factor to getting women the vote. Once again this is far from the truth in my opinion, and whilst the whole documentary seemed bias (which is another matter altogether) this particular statement appalled me with its lack of evidence to accompany it.

I hope this is enough to show you that Pankhurst has been exaggerated in both the USA and in Europe in her role, and these are only just a couple of examples as to the media bringing her out of proportion. The effect this had on the public in general is significant, with the majority of people I have met "knowing" her as a hero for all women from what they have heard from TV and news.

To conclude, Emmeline Pankhurst WAS an activist and DID fight for women's suffrage, the amount achieved by her however is nothing to admire and I believe she lessened women's chances of getting it, World War 1 being the real cause of change. Yet the media today decides to put a spin on it that she was in fact a "hero" and a "role model", a view which I personally think is unjustified and wrong.

I eagerly await your reply!


Now I see. I think Pro has proven his point.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by imabench 2 years ago
LOL, con didnt even try to put up a half decent argument for this one, pathetic effort on his part.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Dakota-Hiltzman 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Con didn't even try, and forfeits in the the final round.