Suffragettes campaigned for the right for women to vote. Voting rights for women were a hot topic in Nunney in 1914 too.
Suffragettes were members of women’s right to vote movements in the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly in the United Kingdom and United States.
Suffragettes were mostly women from upper and middle-class backgrounds, frustrated by their social and economic situation. Their struggles for change within society were enough to spearhead a movement that would encompass mass groups of women fighting for suffrage.
The Suffragette movement started in 1865 and for many years consisted mainly of peaceful demonstrations and mass meetings. 1912 was a turning point for the British suffragettes as they turned to using more militant tactics such as chaining themselves to railings, setting fire to mailbox contents, smashing windows and occasionally detonating bombs.
This was because the Prime Minister at the time, Asquith, nearly signed a document giving women (over 30 and either married to a property-owner or owning a property themselves) the right to vote. But he pulled out at the last minute, as he thought the women may vote against him in the next General Election, stopping his party (Liberals) from getting into Parliament/ruling the country.
One suffragette, Emily Davison, died under the King’s horse, Anmer, at the Epsom Derby of June 4, 1913. She was trying to pin a “vote for Women” banner on the King’s horse, in full view of the King and Queen.
Many of her fellow suffragettes were imprisoned and went on a hunger strike as a scare tactic against the government. In the early twentieth century until the First World War, approximately one thousand suffragettes were imprisoned in Britain for public order offences and failure to pay fines.
Following the refusal for suffragettes to be recognised as political prisoners, many suffragettes began to stage hunger strikes while they were imprisoned. In order to prevent the women becoming martyrs for the movement, prisons began to force-feed them on a large scale.
A few historians feel that some of the suffragettes’ actions actually damaged their cause. The argument was that women should not get the vote because they were too emotional and could not think as logically as men; their violent and aggressive actions were used as evidence in support of this argument.
The First World War effectively put an end to the Suffragette movement, as most women concentrated on supporting the war effort.
The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, which had always employed “constitutional” methods, continued to lobby during the war years. On 6 February 1918, the Representation of the People Act 1918 was passed, enfranchising women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications. About 8.4 million women gained the vote.
In November 1918, the Eligibility of Women Act was passed, allowing women to be elected into Parliament. The Representation of the People Act 1928 extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21, granting women the vote on the same terms as men.
Suffragettes in Nunney
Little is known about the Suffragette movement in Nunney. That we know it existed at all, is down to a small article in the Western Daily Press.
It says that a man, Frederick W. Bynoth of Frome, was summoned to Frome Petty Session for driving to the public danger in Nunney.
The allegation was that on Friday 12 June 1914 Mr Bynoth drove into a crowd of 200 people who had come for a Suffragette meeting.
This was said to have scattered the women in all directions. A woman carrying a child was “nearly” knocked down.
A police sergeant was struck in the back by a shaft, forcing him to jump with his bicycle into a ditch.
The defendant said that he was driving a blood mare, and something made her jump.
He apologised for “very nearly” hitting the police sergeant with the shaft, but denied driving into the crowd. He claimed to have kept at the end of the procession.
In the end it was decided that the balance of evidence was against Mr Bynoth. He was fined 10s and costs.