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The Suffragette

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She fights for women to get the right to vote in political elections.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
XFllo on Feb 9th 2019 at 6:56:33 AM
Last Edited By:
XFllo on Feb 18th 2019 at 10:54:13 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/suffragette_poster3.png

The Suffragette is a woman who fights for women's right to vote in public political elections.

She's usually an educated, spirited, independent woman with progressive opinions. She's aware that men don't perceive women as their intellectual equals. The Suffragette knows women are diminished, oppressed and patronised. She's willing to fight not only for herself, but especially for her sisters. She wants, above all, equality.

At first, the Suffragette's fight is peaceful. She enjoys discussing her ideas, she gladly crosses swords with people who are opposed and she loves when she convinces someone to join her cause. She's likely to join a group of women of the same persuasion. They write and handout pamphlets or carry placards and banners. However, their peaceful political activism leads nowhere. Now Suffragettes fight with civil disobedience. Women start organizing noisy rallies, they chain themselves to iron railings and acts of vandalism like breaking windows are fair game. A particularly daredevil or desperate Suffragette might endanger her life and die a martyr. At this point, Suffragettes are considered militant and violent. They often get arrested and put in prison. Many of them go on hunger strike and are force-fed. It ain't pretty. Suffragettes often sacrifice their personal happiness, love or family life for the cause. But they persist — because they fight for their daughters and the next generations of women.

The Suffragette will often wear dresses of white delicate dresses adorned with purple and green sashes. It's important to be feminine in their appearance, as the opposition likes to render them as mannish. Some Suffragettes however couldn't care less what men think, especially about their appearance.

The Suffragette in fiction set in the Victorian period will be the one who argues her case and fights in an intellectual way. The militant variant comes in full force in The Edwardian Era. It is a fairly popular idea how to portray women in works set in the past. Viewers will usually find their cause worthy, just and interesting. Some older works however might sneer on their fight as unnecessary, unnatural and affected, and it might be implied that women should care about more important things in life and leave politicking to men.

Emmeline Pankhurst was the British leader of the campaign and she usually gets at least a shout-out, or she appears as a Historical-Domain Character. See also our useful notes on Feminism.

Related tropes:

  • The Flapper: A direct descendant of the Suffragette, often literally her daughter. The Flapper is a fully liberated young woman in the 1920s who shows freedom from convention.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Modern works will portray Suffragettes' struggle against their oppression sympathetically and the original inequality between men and women will be shown as appalling.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Soapbox Sadie is also the Suffragette's descendant. She cares deeply about all worthy causes. Her activism is usually idealistic but annoying.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Spirited Young Lady is the Suffragette's ancestor. She's an educated upper-middle class young woman, independent and empowered, who speaks for her own rights. Like her, the Suffragette is smart and educated, but class distinctions become less important because Suffragettes want equality for all women.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Never mind how capable and intelligent these women are, some men (and women, too) insist women shouldn't be active outside of their family and should only be interested in properly feminine pursuits like family and domesticity.
  • Straw Feminist: If the Suffragette is portrayed unsympathetically, she might be the Straw Feminist, i.e. a radical woman who talks about equality for women but wants superiority over men.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Film - Live Action 
  • The Great Race. Maggie Dubois is a suffragette who wants to become the first female reporter for the New York Sentinel newspaper in order to promote women's rights, including the right to vote. She joins the race in order to get a great story and prove herself.
  • Hysteria: Charlotte believes in equal rights regardless of class and gender. Some characters consider her demands that women ought to be allowed to vote and that even poor people should get education and healthcare outlandish and crazy. The film is set in late Victorian period.
  • Winifred Banks from Mary Poppins, the children's mother, is part of the "Sister Suffragette" group in the film's setting of 1910. She even gets a musical number about it. The film portrays her as a cranky suffragette who is too busy to take care of her family and her friends are just as aloof.
  • Suffragette: A full film of them. They try protesting peacefully, but are ignored. It's only when they begin 'civil unrest' (actually destruction of property), they start to be taken seriously. Suffragettes are portrayed as determinators: they are arrested multiple times, Emily Davison throws herself in front of a horse and dies, they get beaten by police, they are force-fed (horrible torture) and they must sacrifice their family life. Emmeline Pankhurst appears as a Historical-Domain Character.
  • Wonder Woman (2017): Etta Candy tries to defend her position to Wonder Woman in British Society by saying they will get the right to vote... someday.

     Literature 
  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry is set in 1893. Martha, Cora Seaborne's companion and nanny/governess to her son Francis, is a suffragette and campaigner for workers' rights. She's campaigning for London's poverty-stricken inhabitants and she doesn't like how politicians like to render them "deserving" or "deserving". Cora says that had Martha been a man, she would have been in the Parliament. She's very persuasive and actually gets some wealthy men on her bandwagon and also inspires young Joanna Ransome.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Downton Abbey, set in the late Edwardian period on the brink of WWI:
    • Lady Sybil is a politically active young woman, liberal and radical in her opinions. She's a socialist at heart and supports woman's suffrage. She also cares on a personal level. She befriends housemaid Gwen Dawson who is determined not to follow the prescribed path for women of her social status and strives to make a better life for herself. Lady Sybil helps her.
    • After WWI, Lady Edith finds out she's a worthy person, too, and finds her cause. She takes an interest in writing about her support for women's suffrage and other political issues to a newspaper.
    • Gwen Dawson, now Mrs Harding, appears in season 6. It is revealed that she has made a successful career in government alongside her husband John, and helps to support young women from similarly disadvantaged backgrounds to progress their careers. John is named as a trustee at a woman's college for middle-class girls who want to do other jobs aside from service.
  • Murdoch Mysteries:
    • Dr. Julia Ogden is a proto-feminist and she's a successful and respected medical doctor in late Victorian Canada, so she's used to fighting for her own and women's rights. She's active politically, she's always happy to speak for women's right to contraception (illegal at the time). She's willing to be arrested and wants to argue her case in front of a judge. (Murdoch lets her go and persuades her not to, as she would be convicted). She considers running in the Provincial Elections, but declines because of her husband's career who nevertheless would support her if she chose to run.
    • Dr. Emily Grace, Dr. Ogden's protegee, gladly joins the women's movement. She's one of the most spirited and eager to fight or throw stones.
    • Margaret Haile, a Historical-Domain Character, is a Canadian socialist, teacher and journalist who was active in the socialist movement. She appears in the arch where Julia and Emily join the movement of women's suffrage. She is chosen as the ladies' candidate to run in the 1902 Ontario Provincial Election. When some men see their opposition and how much they must struggle, she gets quite a few votes. 79 actually.
    • Lilian Moss, Dr. Emily Grace's friend and eventual Love Interest. They bond over their interest in women's suffrage and both are politically active in the campaign. She persuades her lover Emily to leave Toronto for London and join Mrs. Pankhurst's group.

    Video Games 
  • Red Dead Redemption II: The player character encounters Dorothea Wicklow who is a Suffragette in Saint Denis. She protests peacefully, has a placard and says various lines about how women deserve the right to vote as much as men or that she'll only shut up once she can vote. See here and here.

Feedback: 29 replies

Feb 9th 2019 at 7:17:50 AM

Live Action Film In Wonder Woman, Etta Candy tries to defend her position to Wonder Woman in British Society by saying they will get the right to vote... someday.

In Mary Poppins, the wife is a cranky suffragette who is too busy to take care of her family and her friends are just as aloof.

Feb 9th 2019 at 7:25:05 AM

I've fixed a typo and the formatting of the list of examples. I agree that the description needs trimming, but I'm not sure what to cut. Other than that, it looks like a good draft.

Feb 9th 2019 at 7:39:16 AM

  • Winifred Banks from Mary Poppins is part of the "Sister Suffragette" group in the film's setting of 1910. She even gets a musical number about it.

Feb 9th 2019 at 8:21:53 AM

Great idea. However, the description is a little long and light on fictional depictions. Could some of this be moved to an analysis page?

This trope is perhaps the ancestor to the Soapbox Sadie.

Feb 9th 2019 at 8:23:07 AM

I suppose this is a Character Trope, instead of just "Suffrage movement exists"? Which is still important as a piece of worldbuilding?

VideoGame.Red Dead Redemption 2 has some... I forget what I put them under.

Feb 9th 2019 at 9:08:07 AM

Thank you, guys, for your feedback. You gave me some ideas how to approach it. I actually like the idea of splitting this into tow drafts: The Suffragette (a character type trope) and The Woman Suffrage Movement (a worldbuilding trope, as Malady puts it).

Feb 9th 2019 at 10:51:15 AM

^^^ I was also going to suggest an Analysis Page.

Feb 9th 2019 at 5:56:14 PM

Feb 9th 2019 at 6:30:34 PM

^ What is the setting of the book? Is it a fantasy genre? Some alternate reality?

With the description as it's written now, I don't think that example fits.

Feb 9th 2019 at 6:47:53 PM

Constructed World fantasy, yes. No problem if it doesn't fit.

Feb 9th 2019 at 7:17:09 PM

^ Anyway, thank you for the example. I'll try to think if the description could be tweaked to include examples from Fantasy Counterpart Culture and concepts like Recycled In Space. After all tropes are not narrow.

What do others think?

Feb 9th 2019 at 11:21:57 PM

The Suffragette can sometimes be the mother of The Flapper.

Feb 10th 2019 at 12:40:11 AM

The Womens Suffrage Movement would be a better title for the worldbuilding trope.

Feb 10th 2019 at 4:41:02 AM

^ OK, I changed the title of the draft, though Woman Suffrage Movement gets used as well. :-)

Moved from the draft:

Discussion

  1. What do you think? How did we miss it? The description will most likely need trimming and re-writing. EDIT: First draft was moved.
  2. Second draft is up. More focus on fictional depictions. It's also very long — trimming will be probably needed. Any ideas what to cut?
    1. Working on the idea to split this into The Suffragette (a character trope) and The Woman Suffrage Movement (a world-building trope). EDIT: The draft for Womens Suffrage Movement is up. See here.
    2. Old description (historical overview) might be moved to Analysis sub-page. Analysis.The Suffragette.

Feb 15th 2019 at 5:37:56 AM

Ideas on idexing:

Feb 11th 2019 at 1:53:17 AM

Film - Live Action

  • The Great Race. Maggie Dubois is a suffragette who wants to become the first female reporter for the New York Sentinel newspaper in order to promote women's rights, including the right to vote. She joins the race in order to get a great story and prove herself.

Feb 11th 2019 at 3:33:20 AM

^ Thank you, added.

Feb 11th 2019 at 6:59:20 AM

6 hats. I didn't expect those that quickly.

Any feedback on the description? It seems overly long, but I hardly know what could be trimmed. Any idea how to summarise at least some parts?

Feb 11th 2019 at 8:31:46 AM

Remove "empowered" from the first sentence? Seems unnecessary...

And scrub "women's rights in general"?

Feb 11th 2019 at 9:48:29 AM

^ um, k 🙂

Seems reasonable. Any more substantial changes?

Feb 11th 2019 at 10:06:47 AM

Yeah, was on mobile, small screen made analysis hard...

Okay...

The "common personality of a suffragette" section could be scrubbed or moved to Analysis, instead of here?

The basic trope is "Woman who is pro-women's suffrage", and that's it?

The Laconic is pretty long...

The bits of history should go on the "Suffrage Movements page", or some other Useful Notes.

I think, a good rule of thumb, is that the description shouldn't be any longer than one screen...

Feb 12th 2019 at 12:10:37 AM

^ Ah, the laconic is not a really true laconic that should be put on Laconic.The Suffragette. Merely just a summary of what I was going for with this draft. But now with all this progress, it can be surely changed.

Hm, that's probably true that the WWI thing can be removed — which I did.

However, the personality traits seem to be an important part of the trope.

Feb 14th 2019 at 3:32:58 AM

How about now? I fairly like the description at this current state. It's still longish, but not excessively.

I think this draft might be ready to be launched soon.

Feb 14th 2019 at 1:41:43 PM

I'd like it to be shorter, so the "Related Tropes" also fit in my "one screen only" rule of thumb, but others may disagree...

Feb 14th 2019 at 1:49:01 PM

I like the part with related tropes. I think it's good to put it in context of other tropes.

Perhaps I'd leave out this paragraph:

The Suffragette in fiction set in the Victorian period will be the one who argues her case and fights in an intellectual way. The militant variant comes in full force in The Edwardian Era. It is a fairly popular idea how to portray women in works set in the past. Viewers will usually find their cause worthy, just and interesting. Some older works however might sneer on their fight as unnecessary, unnatural and affected, and it might be implied that women should care about more important things in life and leave politicking to men.

Feb 14th 2019 at 4:53:56 PM

Well, the full page would have wider margins, so I think the "Examples" marker will be visible if launched.

Remember to Folderize...

Feb 14th 2019 at 5:29:15 PM

^ I'm no newbie. :-) I know about folders.

Feb 14th 2019 at 7:01:54 PM

K. I only said it 'cause I didn't seem to have said it here.


VideoGame.Red Dead Redemption 2:

Saint Denis's Suffragette, Dorothea Wicklow. Some of her lines:

We deserve the right to vote as much as you.
I'll only shut up once I can vote.
Once women get the vote, the whole country will stop making such a pig's ear of everything! There'll be no more wars, no hunger, no stupidity! We'll elect a woman president, within the first ten years, of course, men are such judgemental prigs, you need us women to help straighten you out! Okay? With us helping, I'm not saying there won't be trouble, I just think we'll do a better job of things.

Feb 15th 2019 at 1:00:33 PM

I removed one sentence from the description about this being connected to socialism. I was perhaps influenced by some examples who were both suffragettes and progressive socialists. I've read today that there were women who wanted votes for rich women — fitting, as at that time rich men could vote or their vote had more weight. Though of course political systems were different in different parts of the world...

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