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 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. However, some Suffragettes 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. For the general trope about suffrage, see Suffrage and Political Liberation.
- Dry Crusader: American suffragettes pushed for the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 "undeserving". 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.
- Cold Case: The oldest cold case that Lily and her team handled is set in 1919 which involves the murder of Francis Stone, a suffragette who was in conflict with her family for joining the movement. She and her family maid, Phil, are inspired to join the movement after the former saw that the latter had black eye given by her husband who disapproves of her reading a pamphlet given by the suffragettes. However, her mother tries to appeal to Francis that giving women the right to vote would to lead to the Prohibition being enacted which would shut down the family's brewing business. Despite being threatened to be disowned by her father, Francis sticks to her beliefs, leading to a heated argument with her mother who accidentally pushed her off the second story balcony, killing her.
- 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.
- Horrible Histories: In "The Suffragette Song", suffragettes sing summarised version of history of the Woman's Suffrage Movement in Britain.
- Milli Fawcett is identified as a founder of their cause who started the battle for women's rights. Argued that the government should change the laws.
- Emmeline Pankhurst is their new leader for peaceful protests that started in 1903, but they got no reaction, so they needed "drastic action".
- Miss Davison and her heroic sacrifice gets a shout-out. (Though in all probability she didn't deliberately jump in front of the horse and was in fact trying to attach a "Votes for women" badge onto the King's horse as a statement. Unfortunately it went wrong and she ended up getting trampled to death by horses.)
Miss Davison please take the mic
We became more extreme
Derby day June 13
In front of king and queen
Committed sacrifice supreme
Crept unseen between the team
And crowds watching the race
And threw myself under a horse
To try and make our case
Became a famous martyr
- 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.
- In the Sherlock Holmes 1954 episode "The Case of the Careless Suffragette", a suffragette acquires a small bomb to blow up a lion statue on Trafalgar Square. Unfortunately the bomb is stolen and used in a murder.