The National Archives

The Suffragettes vs. The State

“Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied.”

— Millicent Fawcett

The militant side of the 20th century women’s suffrage movement was featured at this archival exhibition, part of the UK’s Suffrage 100 programme of events in 2018.

From the early twentieth-century, militant methods used by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) created a climate of uncertainty across the country. Acts escalated from cutting telephone wires and window smashing to arson and the use of explosives. The nature of these campaigns created a logistical struggle for the government, who were unprepared for such tactics.

The National Archives has a world-renowned collection of documents relating to the 20th century women’s suffrage movement. The collection reflects the interests of the government and offers an insight into how it responded to civil disobedience, often with harsh repercussions from police surveillance and criminal trials to force feeding.

A vast array of campaigning techniques were tried by the Suffragettes, showing the lengths women were willing to go to for the vote and the response from the state. Ultimately this achieved changes to public opinion forcing a revolution, and without the extremes of their struggle, electoral equality may never have been realised.

Echo were genuinely privileged to support this important exhibition with creative design, artwork, print, fabrication and installation. This is a story that must never be forgotten, not least because the suffragette’s legacy of courage and empowerment has inspired generations to stand for equality for over a hundred years.