When is an 1800s American Suffragist a Suffragette? When she runs for President.

In my novels, I portray the early woman suffrage movement and the charismatic leaders, Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee Celeste Claflin. I thought it might be helpful to clarify the differences between being a Suffragist and being a Suffragette.

Suffrage is the right to vote, so anyone advocating the right to vote for women is a woman suffragist. The Suffragettes were a predominately twentieth century militant and aggressive sub-group of suffragists.

In 1869 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony added social reforms, demanding full legal standing for women in addition to suffrage. This split the movement into two separate movements, thereby losing any chance of success. In 1913, American Suffragettes became more militant, openly challenging laws. The Nineteenth Amendment granted American women the right to vote in 1920.

The Suffragette movement is commonly identified with the British militant supporters of the Woman’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), formed in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel Pankhurst. The movement stressed the syllable GET in SuffraGETte, to proclaim to authorities that whatever rights were not granted, they would GET by force.

After a decade of making no impact, in 1912 the party became radicalized and committed to revolutionary change. Women chained themselves to iron-fences, fire-bombed post boxes, smashed windows with bricks, and held huge public protests. There were several deaths, and over 1,000 women were placed in prison, where they held a hunger strike to further antagonize and shame Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith.

In 1913, Christabel edited and published The Suffragette weekly to advocate social reforms through revolution. The political doctrine for the WSPU cited the woman suffrage platform presented by John Stuart Mill to Parliament in 1865, and the published speeches of the American sister activists Victoria Woodhull, who ran for President, and Tennessee Celeste Claflin, who ran for Congress in 1871.

The Suffragette was modeled on the first American woman-owned weekly newspaper, the Woodhull & Claflin Weekly, published in 1870. The American sisters, living in Europe, supported the British mother and daughter with letters, advice, and spoke at major WSPU rallies. The Pankhursts admired the sisters because they were the first women to own a Wall Street brokerage firm, calling them the First SuffraGETtes.

Guy Feminist – Neal Katz supports the HeForShe gender equality solidarity movement, and is the author of the soon to be released, OUTRAGEOUS: The Victoria Woodhull Saga, Volume 1: Rise to Riches.
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