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Men's League for Women's Suffrage

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#1 John Simkin

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 10:14 AM

Although the majority of men opposed the idea of women voting in parliamentary elections, some leading male politicians supported universal suffrage. This included severals leaders of the Labour Party, including James Keir Hardie, George Lansbury and Philip Snowdon. Frederick Pethick-Lawrence helped to fund Votes for Women and provided bail for nearly a thousand members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) who were arrested for breaking the law.

Robert Cecil, one of the main figures in the Conservative Party was also a supporter but most were totally opposed to the idea of votes for women. Several members of the Liberal administration, such as David Lloyd George, also favoured women being granted the vote. In 1907, several left-wing writers, including Henry Nevinson, Laurence Housman, Henry Brailsford and 37 other men formed the Men's League for Women's Suffrage and three years later the Men's Political Union for Women's Enfranchisement was established. At a by-election in Wimbledon in 1907 Bertrand Russell, stood as the Suffragist candidate.

In October, 1912, George Lansbury decided to draw attention to the plight of WSPU prisoners by resigning his seat in the House of Commons and fighting a by-election in favour of votes for women. Lansbury discovered that a large number of males were still opposed to equal rights for women and he was defeated by 731 votes. The following year he was imprisoned for making speeches in favour of suffragettes who were involved in illegal activities. While in Pentonville he went on hunger strike and was eventually released under the Cat and Mouse Act.


#2 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 10:52 AM

When I wrote my Master's Thesis, one of the characters that I was researching was an active member of the MPU, Hugh Franklin. Franklin had studied at Cambridge University and it was there that he became a campaigner for women's suffrage. His uncle was Herbert Samuel, a cabinet minister with the post of Postmaster General. He was friendly with Victor Duval, who established the MPU and eventually married Duval's sister, Elsie. They were all members of the Jewish League for Woman Suffrage. Franklin was involved in a number of high profile events that received a lot of media coverage; the first case involved Winston Churchill who was giving an anti-women's suffrage speech in Highbury. Franklin decided to go to the meeting to attack Churchill "I am protesting at his meeting tonight I'll give him a good whipping. Therapon I bought a dog whip and went to the Highbury meeting that evening". However Franklin was 'ejected for making a disturbance'. Undeterred Franklin was aware that Churchill was speaking in Bradford the following week so took his dog whip along for a second go. Once again he was removed from the meeting. As chance would have it, on the way home from Bradford, Franklin found out that he was sharing the train with Churchill. He sat in Churchill's carriage; "As soon as Churchill entered the carriage I jumped up and struck him with my whip saying 'Take this you cur for the treatment of the Suffragists ... (Police Sergeant) Sandercock pushed me down down and with (Police Inspector) Parker's help and some other passengers overpowered me and took away my whip." Franklin was imprisoned for 6 weeks in Pentonville, went on hunger strike. Whilst in prison he receieved a number of supportive letters including one from Christabel Pankhurst commenting on how it "would be a very complicated business to get back the dog whip"! The second episode that Franklin was involved in led him back to prison. In October 1912 Franklin set fire to a railway carriage in Harrow Station and was eventually arrested after two months in hiding and was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment. He immediately went on Hunger Strike and was force fed every day. In total he was force fed 114 times over a period of two months. Hugh resisted until he became the first ever prisoner to be released under the Prisoner's (Temporary Release) Act on 26 April 1913, the notorious Cat and Mouse Act. He never returned to prison, having escaped to France with three other Suffragettes including Elsie Duval. They returned to England after the outbreak of the First World War and married in September 1915. After the war, Franklin maintained his interest in politics becoming a local councillor for the Labout Party between 1934 and 1949. He died in 1962 at the age of 73.

The Franklin Papers at the Women's Library

Edited by Dan Lyndon, 13 April 2006 - 10:54 AM.

#3 John Simkin

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 11:25 AM

Interesting story. I am contact with Angela V. John, the author of the recently published 'War, Journalism and the Shaping of the Twentieth Century. The Life and Times of Henry W. Nevinson'. He was one of the founders of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage. I have invited her to join the Forum and discuss it on our history book section:


#4 John Simkin

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Posted 25 August 2010 - 03:43 PM

I have recently added biographies of several men involved in the Men's League for Women's Suffrage.

This includes:

Israel Zangwill


Hugh Franklin


Charles Mansell-Moullin


Henry Nevinson


Laurence Housman


Charles Corbett


Henry Brailsford


C. E. M. Joad


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