What can women's movements today learn from the fight of the suffragettes in England?Just inspiration? Thank you very much :)

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think that women's movements, at least in the West, can learn much from the suffragettes.  I say this based on what political scientists say about social movements -- when they succeed and when they don't.

The major problem in a social movement is to "broaden the scope of conflict."  In other words "your" side is losing (can't vote, etc) so you need to get more people on your side.  To do that, you have to make them notice you, which is what Pankhurst and her people were doing chaining themselves to the PM's fence, tec.  The problem is that doing things that get you noticed can actually make people *dislike* you where perhaps before they didn't care.

So for a social movement to succeed, it has to get people to notice it *and* do so in a way that makes them support the movement.

This is much harder today for two major reasons:

  • You have to act out a lot more to get attention these days.  Sit ins and such are so old hat that they don't get much attention.  But if you do things that are dramatic, you can turn people off.
  • The goals of womens' movements today are much less sympathetic to the great mass of the public than they were back 100 years ago.

These are exactly why black rights movements in the US have trouble today relative to what they had in the early '60s.  It's harder to get people to pay attention and their goals (better economic conditions rather than equal *rights*, for example) are harder for the "average" white person to sympathize with.

So I do think that it's mostly inspiration that can be drawn.  The times are too different to try to learn tactics from that fight.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Women's movements around the world can learn much and gain much encouragement from the fight of the suffragettes in England. The first thing is that they can learn that laws are not always set in stone and can be changed - with a lot of perseverance and dedication. Emmeline Pankhurst was arrested four times for breaking the law of the land, yet now we see that law as wrong. So the first lesson would be to agree on what the movement felt was a fair and just demand in terms of human rights, and then petition and campaign in order to  get that law changed (for example laws on employment,voting or clothing restricitions.) Women's movements may have to lobby for help in other organisations and even countries so that co-operation can be facilitated and pressure brought to bear from outside. Publicity is a big lesson to learn  from the Pankhursts - terrible though it would be to have to go to those lengths nowadays - the women drew attention from all over the world for their cause.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of the critical aspects that past movements can give to their modern counterparts are the functions of inspiration, hope, and courage.  If modern movements might be stalled in terms of zeal and intensity, being able to refer to movements of the past that strove for equality and "the fight" can help to give encouragement to the modern setting.  Individuals who might feel that "there is little for which to fight" can use the struggles of the past to remind them that the struggle is never ending. For example, perhaps there might be greater examples of equality today than in the suffragettes' time, but this does not mean that the struggle is to be abandoned.  It is in this that the freedom fighting pioneers of the past are able to give encouragement and guidance to the present and future movements.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Frequently, sacrifice is required on the part of some for the advancement of all. Not everyone who benefits will stand up and speak out, so it falls on the shoulders of those who will speak out. The right thing is not always easy, but it is always right.

Do not be afraid to voice your beliefs even in the face of unbelievable adversity.