“Although many reformers did base their claim on liberal equal rights ideology, many insisted it was because women were different from men that they should have the right to vote. ” Millicent Garrett Fawcett argued against the Anti Suffragists by using there own arguments which were against women being enfranchised to justify her arguments for women being enfranchised. The Anti Suffragists believed very strongly in the separate spheres ideology, a women’s role ‘being in the spheres of Home, Society, Education, Philanthropy. A man role was in being the head of his family, in business and politics.
The Antis strongly believed that it was Gods wish that men should rule and women be governed. Biblical references to Adam and Eve were made: Eve was formed from the spare rib of Adam and so was his subject to rule. Millicent Garrett Fawcett argued strongly against this, her ideology was that men and women although they did have separate spheres, were in fact equal. (Anti Suffragists)… go on repeating their catchword that ‘Men are men and women are women,’ meaning thereby that the point of view, the experience of life, the sphere of activity of women differ in many important respects from those of men, without seeing that these facts are among the strongest and most irrefutable of the reasons for urging that no representative system is complete or truly national which entirely leaves out the representation of women. ”
Millicent Garrett Fawcett strongly opposed the argument which remained remarkably consistent between 1860 and 1914, that women were not capable of full citizenship because they were not available for the defence of the realm. Many Antis stressed the relationship between the right to vote and the responsibility to fight for ones country, which women could not do at the time. This argument had many different strands, the first being that since Britain ruled a vast empire it needed a strong army to govern. Women could not fight and because they could never fulfil this vital obligation of citizenship, they should be denied the right to vote.
That many of the countries Britain ruled would not give it the same respect if she were governed by women, forgetting the fact that at the time Queen Victoria was regent. It was also feared that colonised countries would demand their own enfranchisement, which would inevitably lead to demands for their own independence. The second strand that Britain might be invaded because women being enfranchised would lead to pacifism as they would be reluctant to wage wars against other countries. The third strand rested on a belief that domestic political power needs a show of armed strength to support it.
That there would be a brutal civil war because women getting the vote would lead to anarchy and ultimately the end of British civilisation. She considered it illogical that voting should be considered threat to women’s femininity, a strong argument used by many Antis. But it was considered acceptable for women to work for male candidates in parliamentary elections; there was no threat to women’s femininity in doing so. How could this be, she thought these two factors were exactly the same except that in one instance the women were working to get men elected and in another they would be working to get themselves elected.
She found it ludicrous that it was fine for women to work in politics as long as it was under the direction of a male. That “if women are fit to advise, convince, and persuade voters how to vote, they are surly fit to vote for themselves… ” this is clearly shown when in July 1889 she wrote “A large part of the Protest is directed against women taking an active part in the turmoil of political life… . On the other hand, women do not vote in parliamentary elections, but they are invited and pressed by all parties to take an active part in the turmoil of political life. Her ideals were clear when it came to women and the suffrage movement although she did not agree with the fact that women were inferior to men, she did agree with the fact that each sex had different roles within society, this she claimed was why women must be enfranchised because they must have a greater say in parliament in respect to these factors how can laws and legislations be made on the home and on domestic life by men when it is not in their sphere to know about such things.
She did not understand how the Antis could claim that voting was a threat to women’s femininity while it was perfectly acceptable for women t get involved in politics and persuade male voters who to vote for as long as it was for a male candidate. Millicent Garrett Fawcett did not agree with the WSPU’s actions due to a variety of different reasons the main one being that she disagreed with the WSPU’s increasingly militant techniques. She believed that law and order were especially important to women and that this was being undermined by the WSPU’s campaign.
She clearly stated that she did not agree with their actions to Philippa Strachey on the 12 October in 1908. “I still feel disinclined to encourage one set of suffragists to denounce another set. Though I feel most strongly the essential immorality of issuing a call to the roughs of London to come and ‘rush’ the House of Commons… . I feel that the law and order are essential to all that makes life worth living and that they are especially and peculiarly vital to women. This shows how strongly she disagrees with some of their certain ideals for her to publicly say that she disagrees with their actions “essential immorality of issuing a call to the roughs of London to come and ‘rush’ the House of Commons”. She was extremely against their militant actions “I do not think assaults perfectly abominable and above all extraordinary silly. ” It is clear that she believed these actions undermined the NUWSS’s efforts to build support for suffrage legislation.
She did not agree with the fact that “these idiots go out smashing windows and bashing ministers’ hats over their eyes. ” One of the Antis main arguments was that they feared that women were at risk of loosing their femininity if they were enfranchised; this was a main reason for them not to be given the vote. Fawcett saw that the WSPU actions could be perceived as proof of this. It was not considered very feminine for women to be “smashing windows and bashing ministers’ hats over their eyes. She shows that she does not agree with their actions on the 28 November 1910, by stating “I do no think these personal assaults perfectly abominable and above all extraordinary silly. ”
Anti suffragists claimed that female suffrage advocates were stirring up a sex war, this made the whole suffrage movement look bad. They were able to claim that female suffrage advocates were stirring up a sex war, due to some of the actions of members of the WSPU, like the “issuing a call to the roughs of London to come and ‘rush’ the House of Commons. It made it seem as if, like many leading Antis feared once women got the vote that moral and social order would collapse. On the assumption that electors voted according to their own self interest women were expected to vote for issues relevant to their own gender roles. That woman would vote as women rather than as individuals and would seek to legislate for social reform and against male interests. Women would be able to do this if they were enfranchised because they would predominate in an electorate.
As the percentage of women in Britain at the time was higher than that of men. Millicent Garrett Fawcett did her best to dissuade the media that this was in fact not the case “I never believe in the possibility of a sex war. Nature has seen after the: as long as mothers have sons and fathers have daughters there can never be a sex war. What draws men and women together is stronger than the brutality and tyranny drawing them apart. For Millicent Garret Fawcett to have to make a speech denying the idea of a sex war must have been extremely annoying due to the fact that the idea was solely down to some members of the WSPU’s actions, showing that she did not agree with this action at all. It is clear that Millicent Garrett Fawcett was against several of the WSPU ideals from the fact that on several occasions she spoke out about them publicly. Law and order was such and important issue for Fawcett and the NUWSS because they did not believe that women could persuade men to enfranchise them by committing illegal acts and going against the law to achieve it.
They believe that this would give the Antis more cause to deny women the vote of the ground that women were clearly different from men, physically, psychologically and intellectually. That women were intellectually inferior to men because their brains weighed les on measuring scales and that women were guided by their wombs, which were seen particularly unstable at puberty, menstruation , pregnancy and menopause rather than by their brains.
Many saw women at the time as fickle, childish, and capricious and bad tempered, thus how were they likely to make rational judgement about political issues or events. Due to some of the WSUP members in Millicent own words “go out smashing windows and bashing ministers’ hats over their eyes. ” This supported many Antis and other people’s views of women when they do not get there way going out and throwing a ‘strop’ because they did not get what they wanted.
The reason why the Suffragettes wanted the vote was so that Britain became a fairer society and women had more say in the workings and running of Britain. So upholding law and order was clearly an important ideal of the NUWSS and Millicent, if they did not uphold the law how could they expect to be given the vote? Millicent Garrett Fawcett even states on 12 October 1908 that she feels “that law and order are essential to all that makes life worth living and that they are especially vital to women.
It is clear that law and order was an extremely important issue for Millicent and the NUWSS because it is apparent that they believed that without it they could be liable of being called hypocrites. The suffrage movement was evidently affected a great deal by the ideals and actions of Millicent Garrett Fawcett she believed that the suffrage movement would not be successful unless they took a non militant stance. Some of her ideals were instrumental in forming the main arguments against Antis for the enfranchisement of women.