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  • Deeds Not Words was commissioned by English Heritage in 2008 to celebrate the 100th anniversary

  • of Women's Sunday, a mass rally at Hyde Park which demonstrated popular support for the

  • suffragette movement. These extracts from the original introduce our two main characters,

  • Kitty and Millicent, and their involvement in the suffragette movement and Women's Sunday.

  • ( music )

  • (humming)

  • England is the most conservative country on Earth. Nothing has ever been got out of the

  • British Parliament without something very nearly approaching a revolution! Mrs Pankhurst

  • said that, and she should know. Her family have been agitating for female suffrage (that's

  • votes for women to you and me) for years! In 1906 when the people who could voted the

  • Liberals in, many men still thought that...

  • the woman, the cat and the chimney should never leave the house.

  • But they had been leaving in their thousands! For the mills, the factories, the mines, the

  • shops, the pubs! Or like me, to work in domestic service. My name's Katherine, but everyone

  • calls me Kitty. You wouldn't believe what a lady's maid gets to see in here. Take this

  • votes for women palava. The lady who I work for and most of her friends support the cause,

  • you know, votes for women. I might not be a marching woman but I play my part. I make

  • the tea, serve biscuits and I listen. Many of the ladies thought the Liberal government

  • would listen to them, but all they got on all sides were the same old excuses.

  • I had never taken much interest in politics. I'd listen in silence as my father and brothers

  • discussed the Boer War, Kaiser, Russia, it all seemed to far away. But then one day I

  • read in the Daily Mail about how Christabel Pankhurst was arrested for spitting at a policeman.

  • It had happened at the Liberal meeting and all she'd done is ask about votes for women

  • and they'd bundled her out. When she didn't pay the fine, she was thrown into prison.

  • The papers said the Pankhursts were...

  • Crazy hooligans, shrieking hysterics! Their policy was wild delirium!

  • And yet, when I looked at a picture of her in the paper, I saw a young girl just like

  • me. I had to find out for myself and so, ignoring my father's disapproval and my brothers' laughter,

  • I decided to go to a meeting of the Women's Social and Political Union at Caxton Hall.

  • I went straight after work and the hall was packed. There were a number of speakers, a

  • mill girl from Leeds in her clogs and shawls, but the one I was drawn to was Christabel

  • Pankhurst. She was absolutely sincere, free of all vanity and pose and everything she

  • said was so true. About how women were paid less than men for the same work, how the government

  • took advantage of women, some paid taxes, even rates and yet had no say who was in Parliament.

  • And yet a man with no education, an imbecile, a drunk, a criminal even might have the vote.

  • It was common sense really. But it struck me to the heart and I decided then and there

  • that this would be my cause.

  • And so I joined the movement. Oh, my name's Millicent. Millicent Willoughby.

  • What with working all hours and only getting one Sunday afternoon a fortnight off, I didn't

  • get much chance of public meetings. Besides, I preferred the music hall. That's where my

  • mother and father worked, and met. But I have tea for all the Pankhursts. Oh, and the mill

  • girl, Annie Kenney! You see, votes for women wasn't just for your educated ladies in their

  • furs and finery. It gave a voice to all women, regardless of class.

  • In 1908, I too became a marching woman! Well... sort of. On me Sunday afternoon off.

  • It had taken months and months of planning. Women's Sunday was going to be the greatest

  • demonstration of suffragettes ever and would show the government how the vast majority

  • of people were behind us. Every day after work I would make my way to the headquarters

  • in Clements Inn and join in with the hustle and bustle of typing handbills, flyers, programmes,

  • tickets, it went on and on. And when we weren't doing that we went to hospitals, shops, restaurants,

  • factories, wherever people gathered to spread the news. Come to Hyde Park. Bring your family.

  • Tell your friends.

  • In Knightsbridge as the day came close the ladies became more and more excited. Seven

  • processions to march to the park. Twenty platforms for the eighty speakers. And everyone reminded

  • the women to wear the colours.

  • Purple, white, green. Justice, purity, hope. With two weeks to go we rode about on gaily

  • decorated bicycles, criss-crossing through suburbs, handing out leaflets and programmes.

  • I was at a variety theatre and there was a special cinematographic advertisement inviting

  • people to join the meeting.

  • Three days to go and the launch sailed up the Thames towards the House of Commons. As

  • a brass band played, a banner ws unfurled. Women's Sunday. June 21st. Cabinet Ministers

  • specially invited!

  • The night before the meeting, the house in Knightsbridge was full to overflowing with

  • lady guests. I don't think anyone slept a wink that night.

  • June 21st at last and a beautful summer's day. In the morning it was my job to meet

  • the women arriving at St Pancras Station and help them form up for the procession. There

  • were hundreds of them!

  • Once m'ladies were on their way, I got me hat and coat! I didn't want to miss anything!

  • I was told to take a group of cotton mill workers from Lancashire to the park. So off

  • we set.

  • They'd taken down some of the railings to let people into Hyde Park as I arrived. For

  • a moment I caught a glimpse of a huge circle of platforms.

  • My group arrived right by platform eight and I remembered that's where Christabel Pankhurst

  • was due to speak. Already there was gathered of rowdy young men and they were shouting,

  • "We want Chrissie! We want Chrissie! We want Chrissie!" Somebody blew a whistle and two

  • men pushed the crowd back to start a wrestling match! I went over to try and stop it and

  • that's when my real trouble began.

  • Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a young girl with a sash being pushed like a

  • football between some rowdies.

  • I struggled and turned but I couldn't free myself and then I felt a hand pull my skirt!

  • This poor girl was trapped by the bullies. Well I thought, this is what we're here for,

  • women's rights! So I gave one of the toughs an almighty clip round the ear and I grabbed

  • her!

  • I began to sink and I almost gave up, when suddenly a hand pulled mine and I was free!

  • You alright, miss? Oh, yes, thank you, a little dizzy.

  • You should go home miss, you've had a trying time, you should rest.

  • No! No. I'm fine. I can't leave, I must stay here until five o'clock. I can't leave until

  • then.

  • Very well, miss. I'll stand by and keep you company.

  • And so we waited. The crowds moved around us. And then, from the centre of the park,

  • a bugle call sang out. It was the signal we had waited for, the signal of the Great Shout.

  • The noise was like a train passing close by. A rumble of sound that slowly formed the words...

  • votes for women... votes for women! VOTES FOR WOMEN!

  • Half a million voices, it was our finest hour. Surely it would only be a matter of time.

  • 1908 was our year; the year of the militants.

  • (Narrator) 1908 was also the year that the Liberal leader Herbert Asquith became Prime

  • Minister. An implacable opponent of female suffrage, he refused even to receive a delegation

  • from the WSPU. Mass arrests, hunger strikes, the Cat and Mouse Act. The militants were

  • in for a longer struggle than they had hoped. It would take twenty years and a world war

  • before Parliament came to its senses.

  • We went up to St Stephen's with petitions, year by year.

  • Get out, the politicians cried, we want no women here.

  • MPs behind the railings stood and laughed to see the fun,

  • As bold policemen knocked us down because we would not run.

  • For it's woman this and woman that and... Woman, go away!

  • But it's share and share alike, ma'am, When the taxes are to pay.

  • We went before the magistrate who would not hear us speak.

  • To a drunken brute who beat his wife he only gave a week.

  • But we were sent to Holloway for a calendar month or more,

  • Because we dared, against his will, to knock at Asquith's door.

  • For it's woman this and woman that and... Woman, wait outside.

  • But it's listen to the ladies when it Suits your party's side.

  • We may not be quite angels, had we been we would have flown.

  • We are merely human beings with wants much like your own.

  • And if sometimes our conduct isn't all your fancy paints,

  • It wasn't man's example could have turned us into saints.

  • For it's woman here and woman there and Women on the streets,

  • But it's how they look at women With most men that one meets.

  • You talk of sanitation and temperence and schools,

  • You send you male inspectors to impose your man-made rules.

  • The woman's sphere's the home, you say, then prove it to our face:

  • Give us the vote so we can make the home a happier place.

  • For it's woman this and woman that and Woman, say your say.

  • But it's 'what's the woman up to?' when she Tries to show the way.

  • When she tries to show the way, my friends, When she tries to show the way.

  • And the woman means to show it. That is why she's out today.

  • ( music )

Deeds Not Words was commissioned by English Heritage in 2008 to celebrate the 100th anniversary

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History on Stage | Deeds Not Words: Women's Sunday and the Suffragette Movement

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    Summer posted on 2021/03/18
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