Is the history we read in school and university true? As a child I thought that anything written down in a book was true, fiction or fact if it was there in black and white then it must be true. Years later with some study of the Social Sciences the penny dropped, it may be true or more accurately a version of the truth or alternatively it may come into the category; lies, damned lies and statistics. In Britain we like to see ourselves as a humane, rational, generous people. In war-time and times of unrest and rebellion those virtues are quickly trampled into the dust. The women who worked in the armaments factories of the First World War worked in extremely dangerous conditions but we read little of how many became seriously ill and how many died. We tell ourselves we were the winners in this dreadful conflict and as we all know history is written by the winners.
Recently I have been reading about the struggle that women had over a period of forty years to legally be considered as full citizens in this democratic and supposedly rational society. The suffragettes have in the main been regarded as wild, crazy women who for no reason smashed windows and destroyed empty buildings to the ultimate wildness of Emily Davidson who threw herself in front of the King’s horse on Grand National Day and died in a particularly horrifying way. If you want to read a full account of women’s struggle to get the vote read:
Suffragette: My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst. The founder of the Women’s Social and Political Union tells of her peaceful and legal activities over a forty year period to get Parliament to pass a Bill granting the right to women to vote for a parliament that effects their lives in every possible way and by whom their views are totally ignored. These women some of whom were ordinary working women as well as middle class women like Mrs Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, had amazing courage and determination. The horrors of prison and the legally sanctioned torture of forced feeding are almost unbelievable in a modern at the time Christian society. These women are heroines and should be celebrated as such. The Establishment did not give anything away it was fought for every step of the way.