These are the women you can thank for your right to vote today

To mark International Women’s Day, we look back at the incredible women who worked tirelessly to earn us the vote. We are forever indebted to them. 

On Tuesday February 6 1918, women were given the right to vote. Before this date, women were not allowed to vote. Their opinions didn’t matter. Every political decision, from economics to health, was made by men. Women could only make their opinions heard via their husbands, brothers and fathers – that is, if they were lucky enough to be listened to.

Today that would be unthinkable, and rightly so. But if it wasn’t for the women who dedicated their lives to campaigning against this, we wouldn’t have the right to vote today. We’d still be banned from the ballot boxes, consigned to the kitchens while we waited for our ‘men’ to come home.

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So much has changed in the last century. We have come so far as women, with true gender equality closer than ever, and we owe it all to the women who died many years ago. Women from working class backgrounds. Women from upper class backgrounds. Women who ignored society’s instructions to stay in their place, and fought anyway.

These are the women we need to remember and thank today.

Emmeline Pankhurst

The leader of the British suffrage movement, she was the women who began the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) that made fighting for the vote their mission. Her speeches roused thousands to join the movement, but she wasn’t just a talker. Like many suffragettes, she was arrested several times for her campaigning, and she was force-fed after going on hunger strike. She did a lot for the movement, not least bringing two more major women’s rights campaigners into the world – her daughters Christabel and Sylvia.

Christabel Pankhurst

The woman nicknamed ‘The Queen of the Mob’ by the media. She was a co-founder of the WSPU with her mum, and a committed suffragette who fled to France to escape jail. But she was jailed with fellow suffragette Annie Kenney for interrupting a Liberal Party meeting, and the subsequent news coverage inspired many more women to join the movement.