Suffragettes Forever – BBC 2

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Word PressMore programmes like this, please! This – the first in a three part series, presented by the excellent Amanda Vickery, in her lovely Lancashire accent – was excellent. This episode went back well before the suffragist/suffragette campaigns of the 19th and early 20th centuries, beginning with explaining how few rights women, especially married women, historically had in this country – apparently the last “wife sale” took place in 1928. It then moved on to the campaigns by Leveller women during the Interregnum(/Commonwealth) for better rights for women, and how sadly they achieved nothing.

Then Amanda Vickery brought in all sorts of different aspects of women’s movements during the early 19th century. The Peterloo Massacre is incredibly important in social and cultural history to us here in Manchester, and the programme showed how the authorities were particularly brutal towards the women involved in what was intended as a peaceful rally, slashing their faces and breasts. Campaigns for better conditions for women at the mills in Lancashire were also discussed. Then there was the role of middle-class women in charitable work, and in social movements such as the antislavery movement. And a group of aristocratic women barging into the House of Lords. Then came the Great Reform Act of 1832, which is supposed to have been such a landmark in British history but which completely excluded women from any involvement in “the political nation”. It’s all well-known stuff, but it’s not often brought together and looked at from the viewpoint of women’s rights, and it made for a fascinating programme, very well put together and very well-presented.

One minor gripe, though. Why does everyone, even the BBC, now spell “for ever” as one word, the American way, rather than as two words, the way it’s actually supposed to be spelt?! I blame Judy Blume! Oh well! Excellent programme. Very much looking forward to the two episodes come.

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