Today marks the 100-year anniversary of Black Friday, when 300 suffragettes went to protest at Westminster, and were met by 6,000 police men.
It was the first suffragette protest that was met with police violence and many women were assaulted and arrested.
They were protesting at Prime Minister Henry Asquith’s decision to to shelve the Conciliation Bill, which would have extended the vote to about 1,000,000 land-owning women in Britain at the time.
The women were members of the Women’s Social and Political Union [WSPU], an unpopular movement famed for disruptive action [including chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows and disrupting public meetings.]
On Black Friday over 200 protesters were arrested, and many were assaulted and manhandled.
Next day in The Times an article appeared saying:
“The suffrage extremists resumed their “militant” policy yesterday with a continuous series of attempts to force a way to the House of Commons in support of a deputation which they knew would not be received.
“Several of the police had their helmets knocked off in carrying out their duty, one was disabled by a kick on the ankle, one was cut on the face by a belt, and one had his hand cut.
“As a rule they kept their tempers very well, but their method of shoving back the raiders lacked nothing in vigour. They were at any rate kept warm by the exercise, and so were the ladies who flung themselves against the defending lines.”
The violence with which the protest was met in fact played into the hands of the suffragettes, and the event was considered by the government as a PR disaster. Asquith was forced to promise a Suffrage Bill in his next election campaign, though it was his successor, Lloyd George who finally introduced suffrage for some women in 1918.
Tonight there will be vigil outside Parliament to remember the women who marched 100 years ago.