"Such violence led to a mixed reaction. Of course, it gained publicity. Newspapers were able to provide the public with long reports and some photographs. . . . The reaction of the public, however, was mixed. Some felt that women were justified in going to such lengths. Many others believed that violence was totally wrong as a means of gaining an object."
– John Ray, The Place of Women
Many opposed women's suffrage regardless of Pankhurst's or the suffragettes' action.
“The women voter would be pernicious to the State not only because she could not back her vote by physical force, but also by reason of her intellectual defects.”
– Sir A.E. Wright, The Unexpected Case Against Woman Suffrage
However, Pankhurst's aggressive strategies did alienate many, including some who supported women's suffrage.
Hover for captions.
1. Plain Suffragettes, June Purvis/Collectors Weekly
2. Going Shopping Postcard, 1909, Michael Nicholson
3. A Suffragette's Home poster, Museum of London
"Haven’t the Suffragettes the sense to see that the very worst way of campaigning for the vote is to try and intimidate a man into giving them what he would gladly give otherwise?"
"The madness of the militants . . . the small body of misguided women who profess to represent the noble and serious cause of political enfranchisement of women, but in fact do their utmost to degrade and hinder it."
“Several times constables and plain-clothed men who were in the crowd passed their arms round me from the back and clutched hold of my breasts in as public a manner as possible. . . I was also pummeled on the chest, and . . . My skirt was lifted up as high as possible, and the constable . . . threw me into the crowd and incited the men to treat me as they wished.”
– Suffragette on police treatment of the in Treatment of the Women’s Deputations, 1910
On the other hand, the dignity and poise of the women always impressed the public. The rough treatment of imprisoned suffragettes created much public sympathy.
"By what means, but screaming, knocking, and rioting, did men themselves ever gain what they were pleased to call their rights?"
– Daily Mirror, 1906
"We know that the leaders of the movement do not want sympathy or pity; they want merely political enfranchisement. But that does not prevent us from protesting against the brutality and folly of treating these political reformers as criminals."
Hover for caption.
The Cat and Mouse Act, 1913, Catherine H. Palczewski Postcard Archive,
"The dignity, the grace, the beauty, the courage of the processions carried conviction everywhere. Scoffers were converted. Some who had evidently come to jeer stayed to cheer. . . . The genuine outbursts of cheering, the waving of handkerchiefs, the crying out of words of encouragement, must have been very gratifying to those among processionists who have withstood harshness and insults."
– Daily News quoted in Votes for Women, 1908