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Suffragettes vs. the State - major new exhibition at The National Archives

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The journey to universal suffrage through original documents, photographs and records will be explored by visitors to a new exhibition at The National Archives.

Suffragettes vs. the State,’ explores the National Archives' collection of suffrage documents, showing the lengths suffragettes were willing to go to for the vote and the response from the state. From window smashing campaigns to force feeding; public rallies to police surveillance and criminal trials. 

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Situated in the Keeper’s Gallery, the exhibition uncovers the organisation and complexity of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and reveals the state’s response to their actions. Militant methods used by the WSPU created a climate of uncertainty across the country. Acts escalated from cutting telephone wires to arson and the use of explosives. The nature of these campaigns created a logistical struggle for the government, who were unprepared for such tactics.

Suffragettes vs. the State’ also includes documents seized in raids on suffragette headquarters, statements made in police stations and used in trials, as well as prison reports, offering a new perspective on the women’s suffrage movement.

Suffrage 100

The new exhibition, part of our Suffrage 100 programme, marks the centenary of some women being allowed to vote for the first time.

Steve Burgess, Head of Events and Exhibitions at The National Archives, said: “Our Suffrage 100 season continues as part of the nationwide Vote 100 commemorations with this new exhibition focusing on suffragette militancy. We have been expanding our public programme to offer a variety of inspiring events over the next few months exploring the movement. These range from evening lates to family activities, workshops and webinars, plus an exciting programme of talks.”

Suffragettes vs. the State will run from Tuesday 8 May to Friday 26 October and entry is free.

National Archives, Bessant Drive, Richmond TW9 4DU; tel: 0208 876 3444; website.

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