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Suffragettes should be pardoned, say campaigners

The calls come 100 years on from the Representation of the People Act.

Suffragettes who were treated as criminals during their fight for the right to vote should be pardoned, campaigners have urged.

The Government is facing calls to overturn the convictions of female activists jailed for their activities before the implementation of the Representation of the People Act 100 years ago.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has joined others in pushing for pardons, saying the suffragettes were simply righting the wrong of voting inequality.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph she said: “Voting was a value judgment, not an intrinsic right. That inequality is one of the reasons why I support calls by family members to offer a posthumous pardon to those suffragettes charged with righting that wrong.”

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, named after suffragist Millicent Fawcett, said: “Suffragette activism was for a noble cause and many of them became political prisoners. It would be a fitting tribute to pardon them now.

“They made such sacrifices so that we could all enjoy the rights we have today. In any meaningful sense of the word, they were not criminals.”

While suffragists used peaceful methods to achieve women’s suffrage, the suffragettes employed more militant tactics in their campaign.

There were more than 1,300 suffragette arrests according to the England, Suffragettes Arrested, 1906-1914 collection.

Many went on to be jailed, including leader Emmeline Pankhurst.

As a founder member of the Woman’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Pankhurst was sentenced to repeated stretches in prison as a result of her militant activity.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

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