BBC Commission on the Forgotten Suffragettes

The Forgotten Suffragettes

The Forgotten Suffragettes - We had the goal of working directly for the BBC. We felt that our ethos, our work ethic and our sensibility would be a great fit for ‘Auntie’. Specifically, we had the ambition to create educational content for BBC Teach. We saw Pushed as the perfect fit. Our team understands the power of animation to hold a learner’s attention and, as experienced storytellers, we know how to make complex situations and theories accessible.

Yet, for some time, Pushed pitched for BBC projects without success. Our feedback had always been that, although our pitches were excellent, as a regional independent animation company we were something of an unknown quantity which commissioners saw as a risk.

Rather than give up on our goal, we persisted. We decided to research and innovate to such a degree that, despite reservations about our relative size, commissioners would not be able to resist our concepts.

We’ve recently had the pleasure of completing a BBC Commission on the Forgotten Suffragettes, which was an honour. This animation explores the actions and experiences of three lesser-known, but significant suffragettes from diverse backgrounds: Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, Annie Kenney and (Rosa) May Billinghurst. Each of them was present at the protest march in Westminster on 18 November 1910 that subsequently became known as 'Black Friday'.

Perseverance and Resilience

Over 100 years ago British Parliament passed the Representation of the People Act – a law that allowed women who owned property and were over 30 to vote for the first time. This paved the way for universal suffrage 10 years later.

These women who campaigned for their right to vote did so at a great personal cost but they fought long and hard. Today we remember their courage and honour these women. Some names are familiar to us, such as the Pankhurst family, Emmeline and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. However, there are many other ‘forgotten suffragettes’. Princess Sophia Duleep Sing was the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh (and goddaughter of Queen Victoria) and campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights. She participated in historical events such as Black Friday and also sold copies of the Suffragette newspaper outside Hampton Court Palace. She dedicated her life to the fight for equality and the support of others.

In addition to this, there was the English, working-class suffragette, Annie Kenney. She was a social feminist and was a leading figure in the Women’s Social and Political Union. She co-founded its first branch in London with Minnie Baldock. She was a working-class girl working in an organisation dominated by women from respectable middle-class families,  yet her work was every bit as important as that of her more famous comrades.

(Rosa) May Billinghurst had polio as a child and was known as the ‘cripple suffragette’, not just by other suffrage campaigners but also by the national newspapers. Her labour in a workhouse led her to believe that if women had the vote, they would use it to end poverty. May took part in suffrage processions in her wheelchair (known as a tricycle), distributing leaflets as she went. Her tricycle was brightly decorated with flowers and in WSPU colours. May founded the Greenwich branch of the WSPU, acting as its Secretary.

A hundred years later, after British women first stood for parliament, less than a third of Westminster MPs are women. This is why we should never forget these significant suffragettes. The picture is much better in countries where affirmative action has levelled the playing field for women to be elected. Rwanda and Bolivia lead the field in women’s representation, with South Africa, Ethiopia, Namibia and Tanzania among those countries where women make up between a third and a half of parliamentarians. Yet globally, the average figure still stands at under a quarter.

Watch the Forgotten Suffragettes Animation

Please take the time to watch this important animation. We should all be aware of the wonderful work done by these brave women. Standing up for what’s right isn’t always easy. The example set by Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, Annie Kenney and May Billinghurst is something, in these testing times, we could all learn from.

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City College Plymouth
Champion Groundworks
Plymouth Citybus
National Trust
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