A trail of destruction left throughout London, including smashed windows at 10 Downing Street. A raid on the House of Commons. Dozens arrested…
…Bet you had to look twice to see if you’d accidentally clicked on a ‘Breaking News’ article there, didn’t you? Indignancy towards the British government is certainly rather high right now (and with damn good reason, I might add), but it’s fair to say this isn’t the first time that’s ever happened, and it definitely won’t be the last either. So what was the problem in March 1912? It was still a bit early in the life of the motorcar for soaring petrol prices, the NHS hadn’t even been invented, never mind privatised, and the minimum wage was actually invented that month, so surely there could be no issues on that front. My initial thought was that it was related to the invention of Oreos on March 6th, and the dawning realisation amongst the British people that it would be another ninety years before they arrived on our shores. Sadly, I was incorrect. The issue was actually a little more important than that of chocolate biscuits (hard to believe, I know): it was that of women’s rights.
Militant action by the suffragettes was not a new thing in 1912; in fact, the windows of 10 Downing Street were quite used to being shattered by this point. Still, at a time when gay rights and the widening gap between the rich and the poor are under such scrutiny, it is always worth mentioning these actions just as a reminder to ourselves that this was only a hundred years ago. The fight for equal rights amongst all peoples is still relatively young; it wasn’t until 1922 that women finally won the right to vote, unrestricted, in the UK, thus striking a major victory for equality. March 1912 was one of the busier months for the women’s rights movement, with close to 200, Emmeline Pankhurst included, arrested for damaging private property. Directly contradicting my above claim that the introduction of the minimum wage couldn’t possibly have annoyed anyone, it was in fact this that attracted the women’s ire, and increased their determination. The principle of a minimum wage was one of the key features of the Coal Miner’s Bill, signed at the end of the month to appease striking miners. Unsurprisingly, the willingness of MPs to meet those demands wrankled with the women who had been fighting for years to be heard.
So, how did things turn out? Not so well, unfortunately. It was at the end of March 1912, most likely as a direct result of the suffragettes’ violent actions and subsequent arrests earlier in the month, that the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill was defeated in the British House of Commons for a second time. The debate on whether the extreme wing of the suffragette movement were a help or a hindrance is not something I’m going to go into here (hooray!, I hear you yell); however, it’s an interesting one (no, really), should you wish to do a little more reading on the subject. No matter what your opinion is, though, no-one can deny the influence of Emmeline Pankhurst and her fellow activists on the fight for equal rights in the twentieth century.
Also in March 1912:
The Reichstag announced the creation of a Bill aimed at making the German Navy the best in the world (uh-oh. I know where this is going). Nine people were killed when their lifeboat capsized following the sinking of the ocean liner Oceana (a little-known story, but one which potentially contributed to the deaths of many more on the Titanic a month later). Oh, and the Oreo was invented. Did I already mention that?