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Woman an in-depth exploration of the world of women to the sun. Good evening and welcome to woman once again our topic it's women's suffrage in England. With me is Midge Mackenzie creator and producer of shoulder to shoulder which I'm sure you've been watching currently on Masterpiece theater majors a film director and writer and author of this book shoulder to shoulder. Welcome to women it. Which came first the book shoulder to shoulder or your television series shoulder to shoulder one kind of growth is the other. The book represents that. When I first met the suffragettes March 1968 I worked for three years in between all the other work I was doing. Meeting them interviewing them finding letters finding their own magazine going through the newspapers the day really kind of starting to dig into you know the documentary material that was available. As I'm a documentary film director the first question was you know would it make a documentary film.
You know there were a few a few pictures a few headlines a few elderly women. And the story was so enormous it was so much bigger. You know then what could be done in documentary form that it became necessary after three years to do something else with it. And it was at that point that I teamed up with George Brown and the three of us worked on it together for another year before we actually got off the ground as a TV series. And in the play is in fact documentary Drummond's everything that is said everything that happens really happened is true. So what the book is what I've been working on for seven years it's been much much bigger than the series because obviously it's impossible to use everything. And it lays a sort of you know fantastic kind of background to everything that's happening. So it's sort of almost as if the six plays become a kind
of just said of flavor or all the way that all of the characters of the struggle of what was going on. And the book becomes what I did in doing the book was I did do it like a documentary film in print. When I went to books that had been a few books around it had been done in the 50s and 60s. I found them very. Dull and unreadable I felt the spirit of the women had gone and so I wanted to do it in the first person so all the material in the book used is in the first person I didn't transpose that I wanted to share that with you. For you to to kind of get the same sense that I got from you know and in finding the material and in talking to them that kind of. So that's it so it's like a documentary diary. You really do get a tremendous sense of excitement from the book and learning it just in a sort of a real right on feeling. Yes well that's what I what I found as I found that you're either God you know I really have to do something amazing with this
and so documentary plays with obviously dramatizing was absolutely the right thing to do. And also to do a documentary book is very important to me. So kind of the way the book came first you know thing that actually got to meet some of the old suffragettes. Yes I do. Which ones. Well my favorite was living in London and I first saw her on a television program about you know radical politics and so on and so forth it was a David Frost show. There were a lot of men talking. And you know how in those programs there was plant the front row of the audience. If they run out of steam you know they can go up to some sources I say what do you think. And there was this dear little old lady with Sorcha. And he walked over and said I understand that you were radical in your day. She said yes and he said I understand you were an awesome this and she said yes and he said I wonder what I could ask you how many buildings you but she said who bought 60.
And he said I want to tell you what I think and I prayed I couldn't. I only went to prison for a few of them you see. She was one of them or she was very young when she went to the movement and I did spend some time with her before she died and when they talked about they never harmed people. The only people whose lives they were in danger with there they were attacking the government through public opinion. One of the ways to attack the government through public opinion was to find buildings under construction buildings that were derelict and bring them down as result of which the insurance companies had to pay the others. As a result of which the insurance companies put enormous pressure on the government because all the while the government was saying of course we're going to get in with that we can't do it just. Next session next year next parliamentary session you never now. And the
politics of confrontation were always to try to force the issue and to make the issue dynamic. If if if you accept promises that I never delivered. You know you're just forgotten. So you can't really compare them to some of the women who are being very revolutionary at this point can you know to change you know this country and you know to know you know you know I mean they were there was a tradition in England. I mean this these were things that had been done by men in the 19th century to win the vote. The government was very rigid. There was no way they wanted to have the. You also met Alice Paul who was you know Merican. Yes I did. Well Alice was a post-graduate student in your I mean educated in America. When she met them and she joining them now there's a lovely story of Alice being arrested and going I think at the time she went to
Cannes where police station there were so many of them there was over 200 of red that they had in the billiard room and that time when they went to prison they played a kind of football in the prison yard and were allowed to weathering climb because there were so many of them and I think that's when she met Lee seabirds and Lucy was wearing a little American flag so her frock and they became best friends and it was state of the movement there where in prison did hunger strike were forcibly set before going back here and starting the women's party in 1913. But what's interesting though even though they came back here and started the women's party they didn't really adopt those tactics to that or to said extend the mother the story was when President Wilson was being inaugurated he arrived in Washington and it was an empty station and he said where that where the people there watching the suffrage parade and that was Alice loosely. Yeah I remember a march outside the White House in which this story goes there was a certain amount of police brutality but there weren't that you know the
huge long hunger strikes and things like that. Lucy Lucy Burns was imprisoned in this country quite a few times but that was in connection usually with picketing and lighting the watch for us. Now they broke a few windows and I think I'm not familiar with that. They certainly didn't and I mean quote unquote breaking windows is a time honored tradition to express political dissatisfaction and create a great one. You suffered and the idea was to break windows in government buildings and you know actually they used little pebbles. I mean sort of literature. Did you did you meet anyone else. Yes I met because of. Lady Constance Leighton you know Deval and she told me something that really moved me because talking to and so's has a quality over evolving beyond inflammation. Tell me something about how they felt about women. And women were very affectionate towards one another innings at the turn of the century.
So because it was her cousin who when they were both arrested at the same time in prison at the same time she it was so cold and so miserable. We hugged one another to keep warm. And I think because women came from very large families many many sisters sharing with there was an enormous affection between her and the bond of friendship and that was just you know the one little thing she said that gave me the image of that affection and friendship. You know even more intensified when they were sharing a prison sentence together. Constance Leighton is the one who died of a heart attack as a result of her. Yes she had a bad heart condition and and as a result of feeling that she underwent. I think that it's her situation is terribly sad because I think she believed it unlike working with a full working middle class who was fiercely said and came out and described it and they did come out and describe it.
Nobody listened. She felt that because she had such power in terms of her position as the daughter of the viceroy of India and her brother in the House of Lords because she was a lady ultimately people would believe her. And in the end they didn't. I mean her brother organized the bill but it was defeated. So she was just another casualty. You know it lends itself to a little bit about some of the kinds of confrontation some of some that perhaps we haven't mentioned so far. What is cat and mouse mean to you. Well cat and mouse the first think of my mind is most causal because mass consuls haven't. But in fact it was pretty terrible what was happening was that in the first hunger strike was in 109 forcible feeding wasn't introduced until later. The pact would be for a suffragette to go on a deputation or to heckle a ministers meeting or to break up a meeting or to be arrested in connection with some militant act to be imprisoned to go on hunger
strike to then be forcibly fed close to death and then be released at the point she was released. His sentence was waived. Catherine meant that when she reached that point she was given a little piece of paper which is called her license and she was let out and sent away to get well. When she went to get well was mass Castle which is run by nurse Pyne and everybody went there to recuperate. And when she was well she was meant to represent herself going to a prison and go back to prison when of course they didn't say there was a whole period where they went into disguise and in fact is one wonderful woman in the book who I found he's Canadian Mary Ritchson and her atheist Polly did. And there they go underground you know to not to be arrested. There their political tactics were so inventive. There's one story in the book that I recall they sent themselves that letters at one point and the letters to the prime minister. I discovered that you could mail yourself as a human letter. So one of them were
a big black card with the address on it and the other one more big package. The message only gave women the vote and they were delivered to the prime minister's residence 10 Downing Street and scurrying secretaries when that was on board and then finally somebody came and said we refused to accept who you are to be returned. You are dead letter and they were just over it. I mean they were very vented I mean they had to be because most political meetings were only attended by men. So that when they were going to heckle a minister that ticked off and going disguise I mean for the South Pole infiltrated one building by going disguised as a charwoman in the early hours of the morning and then hiding in the OHL going all day you know in the in the hole I mean that they were tremendously creative. They did what was the reaction toward the riots and I hate to use that word because as you say their only violence was you know toward themselves. I mean the population at no point there wasn't a great he wouldn't cry there what there was
for people like the head of the College of Surgeons. There was in the Morial for many many leading doctors there was. In terms of medical opinion and medical opinion was on his side. It's extremely dangerous I mean for instance with Lilian when she was being forcibly fed she would instead of going down her throat went into her lungs her lungs feel that was food and you know this is the turn of the century when you know she nearly died from the most. I mean it was awful. Some of them really never recovered. I used to hold them down. Absolutely. Yes but I mean the worst thing was to take a length of cheer I mean this moment. Pushy guy the absent even though Don that's right and that's just poor. Bovril and if they couldn't get their mouth open they would put it that way they would use clamps. Just like dentists clamps.
In fact what happened in England when we were working on. In fact when the series went on the air because we've already been on the air there is do young women were in prison being forcibly fed and in fact and as a result of working on the series all the actresses and came out on the picket line. We couldn't get involved in the political dilemma because it was an ordinary in price. Couldn't we weren't involved in Irish politics. But we were there to say I was mean and being taught you know prisons today. Because it wasn't being reported now what year was that. It was even for last. And they were still using the same methods. That's incredible. It's really incredible. Absolutely. And I mean they they need God. You know it was really terrible and they were moved to the prison they were moved to the high security to Brixton Prison and what was extraordinary was react. They were having an almost suppressed silence. We had almost total press. Really went out on that picket. And I mean we had done exactly you know you know said all the
press releases and everything. It was a big picket. Well it's force feeding a fairly common thing an Englishman isn't it I mean it's a dead man hunger striking Yes. Hunger striking is a no political weapon. And it was one that they're adopted. I mean. Paralleling the fight for suffrage Newman was the troubles in Ireland. And there was a lot of hunger striking there at the time it was a traditional window smashing incendiarism hunger striking a traditional political weapons in England that were used. The sentences were very stiff. Also that thank God. Oh yeah well the idea was to totally do to the newsgroup. Totally. You see popular opinion was not with them. Yet or at least where I mean they were presented by the media as being quite scandalous and so that the government hoped I mean that to totally crush them I mean by 1913.
When Emily Wilding Davis and threw herself under the king's horse is that the episode that most people will have just seen when you do the show. Yes when the show is played the first time if the show reruns then that's not valid. Yes yes. She was. So distressed I mean it was 1913. Because people had fled to exile in 112 in 1913. Mrs Pankhurst to be sentenced for three years penal servitude and was getting in and out of prison on hunger strikes with the cat and mouse. Act. And the militants were becoming exhausted. Their bodies were becoming broke and they were very ill and it was almost as if there was nothing they could do that would win women the vote. In the. Thing is that the. Confront is that they had been in it for me for 10 years with promises all the time they were being promised the vote they were never getting the vote. And I feel that. What I found out about her background is that she was very religious. And. Always heathen Joe Michel
and so that she would see herself as the necessary martyr. For a powerful cause in the struggle. SS So you did you really say her suicide is a kind of a religious Oh very much so very much so. But I think that was common. I think a lot of them did. But I think that when you engage in a struggle which is so right and I say for instance I was broken so many areas of feminism today would be to find the right struggle. I mean there are so many women fighting and so many different areas whether it's medicine whether it's child care whether it's education whether it's job training with its job opportunity whether it's equal pay. We're fighting a scattering all across to two to make these achievements. So many things were wrong. That they had so much right on their side and that they became stronger and stronger as the effort to crush them. So they became stronger and stronger. You see they saw the enemy.
In most as a side of the enemy is invisible. That's very hard to fight if the enemy is invisible. They could see who was doing it to them. What effect did the war have on all of this is extraordinary. I mean they literally the women divided into three groups. Well this is the first thing that happened. It was that as men had to leave for the front so the labor force of women was needed immediately to take their jobs in the factories to do emulation work as in this case this picture. The bankers themselves committed themselves totally to cooperate with the government whenever the government felt it was necessary for women to do during the war. That would be what they would do so they were done with sort of a truce then. That's right there was a truce they were in this thing women. Here's a woman stoker. Willing to go over all the vital jobs were they getting the same pay. No way. That's what Sylvia was working for. Sylvia was working in the
East End of London. And. She was working to organize against what had labor were being paid a third a half I mean peanuts. Not only that there were a lot of them having to work because the separation announces from the soldiers going to the front left them very poor and better than us. Do women get equal pay in England now and they do want. We're still fighting for that legislation. That's And what happened was that that in the 1948 war great fortunes are made because enormous government contracts are put out. For this kind of war and this is what Sylvia fought for during the war. She created social services. For women in Jordan baby clinics What was her relationship to Christabel at this point when she totally alienated I mean they were so different I mean Christabel was this super terrific ace raiser. Dynamite politician. Who. If it meant making friends with the government in order to take power after the war that's what
she was going to do. I mean really cared about the people. It was Cristobal sought political power. In the sense she wanted political power. In one of the places a wonderful line that Sylvia says. Where she says about to go she says when you look at Christabel you are looking at an emancipated woman. She has emancipated herself. Within the movement. That's building but propellor. What I love is the bucket and washing the thing that they were doing really really heavy work. And. What was amazing was that I mean just a little bit before they've been in whalebones and corsets and. A Totally. Repressed depressed group of women and I think that the war sort of united an enormous number of women look at that picture they took of all the work on the land. And I had trouble finding some of these pictures because the Imperial War
Museum was full of millions and millions of pictures of manicured nurses all dressed in white doing perfect bandages. You know I knew these women existed this way because I've seen them in the national press I mean here women wagon washers wagon being withdrawn cart. And. I knew they were there but I really had a lot of trouble finding them for the book. This of course is a period that you really don't deal with in the series is you know different things that happen to women in terms of the suffragist themselves. Get involved with the peace movement. That's wonderful. They became involved in. Working with the government in Sylvia became involved in. Equal pay and the social conditions of women at the time. You know and then we went to the front of it. I think you have to picture you know yes this is an ambulance donated by the miners to these two women who took it to the front.
And. There are enormous number of women driving and it says that again they don't need very much to find an Imperial War Museum. These are women and its drivers and their fur coats and Callahan I think it's 1970. And. Some of the nurses were riding on horseback into the trenches. To treat the wounded here women who'd been in the trenches with their wearing a gas masks. This is our hidden history and this is our heritage that that. Was denied us because none of this information was available and then the subject was not taught in schools we knew nothing about how the. But was I the fourth one. If my heroine as she is she's a woman's Royal Air Force has access to 1918 the new woman the new woman. She was having a marvelous figure. Yeah what happened to some of the specific people what happened to Emmeline and during the war yeah she worked for the government. I mean she she organized massive rallies called the right just as. She was fighting the trade
union movement. The trade union movement had just been coming along and trying to get decent wages for jobs. The war came along and suddenly the government wanted this massive influx of cheap labor so the trade union movement were fighting the government and Congress was in the middle so that we were marching saying you know for the right to serve their country in a time of crisis the norm was also prejudice of course from those. Who were performing the vital. Services in the country about training with it in the book I found this marvelous document from the War Office which describes all this work that women are being trained for in the First World War in England as in temporary placement or if you get any more seriously than that you know it is merely a temporary job during a time of national crisis. The letter writer makes a fight when it's already over. Forget it. Talk a little bit about when they got the actual vote. Well when they got to the 1918 1918 when they got to the.
We also opposed legislation to have women candidates stand. Women were a majority in the electorate. I think 17 or 18 women candidates stood and did not one got elected. But she was an Irish revolutionary. Kind of Markovitch. She refused to take a seat because she wouldn't take an oath of allegiance to the English crown. So it wasn't until this lady asked her who is an American. She was our first woman in the House of Commons. But when women first got about in 1918 they all couldn't vote at that point. No what happened was only women over 30 got the vote. This is because women were the majority. That was until 1998 that all women over 21. How old were Christabel and Sylvia in 1980 and you know often they were in the middle you know middle to late 20s Christabel rather as a candidate was defeated which she allowed to vote that first time in 1992.
You know her well then they must mean it was Harry. To marry. And when did Emmeline die. She died. Well this is an amazing unsupported rumor which is that literally had funeral cortege post the House of Commons as. A. Measure giving all. That's true when they were 20 when was passed but in fact what the story I love best. Is that. In Victoria Gardens right next the House of Commons is a sex quiz it. Stature. I mean bankers There's an elderly. Woman. On and I thought nobody ever knew you know that in 1913 she was serving three years penal servitude you know for fighting the government and see what really happened in England was that literally the winning of it was attributed to winning this war. What what the militants achieved was they didn't win the vote on their own. What they did there were many many other suffrage organizations was they made them strong. They made that such an
issue that every woman had Think about it. Everyone had to make a decision. And very few women obviously became militants. I mean it was a very extraordinary thing to do. Most is enjoying conventional suffrage organizations so that in 1916 at the height of women's war work it was militant government force that was able to negotiate with the government. The guy was able to. Not that I got it. I thank you. Thank you for watching. Television stations and the Public Broadcasting.
The Battle For The Vote. Part 2
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WNED (Buffalo, New York)
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Episode Description
This episode features a conversation with Midge McKenzie, a film director and writer. She is the creator and producer of the BBC production Shoulder to Shoulder, currently airing on PBS. Both the documentary and the book of the same name chronicle the history of the British women's struggle for suffrage.
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Woman is a talk show featuring in-depth conversations exploring issues affecting the lives of women.
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Talk Show
Social Issues
Copyright 1975 by Western New York Educational Television Association, Inc.
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Director: George, Will
Guest: McKenzie, Midge
Host: Elkin, Sandra
Producer: Elkin, Sandra
Producing Organization: WNED
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Identifier: WNED 04363 (WNED-TV)
Format: DVCPRO
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:28:50
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Chicago: “Woman; The Battle For The Vote. Part 2,” 1975-09-24, WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 25, 2023,
MLA: “Woman; The Battle For The Vote. Part 2.” 1975-09-24. WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 25, 2023. <>.
APA: Woman; The Battle For The Vote. Part 2. Boston, MA: WNED, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from