British suffragette movement history discovery


This video from Britain is called Women’s Suffrage (stock footage / archival footage).

By Peter Lazenby in Brtain:

Opening the page on Rochdale’s Suffragettes

Monday 28th July 2014

Minutes from 100 years ago shed light on the movement at its heyday, writes PETER LAZENBY

Researchers in north-west England are seeking the descendants of local pioneers of the “votes for women” Suffragette movement following the discovery of historic minutes dating back more than a century.

The minutes, dating from May 1907 to November 1915, record details of the Rochdale branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the organisation founded in 1903 in Manchester by the Pankhursts and other campaigners for women to get the vote.

The minutes have been handed to Salford’s Working Class Movement Library.

They include a list of almost 50 members and friends who attended a “monster demonstration” on June 21 1908, when between 200,000 and 300,000 women gathered in Hyde Park supporting their campaign for votes for women.

The minutes of June 12 1913, record that a special meeting was held to “consider the matter of sending delegates to represent Rochdale at the funeral of Miss Emily Wilding Davison who laid down her life in the cause of women.”

Ms Davison, who was 40 and was a teacher before devoting herself to full-time activism for the women’s movement, was trampled to death by the “King’s horse” after stepping in front of it at the Epsom Derby on June 4 1913.

She died of her injuries four days later.

As a campaigner she had been sent to jail nine times, and was brutally force-fed 49 times while on hunger strike in prison.

Her final sacrifice drew attention to the women’s cause in Britain and around the world, and Ms Davison’s name lives on as a martyr in the struggle for votes for women.

The Rochdale group decided to send three delegates and flowers to the funeral. It took place in London on June 14 1913. Thousands of Suffragettes walked with the coffin and tens of thousands more lined the streets as the cortege passed.

After a service in Bloomsbury her coffin was taken by train to the family grave in Morpeth in Northumberland.

The Rochdale minutes have been donated to the Working Class Movement Library by two supporters of its work in collecting, cataloguing and making accessible materials recording working-class history.

Library manager Lynette Cawthra said: “I don’t know where the donors originally got them from but I think they had had them for a long time.

“But there is no direct link between them and the movement. They have been friends of the library for a long time and knew that this was a place where these treasures would be looked after, and also be accessible which is, of course, a very important part of our work.”

Ms Cawthra said the minutes showed that the meetings were not all serious business.

“Members also had picnics, tea parties, dances and socials to raise much-needed funds,” she said.

“At one tea party, attended by about 50 people, the women were presented with a tea urn by a ‘gentleman sympathiser.’

“The library is extremely grateful to the donors of this minute book, which will be added to its collection of Suffragette material which includes photos, books, the journal Votes for Women and a badge which was presented to a woman who had been imprisoned for her Suffragette activities. Everyone is welcome to come and browse what’s here.”

The library is making public the list of names of Rochdale campaigners who attended the London rally in the hope that descendants will come forward.

Ms Cawthra said: “If you spot the name of your great-gran or another family member in the list, please do contact the Library on enquiries@wcml.org.uk or (0161) 736-3601 and tell us more about them.”

The Working Class Movement Library is based at Jubilee House, 61, The Crescent, Salford M5 4WX.

British politician’s domestic abuse


This video from Kenya says about itself:

Activists demonstrate in support of law against domestic abuse

24 July 2014

Civil society workers sent a petition to parliament seeking to protect the Protection against domestic violence bill which they did not want amended.

They wanted appropriate mechanisms for stopping or preventing domestic violence as well as providing effective sanctions and enforcement.

By Joana Ramiro in Britain:

Domestic abuse MP David Ruffley should face sanction

Friday 25th July 2014

A TORY MP who assaulted his partner should “face strong disciplinary sanction,” women’s rights campaigners said yesterday.

David Ruffley announced last week that his now former partner had accepted an apology for the assault in March.

The Bury St Edmunds MP was let off with a police caution and a Conservative Party spokesman said he believed the case was closed after having been “dealt with at the time by the police.”

But feminist organisation Women’s Aid expressed concern over the whole procedure.

The charity’s chief executive Polly Neate argued that “physical violence in relationships is almost always accompanied by ongoing psychological control and abuse.”

Ms Neate added that she was surprised with the sluggishness of the Conservative Party to address the issue.

“We would expect that a parliamentarian who admitted committing a violent crime would face strong disciplinary sanction,” she said.

Mr Ruffley said he hoped the episode would “remain private” as a sign of respect for his ex-partner.

However Ms Neate pointed out that “domestic violence is a criminal, not a private matter” and that authorities should “take action accordingly.”

In Mr Ruffley’s constituency many have also come out with complaints about the MPs actions arguing his position is now “untenable.”

St Edmundsbury cathedral dean the Reverend Dr Frances Ward sent a letter to Mr Ruffley urging him to step down and arguing that he had “lost the confidence” of his constituents.

She sent copies of the letter dated July 18 to several several Tory frontbenchers — including new Chief Whip Michael Gove.

“It is my belief that you have lost the confidence of a significant proportion of your former supporters,” she wrote.

Dr Ward added that she “received sufficient comment and concern from a wide circle of people, both within the cathedral and through the town and county, to have arrived at the opinion that [Mr Ruffley’s] position is untenable.”

When contacted by the Star, the Conservative Women’s Organisation declined to make an extensive comment, but national chairwoman Niki Molnar labeled the case an “unfortunate incident.”

Bury St Edmunds Conservative Association has brought its annual meeting forward from September to next week given Mr Ruffley’s behaviour.

David Ruffley to stand down at the next election after assault on ex-girlfriend. MP has been under pressure to resign and will face constituents at local party meeting on Thursday to discuss his future: here.

British suffragettes and World War I


This video from Britain is called Mark Steel on Sylvia Pankhurst.

By Claire Eustance in Britain:

WWI didn’t end fight for women’s equality

Saturday 19th July 2014

Not all Suffragettes gave up the struggle for votes in 1914, says CLAIRE EUSTANCE

It is still all too easy to dismiss the scope and radicalism of the early 20th century British women’s movement. A case in point is the standard response to the question — what happened to the movement after outbreak of war in August 1914?

You are likely to hear comments along the lines of “Didn’t it all just stop?” or “The Suffragettes stopped attacking buildings and pillar boxes and instead started handing out white feathers to men who didn’t rush to join the military.”

If you are lucky you might find someone who knows something of the women suffragists who embraced the peace movement. Perhaps they might mention the International Congress of Women meeting at The Hague in the Netherlands in April 1915.

Surely the history of the women’s movement has more to it than this? What about the thousands of other women who had joined the myriad of women’s suffrage societies to campaign for an end to the exclusively — albeit partial — male parliamentary franchise?

My talk at the Tolpuddle festival, Keeping the Suffrage Flag Flying, focuses on one of these societies, The Women’s Freedom League (WFL), and considers the ways some of its 5,000-plus members responded to the outbreak of war and the impact the conflict had on them.

“Patriotism before politics” was the position adopted by the British Establishment in August 1914. The message to the suffrage societies was clear — it was selfish for women to continue to demand political rights when the country was at war.

And yet, while Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst and other suffrage campaigners were won over by such sentiments, others were less convinced.

Among them was Charlotte Despard, the revered president of the Women’s Freedom League, who declared that war “was the decisive damnation of a corrupt society.”

Although many of her comrades found it impossible to follow her into the peace movement, a significant number agreed that it was vital to keep attention focused on women’s demands for an equal voice in the politics of the nation.

The Women’s Freedom League’s long-standing commitment to the principle of resistance to government without representation remained broadly intact through the years of war.

An example was the decision of one member, Florence Underwood, to continue to refuse to pay income tax on her earnings. The league also moved swiftly to accommodate the wishes of their members who wanted to offer service to their country by channelling some of their considerable organisational skills into supporting working women, mothers and children who had been affected by the war.

The Women’s Freedom League’s commitment to the principles of equality produced what might seem a rather incongruous stance on alcohol — viewed by many as a national scourge in wartime.

However, in Hartlepool in 1917, the entire branch membership rose en masse to protest at the exclusion of women from licenced premises at certain times of the day. It was they claimed “not only an injustice but an insult to women!”

The Hartlepool campaign was just one of many forays taken by the league into debates around civil liberties.

Other campaigns highlighted equal pay, prostitution, sexual abuse and the treatment of women by law courts — topics that are largely still relevant to feminists and radicals today.

Yes, war meant that the women’s movement in Britain was probably organisationally weaker. There was less accord, less publicity and less wealth.

And yet over the same period some important principles relating to women’s rights to work, equality with men, rights of mothers as well as meanings of national identity and citizenship, were tested by women and found wanting.

It was feminism as much, if not more, than suffrage that flourished after 1914. There are some lessons for us there today, surely.

Claire Eustance is senior lecturer in history at the University of Greenwich. She will be giving a talk at the Tolpuddle radical history school.

Japanese government whitewashes World War II ‘comfort women’ forced prostitution


This video says about itself:

Wianbu – Comfort Woman

A short film about a Korean seventeen-year-old girl, brought to a Japanese military camp during War World II, where a catastrophic future awaits her. Can she escape her fate?

By Ben McGrath:

Official Japanese report whitewashes wartime sexual slavery

28 June 2014

The Japanese government of Shinzo Abe released a report on June 20 throwing into doubt a 1993 apology for the army’s World War II exploitation of women as sex slaves. In the process, Japan has angered its neighbors South Korea and China, from where many of the victims were taken.

The 1993 Kono Statement, released by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, was a formal but limited apology for the use of “comfort women” during the war. Approximately 200,000 women and girls, mainly from Korea, but also China and other countries, were forced into military brothels.

Written by a government-appointed panel of five “experts,” the review called into question whether the victims were forced into prostitution. Referring to investigations at the time of the Kono Statement, the report asserts: “The recognition obtained through these series of studies was that it was not possible to confirm that women were ‘forcefully recruited.’”

The report also claimed that the South Korean government was involved in writing the Kono Statement, with Seoul demanding that Japan’s apology should refer to the coercion of the comfort women.

The report even declared that among the 16 victims interviewed before the release of the Kono Statement, “there were some who spoke indifferently and others whose memories had become confused.”

Interviews with former comfort women paint a different picture. Kim Bok-dong recounted the Japanese military’s coercive measures in a 2012 interview published on Amnesty International’s blog, Livewire:

“I was 14 years old when I was forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese government. They said they would hire me as a factory worker, but instead they dragged many of us to Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Malaysia and Indonesia. I was with the army headquarters so I went almost everywhere with them. There are no words to describe what the soldiers did to me.”

The South Korean government predictably reacted with anger to last week’s report, summoning Japanese ambassador Koro Bessho on Monday to lodge a complaint over the revision. Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Cho Tae-yong chastised Bessho saying: “The coercion of comfort women is an historical fact that the international community recognizes. The more the Abe government attempts to undermine the Kono statement, the more its credibility and international reputation will be damaged.”

China reacted similarly. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying demanded that Japan “face up to history and uphold the spirit of the Kono Statement,” saying: “The forced recruitment of comfort women by the Japanese military is a serious crime against humanity.”

In an attempt at damage control, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated on Friday: “Nothing has changed about the Japanese government’s position that it will not revise the Kono Statement.” In reality, the official report is an attempt by the Japanese government to whitewash the past crimes of Japanese imperialism.

By undermining the Kono Statement, the Abe administration is taking another step in its wider agenda of remilitarizing Japan. Abe is preparing a new generation to be dragooned into fighting wars of imperialist aggression, by justifying the Japanese Imperial Army’s role during World War II.

Since coming to power in December 2012, the Abe government has raised military spending for the first time in over a decade while seeking to end the constitutional constraints on Japan’s ability to wage war. Last December, signaling the start of an ideological offensive, Abe visited the infamous Yasukuni Shrine where 14 class-A war criminals are interred and which stands as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

Right-wing officials, appointed by Abe, have also sought to cover up the crimes of the past. Katsuto Momii, placed on public broadcaster NHK’s board of governors, tried to excuse the use of comfort women by saying the practice “was everywhere in Europe … In the current moral climate, the use of comfort women would be wrong. But it was a reality of those times.”

Another Abe-appointee NHK governor, Naoki Hyatuka, denied in February that the 1937 Rape of Nanjing took place. The week-long atrocity carried out by Japanese soldiers left up to 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers dead.

Japan is being remilitarized with the Obama administration’s encouragement, as part of its “pivot to Asia,” aimed at undermining Chinese influence and encircling it militarily. Japan has taken an increasingly confrontational stance toward China, particularly over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Last month, Japan sent two military reconnaissance planes to spy on Chinese and Russian joint naval drills, leading to confrontations with Chinese fighter jets and highlighting the danger of war.

However, Washington’s support for Tokyo has come at the price of upsetting Washington’s other ally in North East Asia, South Korea. The United States has attempted to draw the two neighbors closer together, but to little avail. The ruling elites in both countries are whipping up nationalism to divert rising domestic social tensions. Seoul regularly incites anti-Japanese sentiment in order to distract the population from worsening unemployment and social inequality.

In its response to the Kono Statement review, Washington lightly chided Tokyo. US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki stated: “We’ve consistently encouraged Japan to approach this and other issues arising from the past in a manner that is conducive to building stronger relations with its neighbors.” Psaki continued: “Because South Korea and Japan have so many common interests, it’s important that they find a way to resolve the past in the most productive manner and look to the future.”

Abe’s government is facing mounting opposition at home to its remilitarization campaign. A recent Kyodo News poll found that 55.4 percent of people oppose Abe’s plans to reinterpret or revise the constitution to end limitations on the Japanese military, up from 48.1 percent the previous month. An even greater number of people—74.1 percent—said Abe should not set a deadline for ending discussion on the issue.

Reaction from the Netherlands about this: here.