Female Suffrage: the other side
For the Women and Power national programme, 100 years after women first won the right to vote, we are exploring the other side. Lord George Nathanial Curzon, who owned Bodiam Castle, was at the forefront of the anti-suffrage campaign.
Lord Curzon left Bodiam Castle to the National Trust after he died in 1925. In the early 20th century he was embroiled in the political turmoil that was the appeal for female suffrage. He was avidly against it, and as the peaceful suffragist campaign spilled over into the violence of the suffragette protesting, he held firm in his disagreement.
In 1912 he took over leadership of the National League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage, a coming together of two anti-suffrage groups: one run by men and one run by women; combining their efforts.
" Woman, if placed by the vote on an absolute equality with man, would forfeit much of that respect which the chivalry of man has voluntarily conceded to her, and which has hitherto been her chief protection. "
The path to female suffrage was not smooth, the suffragists and suffragettes came up against a strong opposition that fractured the British people down the middle.
Under Curzon’s command, the National League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage was at the forefront of the Anti-Suffrage campaign. They incited political debate and produced large amounts of propaganda, including Curzon’s own Fifteen Reasons Against pamphlet, a major turning point in his career.
The Women Speak
Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't just Curzon and his male supporters blocking the way to women having the vote. A vast alliance of educated and respectable women also believed that they shouldn't have the vote, and were it given to them, it could cause the whole British system to crumble. Their reasons were rooted in the biological differences between men and women, and how these differences should dictate their roles in society. But a catastrophic global event would soon show them how futile these differences were.
Exhibition at Bodiam Castle
Our exhibition Female Suffrage: the other side will explore Lord Curzon’s leadership of the anti-suffrage campaign. Join us to find out why the deep British love for Empire and maternal ideals fuelled the fierce movements, and how ultimately, suffrage was granted in 1918.