Men and the Suffrage Movement

Meet the men who stood up for women's right to vote. #BehindEveryGreatCity

Suffragists on the war path (1907/1918) by Millar & Lang LtdOriginal Source: LSE Library

Male support for women's suffrage

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the majority of men opposed the idea of allowing women to vote, and anti-suffrage cartoons depicted suffragists as ugly, scolding shrews set on emasculating mankind. However, a number of leading male politicians and left-wing intellectuals supported the women's cause, and the Men's League for Women's Suffrage was founded in 1907. The Men’s Political Union for Women’s Enfranchisement was also founded in 1910, as a militant society - a male counterpart to the WSPU.

George Lansbury (1912-07-14)Original Source: LSE Library

George Lansbury

George Lansbury was the Labour Party MP for Bow & Bromley, and is one of the best known male supporters of women's suffrage. In 1912 he resigned his seat in the House of Commons, in protest against the treatment of WSPU prisoners. He stood for re-election on a Votes for Women platform, supported by Sylvia Pankhurst's east end branches of the WSPU, but was defeated. 

George Lansbury (c.1900)Original Source: LSE Library

After Sylvia Pankhurst's branches split from the WSPU, George and his family supported the newly-formed East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS).

In 1913, George was imprisoned for his pro-suffrage speech at the Royal Albert Hall. He went on hunger and thirst strike, and was released under the Cat and Mouse Act - which allowed hunger striking prisoners to be released to regain strength, and then be re-imprisoned.

George Lansbury was re-elected as MP for Bow & Bromley in 1922.

The George Lansbury memorial on Bow Road, east London.

Laurence Housman (c. 1910)Original Source: LSE Library

Laurence Housman

Laurence Housman was a radical playwright, socialist and pacifist. He was a founding member of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage. Laurence worked with the WSPU and Women's Freedom League, and was later involved in the formation of United Suffragists.

Rev. Claude Hinscliff by Charlotte TrounceOriginal Source: Mayor of London

Reverend Claude Hinscliff

Reverend Claude Hinscliff was a member of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage, and co-founded the Church League for Women's Suffrage (CLWS) with his wife Gertrude. He officiated at the funeral of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison. After the First World War, the CLWS campaigned for the ordination of women.

Frederick Pethick-Lawrence (c. 1910)Original Source: LSE Library

Frederick Pethick-Lawrence

Frederick Pethick-Lawrence was a barrister and member of the Labour Party. Frederick and his wife Emmeline provided their home as the WSPU's London headquarters. Frederick also stood bail for many arrested WSPU members, as well as using his legal expertise to represent them in court. 

Votes for Women (1907) by The Women's Social & Political Union, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, and Frederick Pethick-LawrenceOriginal Source: LSE Library

In 1907, Frederick and Emmeline founded WSPU newspaper Votes for Women, which Frederick helped to fund and the couple co-edited.

Emmeline and Frederick Pethick Lawrence, c. 1940s, Original Source: LSE Library
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Frederick and Emmeline were expelled from the WSPU in 1912. They later joined United Suffragists, which was founded in 1914.

In 1923, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence was elected as MP for Leicester West.

LIFE Photo Collection

By standing against the patriarchal status quo, and supporting the women's movement, these courageous men helped to win over hearts and minds in Westminster.

Suffragist journalist Evelyn Sharp later wrote of the Men's League for Women's Suffrage: "It is impossible to rate too highly the sacrifices that [they] made to keep our movement free from the suggestion of a sex war."

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#BehindEveryGreatCity: celebrating the centenary of the first women winning the right to vote and tackling gender inequality in London

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