Letter: Lesbians? Who cares?

February 8, 2002

Michael Heseltine can doubtless speak for himself, but I am sure that he would be surprised that he has supported our campaign for a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst to be erected outside the Palace of Westminster ("The Pankhursts - politics and passion", THES , January 25).

In fact, he has been leading the move to get a statue of Lloyd George, a major opponent of women's suffrage, erected.

Brian Harrison views the struggle for women's suffrage as a study in political terrorism. He has not understood the work of Sylvia and thousands of working-class women who eschewed violence in favour of mass mobilisation and collective militancy.

We want to commemorate the women who stuck to their feminist and socialist principles until the vote was fully won in 1928. Who cares whether any were lesbians? No one questions the sexuality of the men who campaigned for the reform bills of 1832 and 1867. Nor, despite occasional violent outbursts, do we regard terrorism as the most important feature of the struggle to extend male franchise. Why is women's history treated (by men) so differently?

Mary Davis
Centre for Trade Union Studies
University of North London

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