Letter: Logic and lesbians 1

February 15, 2002

Sylvia Pankhurst's unquestionable bravery may well cancel out her demerits and qualify her for a statue somewhere. But if the statue is seen as a reward for getting votes for women, Mary Davis (Letters, THES , February 8) might consider Lloyd George for this honour, for he did more than any other Edwardian Liberal statesman to guide the women's suffrage movement towards the strategies that made for eventual success.

Not for nothing did the veteran non-militant suffrage leader Millicent Fawcett praise him from the chair at a crowded women's election meeting in December 1918: he "had made the women's cause his own" and [a jibe at Asquith] "he did not wait and see".

The campaign for Pankhurst's statue deserves to succeed, however, only if promoted with more logic and accuracy than Davis displays. In saying, correctly, that Pankhurst had the sense to base her variant of militancy on mass support, Davis apparently thinks that this somehow spirits away the weaker political insights of her mother and elder sister. These were politically disastrous in the short term, and tactically discreditable in the long term. To describe as terrorism the predominantly male mass campaigns for the reform bills of 1832 and 1867 paradoxically blurs an important distinction integral to Davis's case for Pankhurst's statue - between "stunt" violence and the "mass" violence that reflects genuine rather than simulated mass indignation.

Brian Harrison
Corpus Christi College Oxford

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