I am going to take a moment away from the civil rights movement to discuss a book I recently received from Pen & Swords Books titled Struggle And Suffrage In Plymouth – Women’s Lives And The Fight For Equality written by Tracey Glasspool. It is amazing!
I received a free copy of this book for review and in all honestly, I cannot express enough of how much I enjoyed this book. It covers a huge time period where women were fighting equal rights and gives such a personal take on events through the stories of women who were there standing up for progress they believed could truly help their communities. Please read below for my full review of the book and my thoughts for why it was good.
Ms. Glasspool’s book really places a microscope under the hardship single or widowed women faced. The struggle these women underwent due to limited options available really made quality of life unacceptable. Many had to either work as prostitutes or in the workhouse for little pay just to survive. It was really touching to read about the women really wanting to change this for the improvement of the conditions faced because choices were simply too meager for the poor. There was no chance of raising in status.
The book tells many stories; however, one woman who rallied for laws to change particularly stood out to me. Florence Nightingale opposed the contagious diseases acts and laws that allowed police to jail any woman suspected of being a prostitute. These laws were directly connected to an increase in the mistreatment and corruption that was rampant all while ignoring the role of men in spreading disease. It fully placed the blame on women. Many women signed a “Ladies Protest” including Ms. Nightingale citing:
“The acts violate the legal safeguards enjoyed by women in common with men, they allow police absolute power over women, they punish the sex who are victims of vice and leave unpunished the sex who are the main cause of vice and its dreaded consequence,”
It was rather intriguing to read about this history and how it led to improving the education of women in order to prevent poverty. Many supporters wanted better to create more opportunities for women to have a chance. The book covers the development of schools and how the affected the community and female occupants. I highly recommend Ms. Glasspool’s work does a great job of painting the timeline of how things slowly advanced from the starting of the schools, through both world wars and women’s role in them, to females finally being allowed to vote in parliament.
Nancy Astor, the first female MP to take her seat in Parliament; Dr Mabel Ramsay, instrumental in the suffrage campaign in the south-west; Dame Agnes Weston, the first woman to be buried with full naval honors after her pioneering work with the welfare of sailors – the maritime city of Plymouth certainly has its fair share of influential women.The period from 1850 to 1950 saw a transformation in the lives of women of all classes. The rise of the feminist movement and the campaign for universal suffrage, continued industrialization, changes to employment and education law and the impact of two world wars had far-reaching effects on society and the place of women within it. Plymouth was no exception. Struggle and Suffrage in Plymouth: Women’s Lives and the Fight for Equality will consider how the lives of women were changed, from the everyday to the extraordinary.
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