THIS YEAR IS the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Women's Social and Political Union, when Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, together with Annie Kenney, turned women's struggle for the vote from argument into action. But the suffrage movement and feminism have a much longer history, and Melanie Phillips's lively and provocative account takes in all the landmarks on Britain's road to universal suffrage: Mary Wollstonecraft's original treatise; the long, slow introduction of liberating legislation; the constitutional 'votes for women' campaign led by the ladylike Millicent Fawcett and her heroic husband Henry; and the militant movement's marches, petitions, hunger strikes, forced feeding, and martyrdom for the cause.
In this version of the saga, the struggle is as much between law-abiding suffragists and direct-action suffragettes as it is between the sexes. Phillips is sharp and perceptive in her descriptions of the best-known characters, and justifiably venomous about the Pankhurst mother and daughters. She portrays them as ruthless, self-seeking