On 19th of March 1911 the first International Women’s Day was held.
The movement for women’s suffrage had been gaining ground since the middle of the 19th century. Around the world there were increasing calls for women to have the right to vote in elections and for other equality rights.
The International Women’s Day in 1911 was supported in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. A million people took part in activities on the day demanding the right to vote, to end discrimination in the work place and to be able to hold public office.
The campaign for equality for women internationally and in the UK is one which is ongoing today. Back in 1911 in the UK it was being led by suffragists which included both men and women. Essentially a peaceful movement it had to resort to more civil disobedient protests as petition after petition was ignored.
In 1911 there were demands for a public inquiry over actions taken on 18th, 22nd and 23rd of November 1910 by the Metropolitan Police.
It was a Liberal Government at that time led by Herbert Henry Asquith. The Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, said in the House of Commons, before any inquiry had taken place, that he found the charges against the police to be ‘devoid of foundation’.
And he continued:
“There is no truth in the statement that the police had instructions which led them to terrorise and maltreat the women. On the contrary the Superintendent in charge impressed upon them that, as they would have to deal with women, they must act with restraint and moderation, using no more force than might be necessary, and maintaining under any provocation they might receive control of temper.”
200 hundred women were arrested at the protests. The protest on the 18th of November is known as ‘Black Friday’ .
Lines of police and crowds of male bystanders met three hundred female protestors outside the Houses of Parliament; the women were attacked for the next six hours. Many women complained about the sexual nature of the assaults, which included having their breasts twisted and pinched. Police arrested 4 men and 115 women, although the following day all charges were dropped.Wikipedia
Two of the women protestors died from injuries they received from the Police.
Winston Churchill, refused to hold a public inquiry.