Do Historians agree that the WSPU was an elitist, anti-male organisation?

Many historians have argued for and against the factor that the WSPU was an elitist (anti-male) organisation. The term elitist organisation highlights a group governed by highly intellectual individuals, or people belonging to the upper classes of society (like the aristocracy). The political organisation highlighted here (WSPU) which stands for the ‘Women’s Social and Political Union’ had started off targeting working class members, later moving their attention to the middle class. Women were also only allowed to join the WSPU, men being restricted to joining this particular organisation.

So the primary arguments supporting the case the WSPU was being an elitist organisation was made by Jill Norris and Jill Liddington, this is due to the actually contact they had with the working class women of the organisation. It could be highlighted that working class women would have been ignored by the WSPU leaders, which would have stopped other working class women from supporting them and would have widened the gap for middle class women to become the supporters. This in turn would lead the WSPU in becoming an elitist organisation. The organisation soon after would only gain upper class women members. This shows that the organisation would have been elitist because the women they would have wanted in the organisation were upper class and they would have been treated better than the working class women. The fact that they only recruited upper class women could be contradicted because they started off in a poor area, so the women recruited would have been working class as opposed to upper class.

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The WSPU had also shown signs that they didn’t care whose support they had in particular, as long they had the support (was the primary aim). This factor was supported when the WSPU had used ‘military tactics’, the result was that working class women turned their women on the organisation. These types of tactics were used due to the fact they wanted to point out to the government that the need for women voting rights was a serious issue (if it even meant losing loyal supporters who had been with the WSPU from early on).

Another point to take into account regarding if the WSPU organisation was elitist is the fact that social equality was a primary concept ‘not taken into action’, rather a political focus. This shows that the WSPU only cared about their aims, rather than everyone else’s. The working class would have wanted the same level of equality as the middle class however the WSPU only wanted the right to vote and didn’t really care about the social inequality between the classes and the unfairness of the class systems.


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