Men & Suffragettes
So let’s get straight to the point. Nevertheless She Persisted is a suffragette novel, written by a man. This makes some people uneasy and I can understand why but I make no apologies. The world would be a better place if more men were inspired by stories of strong women like the Pankhursts.
We don’t get to hear much about the men who supported the struggle for female suffrage at the time and that’s to be expected - it’s not their story. Keir Hardie was a strong advocate of female suffrage and George Lansbury resigned his seat to force a by-election on the issue (which he lost). Frederick Pethick Lawrence worked alongside his wife and devoted much of his time and considerable amounts of money to the cause as did other reformers such as Henry Fawcett.
One of the stories I considered using was of Hugh Franklin. He was a suffragette. And he wasn’t alone - up to 100 men were arrested for suffragette activity. But Hugh Franklin stands out as the most committed.
He took a bull whip to a young Winston Churchill, who he blamed for the violence and sexual assaults on suffragettes in Parliament Square on Black Friday. (Churchill was later quoted as saying “I will not be hen-pecked into giving women the vote.”) Franklin was arrested and jailed for setting fire to an empty train carriage. He went on hunger strike and was actually the first suffragette to be released from prison under the notorious Cat and Mouse Act.
When I learned about him, I have to admit, I thought this might be my story. It had all the ingredients of a successful novel but the more I considered it, the more uncomfortable I became. Hugh Franklin’s story was a very different story from the ones that had inspired me, the stories of strong women. It’s not that I think the book shouldn’t be written. I think it could make a fantastic novel. But not by me, at least not this time.