Black Friday (1910)
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Black Friday was a women's suffrage event that occurred in the United Kingdom on 18 November 1910.
The protests came in response to parliamentary proceedings regarding the Conciliation Bill, which would extend the right of women to vote in Britain and Ireland to around 1,000,000 wealthy, property-owning women. The bill made it to a second reading, but British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith indicated that there would be no more Parliamentary time for the reading in the current session. In response, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) sent a delegation of around 300 women to protest, and 200 were assaulted when they attempted to run past the police. Many of the arrested suffragettes reported being assaulted and manhandled by the police. It was the first documented use of police force against suffragettes. In the aftermath, Asquith's car was vandalized, and the event caused some embarrassment to Winston Churchill.
The aftermath of Black Friday
The events of Black Friday were a public relations disaster for the government; the press took the side of the Suffragettes, printing pictures of police assaulting unarmed female protesters. The actions of the police were greatly criticised. After Black Friday, Asquith stated that if the Liberals were elected at the next general election, they would include a Suffrage Bill that could be amended to allow women to vote. The WSPU rejected this believing that it was an attempt to delay reform; the events of Black Friday were damaging to the suffrage campaign as well, as they caused MPs to distance themselves from the issue.
This was the first time that Suffragette protests were met with violent physical abuse, however it was generally supported by the British population, who at the time were relatively opposed to women's franchisement. Two women died as a result of the police violence, and around two hundred women were arrested.
- The National Archives Learning Curve | Power, Politics and Protest | Suffragettes
- Bruce Clarke, 'Dora Marsden and Early Modernism', (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996) p.48