LCVS: Radicalism in the Victorian Women’s Suffrage Movement


Sketch of two suffragettes stood outside a polling station .

The Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies (LCVS) is pleased to invite you to an online seminar with scholar Di Drummond.

What’s happening?

The key question of this seminar is, ‘how radical was the women’s suffrage campaign in Britain during the Victorian era?’ Ostensibly this question might deserve a resounding, ‘Not very radical at all!’  

The women’s campaign for the right to vote in Parliament had radical beginnings after women lost their right to vote under the 1832 Reform Act. This suffrage campaign grew into an increasingly popular and mass movement after a failure to ‘return’ women’s right to vote (if they owned property), with the 1867 Reform Act.

Despite such radical beginnings, the suffragist organisations that formed in the 1860s are usually seen to have run a very socially and politically compliant campaign; apparently the very antithesis of ‘radical’. They conducted themselves in a very lady-like fashion, primarily using the means established and accepted by a men-only Parliament to try to attain their goal.

The position and strategies of these suffragists stood in stark contrast to those of the ‘suffragettes’, the ‘Shrieking Sister(s)’ of this Punch cartoon of 1906. Entering the women’s suffrage movement in 1903, the members of the Pankhursts’ Women’s Social and Political Union had resorted to militancy early in their campaign. They are seen in many popular histories to have won the vote for women in Britain. 

Yet radicalism, and feminism, did inspire many aspects of the suffragists’ campaign, and, indeed, lay at its heart. It was this, coupled with the sheer persistence that this gave them, that led to the suffragists being key to women gaining the vote.

This online seminar paper will first of all explore the definition of ‘radicalism’, ‘feminising’ it to include women, a process called for by Helen Rogers in her book, Women and the People: Authority, authorship and the Radical tradition in Nineteenth-century England, (Routledge, 2000 and 2016). The talk will then go on to determine in what way, and to what degree, the women’s suffragist campaign for ‘votes for women’ may be seen to have been radical.


Monday 19 October, 4.30 – 5.30pm

How can I attend?

If you would like to virtually attend this seminar, please email

Further information:


Di was a lecturer, then a Reader in Modern History, in History and the Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, Leeds Trinity University between 1995 and 2017. This seminar stems from a chapter in a forthcoming publication, ‘Radicalism in the British Women’s Suffrage Campaign – ‘Votes for Women!’ 1866-1928’, in Stephen Basdeo (ed.), English Radicalism, Pen and Sword, Barnsley, 2020. Di taught a module, ‘Votes for Women’, an exploration of the campaign for female suffrage in Britain, 1866-1918, at the University of Birmingham, and then for over twenty years at Leeds Trinity University.

Best known for her publications on railways (e.g. Tracing Your Railway Ancestors, Pen and Sword, 2010 and Crewe: Railway Town, Company and People, Scholar Press, Aldershot, 1995), Di also made a significant contribution to a history of the University of Birmingham. 

Publications since retirement include; ‘Borders and Margins? The Formation of Discourses on race, imperialism, and British overseas railway building, 1830-1930’, in Amina Alyal, Susan Anderson and Rosemary Mitchell (eds.), Victorian Cultures of Liminality: Borders and Margins, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018, and ‘Pure and Applied Science at the University of Birmingham’, in  J.Mussell and G. Gooday (eds.), A Pioneer of Connection: Recovering the Life and Work of Oliver Lodge, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020.

Di gained her PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London, some point during the last century. She continued in academia in order to keep various cats in the manner to which they had become accustomed!

Additional sessions:

Friday 20 November, 1.00 - 2.00pm Dr Ann Reus (Technische Universität Dresden), ‘Writing Virginia Woolf: Autobiographical Fragments’ 

Thursday 10 December, 4.00 - 5.30pm Dr Suzanne Owen (Reader in Religious Studies, LTU) 'Rev'd John Leigh and the last Beothuk Indians in Newfoundland'