A prominent women’s rights campaigner has said suffragettes that were thrown in jail during their fight for the vote should not be pardoned by the government.
Caroline Criado-Perez – who won campaigns to put Jane Austen on bank notes and a statue of suffragette Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square – says a pardon now would belittle the acts that led to women’s suffrage 100 years ago.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk, Caroline said: ‘They were making a choice to break the law.
‘Part of the act was that women were saying, “we have had no say in the making of these laws so we do not value the laws – why should we follow them?”
‘They were making a political statement and to pardon them makes it out like it wasn’t an active choice.’
The writer and campaigner tweeted what she called an ‘unpopular opinion’ earlier today, with many agreeing with her points.
She told us: ‘It is that idea that women have to be good and well behaved. Well, no, they broke the law and they did it knowingly.
‘I don’t think that we should hide that away. I like that they were difficult women.’
She also says it would be an ‘easy move’ for the government, tweeting: ‘This government refuses to analyse its budgets for how they impact on women, despite the fact research by more than one body shows 86 percent of cuts since 2010 have fallen on women.’
She added: ‘It costs them nothing and buys them some nice headlines. But it ignores the political acts of the suffragettes.
‘I also think it pardons the government of the time, that locked these women away for fighting for equality.’
More than 1,300 suffragette women were arrested according to the England, Suffragettes Arrested, 1906-1914 collection.
Many went on to be jailed, including leader Emmeline Pankhurst.
As a founder member of the Woman’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Pankhurst was sentenced to repeated stretches in prison as a result of activity carried out in the fight for equality.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said she will look into individual cases, but pardoning all suffragettes who were criminalised would be ‘tricky’.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, she said: ‘We have done it before of course for Alan Turing, I’m certainly going to look at individual cases.
‘Instinctively I can see where that campaign is coming from. So I will take a look and see if there is a proposal I can take more seriously.
‘As far as pardoning for arson, violence, as you rightly point out, that’s trickier.’
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, named after suffragette Millicent Fawcett, said: ‘Suffragette activism was for a noble cause and many of them became political prisoners.
‘It would be a fitting tribute to pardon them now.
‘They made such sacrifices so that we could all enjoy the rights we have today. In any meaningful sense of the word, they were not criminals.’
But Caroline said: ‘I agree they were political prisoners and that is exactly why they shouldn’t be pardoned.
‘This happened and we need to remember that it happened and acknowledge these women had to break the law to get the law changed.
‘It wasn’t just a way of getting attention, it was a deliberate act.’