Fred and Emmeline were understandably both shocked and deeply upset by this rejection but they resolved from the start that they would not damage the reputation of the WSPU by making this public – and they maintained their support for the movement for the rest of their lives. They continued to publish Votes for Women till 1914 and were associated with first the Votes for Women Fellowship and then the United Suffragists.
With the outbreak of war in 1914 Emmeline became increasingly involved with the search for peace. She was one of only three women from Britain to make their way to the Women’ Peace Congress in the Hague in 1915 and subsequently became honorary treasurer of the Women’s International League of Great Britain which came out of the Congress. The women in the Hague resolved to meet together after the war to help formulate the terms of peace and the second International Congress took place from May 12-17 in Zurich, while the official Peace Conference took place in Paris. Participation in Zurich alongside women from all countries including Germany was, for Emmeline, ‘perhaps the most moving experience of my life’. The Congress concluded that only by ‘.reconciliation could peace be made secure in the world’ while in Paris the Treaty of Versailles was overtly punitive towards Germany thus opening the way to another war. In Zurich the fully fledged Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom was constituted and decided to move its headquarters from the Hague to Geneva. Emmeline travelled extensively round Europe speaking about reconciliation.
But Emmeline had not forgotten her passion for the suffrage. She must have voted in the 1918 election which for the first time gave the vote to some women (following the Representation of the People Act) but she did better than that – she actually stood for Parliament (the first time women could stand as well as vote) as a Labour candidate for the Rushholme division of Manchester. Her platform of the need for a just settlement for Germany was not a vote catcher in a post War nation and she was roundly defeated although she was placed above the Liberals. The irony of this was not lost on Emmeline:
It was a strange experience for one who had given eight years of life as I had, in the endeavour to win votes for women, to watch working class mothers, with their babies and small children, eagerly going to the poll to record their votes against me.
Emmeline never stood for Parliament again although Fred eventually won a seat for Labour and rose through the ranks of the Treasury to become Secretary of State for India and to join the House of Lords. Emmeline travelled extensively with Fred, particularly to India. She did not have such a distinguished career but she devoted the rest of her political life to campaigning for peace . In addition from 1926 she was President of the Women’s Freedom League, a member of the executive committee of the Open Door Council and a Vice President of the Six Point Group. She died in 1954.
Brief Bibliography for Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence
Kathryn Atherton, Suffragette Planners and Plotters: the Pankhurst, Pethick-Lawrence Story, Pen and Sword, 2019
Brittan, Vera, Pethick-Lawrence: A Portrait, George Allen and Unwin,1963
Crawford, Elizabeth’ The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928, Routledge, 1999
Harrison, Brian, ‘The Politics of a Marriage’ in Prudent Revolutionaries – Portraits of British Feminists Between the Wars, Clarendon Press, 1987
Pankhurst, E. Sylvia, The Suffragette Movement, Longmans Green and Co, 1931
Pethick-Lawrence, Emmeline, My Part in a Changing World, Victor Gollancz, 1938
Pethick-Lawrence, Fate has been kind, Hutchinson and Co, 1942