The best books on suffragettes

The Books I Picked & Why

Suffragette Sally

By Gertrude Colmore

Suffragette Sally

Why this book?

This amazing account of the Edwardian struggle for women's suffrage was published in 1911, in the thick of it. While doing research for Sally Heathcote Suffragette, I discovered a review of it in Votes for Women, the official paper of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). It weaves the stories of three fictional women into what were then very recent events in suffrage history, bringing them to life. The Sally in the title, like my Sally, is a maid-of-all-work A coincidence? Yes, but not really surprising. Domestic service was the most likely form of employment for a woman of no means before the First World War; Sally (from Sarah) was a common name then and it alliterates well with ‘suffragette’.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Falling Angels

By Tracy Chevalier

Falling Angels

Why this book?

For modern fiction dealing with Edwardian women's suffrage, I recommend Chevalier's moving account of two girls growing up as the new century begins. It's a beautiful, atmospheric handling of the turbulent period of social change. The Victorian idealisation of the 'Angel of the House' falls from grace and the outcome is heartbreaking.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Suffragettes in the Purple, White and Green: London 1906-1914

By Diane Atkinson

Suffragettes in the Purple, White and Green: London 1906-1914

Why this book?

Purple, white, and green are the colours of the WSPU regalia. Suffragette ephemera fascinates me, especially their merchandising (soap, chocolate, board games, chinaware - all sorts of things). I first heard of it at a presentation by Diane Atkinson. This book is the catalogue of an exhibition she put together when she was a curator at the Museum of London. An excellent resource, it's full of images with pointers for where to find more. Ephemera is great for giving a sense of period, so I asked the artists on the graphic novel to cram in all they could.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison

By Ann Morley, Liz Stanley

The Life and Death of Emily Wilding Davison

Why this book?

That suffragette who 'threw herself' under the King's horse. Supposedly. Emily Wilding Davison was trampled on the Derby Day racecourse at Epsom on June 4th, 1913. Two WSPU flags were found pinned inside her coat. She died on July 8th, without having regained consciousness. When she was carried off the racecourse, she also had her pockets full. She had the return part of a rail ticket, notepaper, envelopes, and stamps, a race card marked with her fancies up to the fateful 3 pm race, and her helper’s pass card for the WSPU Summer Festival in Kensington, valid for 2.30 to 10.30 pm that day.

It isn’t clear that she was planning suicide. Indeed, she’d placed bets on horses and arranged to be an official at the festival later on. If this kind of detail fascinates you too, this book is a must-read.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye's Suffrage Diary

By Elizabeth Crawford

Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye's Suffrage Diary

Why this book?

If you're looking for a meticulous account of the day-to-day life and work of a women's suffrage campaigner, this is the book to turn to. I was intrigued by the diarist's accounts of well-known historical events, such as the funeral procession for Emily Wilding Davison, which she participated in, even though she herself was a constitutional suffragist rather than a militant suffragette. The diaries are edited by a leading researcher and archivist in the field and full of explanatory notes that contextualise the daily entries.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Random Book Lists