Women of the right spirit

Paid organisers of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), 1904–18

By Krista Cowman

Women of the right spirit

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7003-7
  • Pages: 264
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: December 2011
  • BIC Category: History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Gender studies: women & girls, European history, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Society & social sciences / Gender studies: women
  • Series: Gender in History


This book is the first investigation on how official organizers built and sustained the national militant campaign of the Women's Social and Political Union between 1903 and 1918. Whilst the overall policy of the Union was devised by an ever-decreasing circle of women, centred around the mother-daughter team of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, much of its actual activity, including its more extreme militant actions such as arson, was devised and implemented by these organizers who worked in the provinces and in London.

Women of the right spirit reveals organizers to be a diverse bunch of women, whose class backgrounds ranged from the aristocratic to the extremely impoverished. It describes the ways in which they were recruited and deployed, and the work they undertook throughout Britain. The exhausting pace of their itinerant life is revealed as well as the occasions when organizers fell out with their employers or their own branches. Taking the story of the WSPU's workers up to the end of the First World War, it considers what directions they took when votes for women became a reality.

The book will appeal to academics, postgraduates and undergraduates with an interest in women's history, as well as a more general readership wishing to understand the extent of support for the votes for women campaign and the mechanisms through which it organized.


'Cowman's work is to be welcomed for the fresh perspective it brings to bear on the WSPU's activities. Her focus on the movement's organisers allows her to integrate the local and national dimensions of the women's suffrage campaaign into a coherent and engaging account.'
Kathryn Rix, History of Parliament


1. Becoming an organiser
2. 'They wanted me here': organisers and the itinerant life
3. 'There was only one member. when I arrived': working as a district organiser
4. Life at headquarters
5. 'I urge you not to run the risk of arrest': organisers and militancy
6. 'There is [no] person living who, as an organiser, would entirely satisfy some people!': Organisers and dissent
7. WSPU organisers and the war
Biographical appendix
Select bibilography


Krista Cowman is Professor of History at the University of Lincoln.

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