The physical force objection to women's suffrage

Heloise Brown

in ‘The Truest Form of Patriotism’

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780719065309
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781700457 | DOI:
The physical force objection to women's suffrage

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The suffrage movement was a central strand in Victorian feminism, and one of its primary aims was confronting anti-suffragists' opposition to the enfranchisement of women. A principal argument for opponents of women's suffrage was the physical-force objection: the principle that women were unable to take up arms to defend their country, and therefore could not qualify for the franchise. In engaging with this question, many feminists began to approach the question of why and under what circumstances they might sanction the use of physical force. This led many to develop pacifist, anti-imperialist or internationalist agendas, which in turn enabled a minority to redefine discourses of patriotism. In this chapter, the feminist response includes the reassertion of arguments of sexual difference and an emphasis upon the legal anomalies that derogated women by viewing their physical abilities in terms of the prevailing domestic ideology.

Keywords: Victorian feminism; anti-suffragists; physical-force objection; pacifist; anti-imperialist agenda; patriotism; domestic ideology

Chapter.  5581 words. 

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