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Stamp of approval for Princess Sophia Duleep Singh as we celebrate Suffragette vote 100 Anniversary

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By FATIMA PATEL

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act. An Act which was relentlessly fought by the ‘suffragettes’ which led to women finally achieving the right to have their say.

Emmeline Pankhurst was the leader and founder of the (Women’s Social and Political Union) WSPU, which became the Suffragettes a name given to them by the Daily Mail as a derogatory term in 1906.

But Emmeline Pankhurst embraced the name for the organisation, which she had set up in Manchester three years earlier.

The Suffragettes motto “deeds not words” gave a clear signal times were changing, and they were not going to be a group who were going to peacefully campaign for women’s rights like earlier groups.

One lady who joined Emmeline’s aggressive activism and was a member of the WSPU was Princess Sophia Duldeep Alexandra Singh. Sophia’s contribution to the Suffragettes was almost overlooked had it not been for journalist Anita Anand, who brought her life into focus in the 2015 biography ‘Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary.

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, was the daughter of Maharaja Duleep Singh and goddaughter to Queen Victoria. Sophia campaigned alongside Emmeline Pankhurst for votes for women nationally as well as locally in Richmond and Kingston-upon-Thames. She was often seen selling the newspaper The Suffragette outside Hampton Court Palace where she lived.

On 18 November 1910, known as ‘Black Friday’, she led a 400-strong demonstration to parliament together with Mrs Pankhurst. As clashes broke out between the police and protestors, over 150 women were physically assaulted.

Bold and fearless, Sophia had refused to pay her taxes until women got the vote, which led to her prosecution several times and some of her valuable possessions were impounded. She even threw herself in front of prime minister Asquith’s car.

To mark her contribution to the suffragette movement Royal Mail, have decided to feature an image of the revolutionary Princess Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh (August 8 1876-August 22 1948), on a heritage stamp to be released on February 15 to mark 100 years since women were allowed to vote in the UK.

Royal Mail will be releasing eight special stamps, mostly showing the leading lights of the suffragette movement in groups.

But only Sophia, will get a stamp to herself. The image on the stamp shows Sophia “selling copies of the WSPU newspaper The Suffragette in April 1913. A member of the Women’s Tax Resistance League, (whose official motto was ‘No Taxation Without Representation’), the princess appeared in court on several occasions after refusing to pay taxes.”

Although the tireless campaigning of the suffragettes got the UK Parliament to pass the Representation of the People Act on February 6, 1918, he legislation passed in 1918, however did not give all women the right to vote.

Only those who were aged over 30 and home owners were eligible to head to the ballot box. While this extended the right to vote to around 8.4 million women, it excluded many of the working-class. Full suffrage for all women over the age of 21 was only granted a decade later on July 2, 1928 with the Second Representation of the People Act.

Nevertheless, we mustn’t forget the tireless and often brutal campaign women led from getting arrested, abused to being forced fed to fight for these rights and it’s welcoming to see their sacrifices be recognised by Royal Mail. We recognise that the suffragettes put their reputations out there and were regularly vilified by the press, yet these women continued their fight. A fight where they were not just fighting for a piece of paper, but they were fighting for fair wages and an end to gender-based violence.

It makes you wonder though, we may have been given the right to vote, but 100 years on, we seem to still be fighting for the same causes.

 

 

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