Women Writers' Suffrage League

The Women Writers' Suffrage League (WWSL) was an organisation in the United Kingdom formed in 1908 by Cicely Hamilton and Bessie Hatton.[1] The organisation stated that it wanted "to obtain the Parliamentary Franchise for women on the same terms as it is, or may be, granted to men. Its methods are the methods proper to writers – the use of the pen."[2] The organisation viewed itself as a writers' group rather than a literary society.[3] Membership was not based on literary merit, but instead was granted to anyone who had published and sold a written work.[3] Members also paid an annual subscription fee of 2s. 6d.[4] The league was inclusive and welcomed writers of all genders, classes, genres, and political persuasions provided they were pro-suffrage.[3] By 1911 the league was composed of conservatives, liberals and socialists, women of power and women who worked hard and members of the military.[5] The league disbanded on 24 January 1919[3] following the passing Representation of the People Bill in February 1918, granting women over the age of 30 the right to vote.[6]

The offices of the League were located at 55 Bernes St, Oxford St, W.[2]

This group made clear their hatred for androcentrism, reading and revising well known works that marginalised women.[5] They discussed current problems within society and came to a common conclusion; after the meetings they made these problems public so that people would be aware of what was happening. They sought to influence political and social changes through literature.


The WWSL had members from across the political spectrum, and therefore did not participate in some political demonstrations.[3] Activities of the WWSL included:

More than 100 members of the WWSL also marched in the "Great Demonstration" of 21 June 1908, which was organised by the Women's Social and Political Union. Members of the WWSL wore scarlet and white badges with quills. Members also joined marches in July 1910 and June 1911.[3]

Contributions in newspapersEdit

Members of the WWSL contributed to the following newspapers:

They also tried to take part in a public debate with the editorials of a conservative newspaper that went against the suffrage. Elizabeth Robins, the League's first president, became famous for her defense of the cause against the anti suffragist Mrs. Humphry Ward in the Times.[5]


The WWSL gave the following plays together with the Actresses' Franchise League:

  • How the Vote was Won[7]
  • Votes for Women[7]
  • A Pageant of Great Women[7]
  • A chat with Mrs Chicky [8]
  • Press Cutting [8]

Along with Actresses' Franchise League they composed works, pageants and shows, some to pay tribute to Shakespeare for integrating in his works the qualities of women.[5] One play written by Beatrice Harraden and Bessie Hatton, Shakespeare's Dreams, featured several of Shakespeare's characters (including Portia, Viola, Perdita, Lady Macbeth, Rosalind, Kate, Beatrice, Puck, Ariel, and Cleopatra) coming to the sleeping poet, giving him flowers, and reciting some of their famous lines.[5]


The Representation of the People Act passed in 1918, granting women over the age of 30 the right to vote. Although this did not meet the stated goal of the WWSL, which was to earn women the right to vote that was equal to the men's right to vote (men over the age of 21 were enfranchised by the Act), the league nevertheless disbanded on 24 January 1918.[3]

Notable membersEdit

The WWSL had over 100 members, including several notable female suffrage authors:[3]

The active participation of men, as honorary associates of the league, also differentiated the WWSL from late-twentieth-century feminist literary groups.[3]

See alsoEdit


  This article incorporates text from The Vote, by The Women Writer's Suffrage League, a publication from 1909 now in the public domain in the United States.

  1. ^ Crawford, Elizabeth (2003) [First published 1999]. The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Routledge. pp. 712–713. ISBN 9781135434021. OCLC 53836882, 475881247, 742299597.
  2. ^ a b c d Robins, Elizabeth (1913). Way Stations. Hodder and Stoughton. p. 106. OCLC 654476659. Retrieved 4 August 2013. methods proper to writers.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Park, Sowon (June 1997). "The First Professional: The Women Writers' Suffrage League". Modern Language Quarterly. 57 (2): 185–200. doi:10.1215/00267929-58-2-185. OCLC 91145060.
  4. ^ Robins, Elizabeth (1913). Way stations (Copyright ed.). Leipzig. hdl:2027/coo.31924030497477.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Howard Community College Library Off-Campus Access". link.galegroup.com. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Women's suffrage timeline". The British Library. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b c "Women Writers Suffrage League". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  8. ^ a b graeme@gelstudios.co.uk, Graeme Leighfield. "How the Vote was Won and Other Suffrage Plays". Putney Theatre Company. Retrieved 10 May 2018.

External linksEdit