On August 19, 1920, for the first time in United States history, lobbyists for women’s right to vote were affirmed that women were entitled to all rights and responsibilities as men, as the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was sanctioned (“The Fight For Women’s Suffrage”). Extremism is the tendency or disposition to go to extremes, or an instance of going to extremes (“Extremism”). Extremism is often assumed as something negative, or unwanted, but there are times when this is not the case. Without extremists’ united will to action, there would be few eliminations of societal injustices and little social progress. The Women’s Suffrage Movement is an example where extremist actions resulted positively, and without their actions women would not have the political standing they enjoy today. Another example where extremist resulted positvely was the Animal Rights Movement.
Beginning in the mid 19th century, women in countries all around the world assembled to fight for suffrage (“Women’s Suffrage Movement”). According to Melissa Hogenboom, a reporter at BBC News, suffragette campaigning was within the law for the first half of the reform until 1912 when activities developed into vandalism, arson, and even the planting of bombs. In 1899 the Women’s Franchise League was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst, a women’s suffrage activist; a few years later in October 1903, she helped found the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), a militant organisation for women’s suffrage activists. The WSPU soon gained a reputation for activities and members who became known as ‘suffragettes’ (“Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928)”). In 1905, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney, a factory worker, were arrested for harassing Sir Edward Grey (Manners Smith) following speeches given at a liberal meeting, Christabel and Annie stood from their seats bearing a flag with the slogan “Votes for Women” and asked “If the Liberal Party is returned to power, will they take steps to give votes for women?” The men attempted to pull Kenney off of her chair but both women stood their ground until they were physically removed from the building. Christabel and Annie were given an ultimatum: pay a fine or to go to prison. Both girls chose imprisonment even when Emmeline had offered to pay their fines (Van Wingerden).
Following this incident WSPU actions quickly escalated into a much more violent approach. WSPU behavior rapidly escalated and tensions surged. WSPU women engaged in extremists activities such as pouring acid in mailboxes, defacing artwork in the National Gallery, and tearing up golf courses to achieve social justice they believed in. Following government retaliation in mid 1914, the Liberal government began to negotiate with suffragettes, but all ceased with World War 1. After the world war, the WSPU never fully returned to the power they were before the war, but even still the WSPU, Women’s Suffragette Movement and individual suffragettes have inspired women all over the world.
Another instance where extremists’ united will to action resulted in the elimination of a social injustice is the Animal Rights Movement. The Animal Rights Movement was started in 19th century England to prevent cruelty towards animals (Walls). Animal rights extremism was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1962 as the Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA.), and in early 1970, the HSA concluded that more had to be done for the animals, even though they were already devoted to non-violence (“Animal Law”). As a tactic to end research through the use of animals, Animal Rights Extremism is essentially a violent act(s) to terrorize institutions or individuals (“Animal Rights Extremism”).
The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is an extremist group that is the most active in advocating for animal rights. The ALF as the Hunt Saboteurs Association and comprised of acts against hunters. The Band of Mercy was then started shortly after a number of hunting events in England were successfully ended. Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman, Band of Mercy founders, were responsible for firebombing a research center in England in 1974. Lee justified the violent act as “ intended to prevent the torture and murder of our animal brothers and sisters.” Lee and Goodman were imprisoned even though most attacks made by animal extremists were anonymous and unsolved. In 1976, the Band of Mercy was reorganized as the Animal Liberation Front, following Lee’s release from prison.
The earliest seen incident acted upon by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) entailed releasing five animals from the NYU Medical School after breaking and entering in 1979. Reported to Congress from the Department of Justice and Agriculture in 1993, the ALF was “the most significant ‘radical fringe’ animal rights group” with a reported 313 incidents between 1979 and 1993, in the name of animal rights (“Ecoterrorism: Extremism”). The most serious of incidents was against two veterinary researchers at Bristol University in Salisbury, Britain. Just like activists imprisoned during the Women’s Rights Movement, Animal Rights Extremists began to petition behind bars through hunger strikes. Barry Horne, an activist who was sentenced to 18 years in 1997 for fire-bombing shopping centers in Bristol, started the petitions. The unavoidable result that came from this included 60 activists campaigning outside of the Huntingdon Life Sciences near Huntingdon (“Animal Law”). Although animal rights extremism isn’t as largely spoke of today, it is still a movement that is advocated for across the world.
Christabel Pankhurst, Annie Kenney, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Emmeline Pankhurst were just a few women who believed all women were as equal as men and went to extreme measures so that women could have the rights that we do today. Ronnie Lee and Cliff Goodman also united to achieve social justice for what they believed in, ending animal cruelty. Without the actions of these groups there would be little or no social progress, such as achieving women’s rights through WSPU activities, or the ALF, advocating to achieve social justice for animals facing inhumanity. As you can see, sometimes extremists activities are necessary in order to progress in the world as human beings. Even if actions and activities of extremists are labeled as ‘terrorists’.
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Hogenboom, Melissa. "Were Extreme Suffragettes Regarded as Terrorists? - BBC News." BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
Manners Smith, Karen. "Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) | British Organization." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
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"Women's Suffrage Movement | HistoryNet." HistoryNet. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.
Van Wingerden, Sophia A. The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain, 1866-1928. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, 1999. Print.