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Suffragettes on Film

"You have to make more noise than anybody else!," cried Suffragette pioneer Emmeline Pankhurst. But how to make more noise in silent film?

"Make more Noise!" was the rallying cry of Emmeline Pankhurst to the campaigners for women's votes. The suffragettes' strategy was simple but clever - the idea was to stand up at every public meeting or gathering and cry "votes for women!". But how do you make more noise in silent film? In an age when the moving image was beginning to really matter, the suffragettes had to make sure that they were not just heard, but seen. The newsreels were noticeably more neutral in their reporting than the print media. So newsreel cameramen were invited to all the big demonstrations and given privileged vantage points, while banners and placards were carefully placed for the cameras. The first ever representation of a suffragette in a British film was in 1899, in a comedy where a pair of gossipy old women (played by men in drag) are the object of male ridicule. By 1913, the outrageous satire Milling the Militants again uses a suffragette as a stock comic character, but to more ambiguous effect. It was the licence allowed by comedy that freed film's female characters, like the delightfully modern Tilly girls, to make one hell of a noise.

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Miss Davison's FuneralMiss Davison's Funeral

Non-Fiction19132 minsSilent Location: Bloomsbury

The funeral procession of suffragette Emily Davison - fatally injured at the Epsom Derby - passes through London to her final resting place in Morpeth.

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Suffragette Derby of 1913Suffragette Derby of 1913

Non-Fiction19135 minsSilent Location: Epsom

A momentous act of self sacrifice is caught on camera - Emily Davison is trampled by the King's horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby.

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Suffragettes AgainSuffragettes Again

Non-Fiction19131 minsSilent

Incendiary images from Plymouth, at the sharp end of the campaign for women's votes.

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Milling the Militants; A Comical AbsurdityMilling the Militants; A Comical Absurdity

Comedy19137 minsSilent

Left with the kids while his wife campaigns for women's votes, an aggrieved husband dreams of punishing all suffragettes.

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Meet the Suffragettes: The Original Media-DisruptorsMeet the Suffragettes: The Original Media-Disruptors

Short documentary201510 mins

BFI's silent film curator, Bryony Dixon, explores the BFI National Archive's holdings around women's suffrage.

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Palace PandemoniumPalace Pandemonium

Non-Fiction19141 minsSilent Location: Buckingham Palace

The campaign for women's suffrage steps up as Emmeline Pankhurst is arrested at the gates of Buckingham Palace.

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Demonstration of SuffragettesDemonstration of Suffragettes

Non-Fiction19103 minsSilent Location: London

An early view of Emily Wilding Davison in the multitudes of women in a mass demonstration organised by the Women’s Social and Political Union on 18 June 1910

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Suffragette Pageant Suffragette Pageant

Non-Fiction19111 minsSilent Location: London

History's 'most famous women' - and 66,000 mere mortals - rally to the Suffragette cause in a magnificent pageant and Coronation procession.

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Suffragette Riots at WestminsterSuffragette Riots at Westminster

Non-Fiction19101 minsSilent Location: Westminster

Panic on the streets of London: a women's suffrage protest breaks into violence.

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Scenes outside the House of Commons Scenes outside the House of Commons

Non-Fiction19131 minsSilent Location: Westminster

The fight for women's suffrage momentarily falters on a gloomy day in January 1913.

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Didums Diddles the P'licemanDidums Diddles the P'liceman

Comedy19126 minsSilent

A budding mini-suffragette is determined to turn a local policeman into the butt of her jokes.

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"Law Abiding" Suffragists"Law Abiding" Suffragists

Non-Fiction19131 minsSilent Location: Hyde Park

Three cheers for women's right to vote! Thousands of 'peaceful, law-abiding Suffragists' - and their hat-waving supporters - converge on Hyde Park.

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Mass Meeting of SuffragettesMass Meeting of Suffragettes

Non-Fiction19101 minsSilent Location: Trafalgar Square

Votes for Women protesters swamp Trafalgar Square, brandishing placards and petitions.

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Finding His CounterpartFinding His Counterpart

Comedy19149 minsSilent

A comedy clot takes up phrenology and tries to find his ideal partner by feeling the bumps on women's heads, only to end up as a cannibal's dinner.

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Womens March through LondonWomens March through London

Non-Fiction19151 minsSilent Location: London

Suffragettes advance from Bow to Baker Street, jostling with the London traffic on their way to the Portman Rooms.

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Bolton Election ResultBolton Election Result

Non-Fiction19121 minsSilent Location: Bolton

Women's Suffrage campaigners make their mark in a key by-election

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St Leonards OutrageSt Leonards Outrage

Non-Fiction19131 minsSilent Location: St Leonards

Militant suffragettes torch Levetleigh, St Leonards, former home of Arthur Du Cros, Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye.

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Women's RightsWomen's Rights

Comedy18992 minsSilent

A cruel joke at the expense of the women's movement is at the heart of this early film comedy

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Howway the LassesHowway the Lasses

Documentary19771 mins Location: Northumberland

This jaunty hand-drawn animation charts the history of womens revolutionary road to freedom in the North East - from Stone Age sister to suffragette of the twentieth century.

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Wife the Weaker VesselWife the Weaker Vessel

Comedy191510 minsSilent

A henpecked husband plots revenge on his boastful bachelor friend by marrying him to a seemingly meek girl who turns out to be anything but.

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The Suffragette ElectionThe Suffragette Election

Non-Fiction19121 minsSilent Location: London

Trusted, tried and true? A Labour MP takes a principled stand on women's right to vote

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Tilly and the Fire EnginesTilly and the Fire Engines

Comedy19112 minsSilent

Mischievous sisters Tilly and Sally borrow a fire engine and take it for a joy ride in this spirited film comedy.

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Will There Be Women MPs?Will There Be Women MPs?

Non-Fiction19171 minsSilent Location: London

The leading organisation fighting for women's suffrage changes tack, as Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst launch the Women's Party.

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Scenes from Suffragette Demonstration at NewcastleScenes from Suffragette Demonstration at Newcastle

Non-Fiction19091 minsSilent Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

Supporters of the Women's Social and Political Union campaign in the North East.

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Women's March through LondonWomen's March through London

Non-Fiction19152 minsSilent Location: Buckingham Palace

"Three cheers to our gallant soldiers", proclaim suffragette marchers as they rally to show their willingness to help the war effort.

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Tilly's PartyTilly's Party

Comedy19117 minsSilent

Irrepressible sister act Tilly and Sally throw a party - of sorts - in this chaotic comedy caper.

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Trafalgar Square RiotTrafalgar Square Riot

Non-Fiction19131 minsSilent Location: Trafalgar Square

A suffragette demonstration led by Sylvia Pankhurst ends in chaos as police prevent a march on Downing Street.