Daughters of Dissent tells the story of the long fight for women’s suffrage in the UK based on interviews with women who were there, committing sabotage, and going on hunger strike. She explains why women were so desperate to win the vote, and how their tactics changed, and how the movement split between the constitutional wing and the radical militant wing.
Craigie centers her account in the lives of two women, Millicent Garrett Fawcett and Emmeline Pankhurst, who came to dominate the struggle for women’s enfranchisement that lasted for over half a century. Their husbands, Henry Fawcett and Richard Pankhurst, Millicent’s pioneering sister, Dr. Garrett Anderson, and Emmeline’s daughters – Christabel, Sylvia, and Adela – make up a supporting cast, which includes also a number of politicians including Gladstone, Sir Edward Grey, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill.
Through her interviews and years of research, Jill Craigie uncovered a new story that is relevant to any appraisal of the women’s rights movement in the 20th century, and relevant to activists today in its assessment of tactics used for social change.
Craigie was married for 50 years to a prominent UK politician, Michael Foot, and applies her knowledge of the political system to her historical research. Although her primary career was as a filmmaker (details about the recent documentary The Independent Miss Craigie are available here), she devoted years to writing this book, never quite able to bring it to a conclusion. It is, nonetheless, a complete and cohesive text, as her biographer Carl Rollyson explains in his foreword, offering a unique historical appraisal.
Berkshire publisher Karen Christensen learned about this nearly complete but unpublished book while reading a biography of Craigie, To Be a Woman, by Carl Rollyson. Intrigued by Craigie’s story, and by her friendship with Lewis Mumford, Christensen contacted Rollyson and tracked down the typescript left behind after Craigie’s death in 1999.