Afternoon Tea and the Suffragette Movement
In the late 19th century, afternoon tea was a fashionable affair enjoyed by women of all classes, and assembling in tea rooms was one of the few outings allowable without the bother of male escorts. However, as the suffragette movement began to gain traction, this afternoon ritual became more than just an opportunity to gossip and discuss fashions with friends. More than just a social event, it provided women the freedom to discuss and organize and even to protest.
The suffragette movement, which aimed to gain voting rights for women, began in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century. Tea was the drink of choice for most women then, so it was not surprising that afternoon tea was the setting for many of their meetings. Afternoon tea became popular for women to connect and share their ideas and feelings about the cause. Tea was also seen as a symbol of female solidarity, as it was something that usually only women drank at the time.
Once the suffragette movement gained momentum, afternoon tea became a platform for more than just conversation. Groups of women used such gatherings to discuss tactics, plan marches, and protests and spread the word about their cause. In particular, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was a significant force behind the use of afternoon tea as a platform for activism. The WSPU hosted regular tea parties, where they discussed the movement and invited prominent suffragettes to give speeches.
In addition to being used as a platform for organizing, the concept of going to tea was also used as a form of protest. In 1908, suffragettes staged a mock tea party outside the Houses of Parliament to protest the lack of progress in gaining voting rights for women. The tea party, which more than 200 suffragettes attended, directly criticized the government and its failure to recognize women’s rights.
The women’s movement also used tea to raise funds for the cause. In 1911, a group of suffragettes held a “monster tea” in London. The tea, attended by over 4,000 people, raised over £2,000 for the cause. The women used this money to fund campaigns and protests.
The suffragette movement was a powerful force that changed women’s lives worldwide. It was a movement driven by women, and afternoon tea was an essential part of that movement. Today we take the idea of tea for granted. Still, once upon a time, it provided a historical platform for women to connect and organize, symbolizing female solidarity and a form of protest. Tea also offered a way to raise funds for the cause. Ultimately, afternoon tea was an essential factor in the advancement and success of the suffragette movement.