Book reviews by Steve Earles: Rise Up, Women

Rise Up, Women: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes

Written by Diane Atkinson

Published by Bloomsbury

Recently I saw the excellent film Suffragette (which Diane Atkinson was a consultant on) starring Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep. It’s not often you see a film that changes the way you view the world and its inequality and injustice, but this is what Suffragette did for me, and I urge everyone to watch it.

I never learned about the Suffragettes in secondary school, which is a disgrace. It should have been taught, along with all subjects that increase empathy and humanity. But, on the positive side, the Weinstein scandal has made people think about inequality in all areas of life, not just in Hollywood. In 2018, we should NOT tolerate institutions that oppress women, whatever they are. Whether it’s casual sexism, or sex-trafficking, or the vile treatment of the Yazadi women by Isis, it is all wrong, and should not be tolerated by civilised people.

And we can look to the Suffragettes for inspiration here, who between Queen Victoria’s death and the outbreak of the Great War, fought their own, no less great war for women’s rights.

As an aside, this is a beautifully designed and presented book – kudos to Bloombury for living up to their own legacy with it.

Interestingly, the term “Suffragette” was coined by a certain Charles Hands, a Daily Mail journalist in 1906 as pejorative, but this backfired as it was adopted as a badge of honour by these brave women. Their courage would shame many of us today, and we would do well to adopt one of their mantra’s: ‘deeds, not words’.

I think the following quote from the book says more about the Suffragette Movement than any of my words:

“After Mrs Pankhurst was arrested in Glasgow in March 1914, one suffragette, Mary Richardson, was so incensed that she bought the smallest axe she could find and, hiding it in her sleeve, went into the National Gallery and attacked the Rokeby Venus, a painting by Velazquez. When sentenced by the judge to six months hard labour, she said: ‘I care more for justice than I do for art and I firmly believe when a nation shuts its eyes and prefers to have women… ill-treated and tortured, then I say this action of mine should be understandable.’”

Words that still resonate today… We should all take a long look in the mirror and see if we can live with what stares back at us.

An essential read, one that could change the way you look at life.

Related reading and listening:

‘Suffragette’: The Real Women Who Inspired the Film

The Suffragettes: Diane Atkinson explores the stories of the women’s suffrage campaigners who believed in ‘deeds not words’

Suffragettes | Women recall their struggle to win the vote

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (