My novel Bird in a Gilded Cage, is a passionate story set against the backdrop of the suffragette movement. The heroine, Beth, is fighting to break free from overbearing and manipulative parents, when she meets headstrong Alice Sparks, and finds herself drawn into the fight for the emancipation of women. Alice’s declaration of undying love for Beth throws her into confusion just as the handsome and mysterious Finn McGuiness appears in her life.
But the real fight has only just begun, as Beth becomes embroiled in a powerful struggle for her own survival, where her beliefs and emotions are threatened and the resulting events lead to dramatic consequences.
An impassioned story of love, women’s fight for equality in the early twentieth century and friendships pushed to the very limits of endurance.
Bird in a Gilded Cage began life as a contemporary novel until early on in the planning of the book I had to look into Edwardian women’s fashion for research. This led me to discover not only the way women dressed but how they lived their lives. Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes were at the forefront of the fight for equality and after reading their story I was inspired by these brave and courageous women.
It was at this point my novel changed from present day to historical and I began to write Beth’s dramatic story.
Emmeline was born in Manchester in 1858 the eldest of ten children. She grew up in a politically active family as her parents were both abolitionists and supporters of female suffrage.
In 1878 Emmeline returned to Manchester after studying in Paris and met Dr Richard Pankhurst. The two married in 1879 and gave birth to five children over the next decade, Christabel, Sylvia, Adela, Frank (who died in childhood) and Harry. Emmeline managed to combine bringing up her children and household responsibilities with campaigning for her husband in unsuccessful runs for parliament and hosting political meetings at their home. She was truly a remarkable woman.
When Emmeline’s dear husband died in 1898 she was consumed by grief and for several years focused her attentions on her children, however she retained a passion for women’s rights and in 1903 she created a new women-only group called the WSPU, Women’s Social and Political Union whose slogan was ‘Deeds Not Words.’ The group was led by Emmeline and her three daughters.
The WSPU was determined on a new approach as the government had refused to support women’s suffrage. The new tactics would be daring, disobedient and more militant than ever before.
After a protest in Parliament Square in 1910 turned violent and police beat many suffragettes, the WSPU waged guerrilla warfare, orchestrating window-smashing and arson attacks. As the movement became more desperate so it became more violent. In 1913 Emily Wilding Davison was killed when she threw herself under the king’s horse at the Derby racecourse. She was the only suffragette to die for the cause.
In 1914 war was declared in Europe and the government released all suffragettes from prison and they suspended their activities. Emmeline and her daughters threw themselves into the war effort.
In 1918 the government passed an act giving women the vote if they were over the age of 30 and either owned property or rented for at least £5/year or were the wife of someone who did. The suffragettes dream was finally realised when in March 1928 a bill was introduced to give women the vote on the same terms as men. However, Emmeline Pankhurst fell ill and died on the 14th June 1928 just before it became law on the 2nd July 1928.
There is no doubt that Emmeline Pankhurst and the suffragettes raised the profile of women’s right to vote to a national level. Emmeline was a woman with an indomitable spirit and gritty determination and is an inspiration to all women everywhere.
The suffragettes and their bravery against all the odds is still a subject which fascinates people today – including me. Earlier this year the BBC broadcast a three part programme on the suffragette movement and equality for women and Radio Six also aired a feature on the same subject. In September of this year the film Suffragette will be screened in cinemas across the country, starring Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst and is the first film to be shot in the Houses of Parliament with the permission of MPs.
My novel Bird in a Gilded Cage is available now in paperback and eBook.
Pick up today: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bird-Gilded-Cage-Suffragette-Story-ebook/