On the day of the King's Speech to Parliament in 1911, she threw herself in front of the car of the then prime minister Herbert Asquith with a poster that read "Give women the vote".
Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, the daughter of the last ruler of the Sikh empire Maharaja Duleep Singh, is among several British women who were celebrated today in the UK to mark the centenary of women’s right to vote. The granddaughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and god-daughter of Queen Victoria had taken to the streets in the early 1900s to campaign for the right of women to be able to vote. On the day of the King’s Speech to Parliament in 1911, she threw herself in front of the car of the then prime minister Herbert Asquith with a poster that read “Give women the vote”. Her heroism is being marked alongside other “suffragettes”, or members of women’s organisations during that period, who advocated the extension of the franchise to women.
Their efforts led women who were householders over the age of 30 to get the vote by an act of UK Parliament – the Representation of the People Act – in 1918, which was extended to women over 21 in 1928. “Those who fought to establish their right – my right, every woman’s right – to vote in elections, to stand for office and to take their full and rightful place in public life did so in the face of fierce opposition. “They persevered in spite of all danger and discouragement because they knew their cause was right,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a speech to mark the centenary in Manchester, a centre of activism for the women’s suffrage movement.
She warned that “intimidation and aggression” on social media were coarsening public debate, deterring people from participating in politics and threatening democracy. May announced a new annual internet safety transparency report to provide data on what offensive content is being reported and how social media companies are responding to complaints. She also announced plans for a Law Commission review of legislation to ensure that illegal actions are also illegal online.
The celebrations to mark 100 years of women’s right to vote include the Royal Mail issuing a set of commemorative stamps of suffragettes like Princess Sophia Duleep Singh. Born in 1876, the princess grew up at Elveden Hall in Suffolk, where her father lived in exile. In 1894, she moved to Hampton Court Palace at the invitation of the Queen and became known as a socialite in royal circles.
However, after a trip to India, she returned to London transformed and joined other suffragettes like Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett in their fight for the right to vote. There are growing calls for the suffragette women, many of whom were jailed for their efforts, to be pardoned posthumously. UK home secretary Amber Rudd said it was a “complicated” issue but that she would “take a look” at such a posthumous pardon. Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the government to apologise to suffragettes and have their criminal records overturned.