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Topical Budget 204-1: Women's March Through London (1915)


Main image of Topical Budget 204-1: Women's March Through London (1915)
35mm, black and white, silent, 50 feet
Production CompanyTopical Film Company

Members of the suffragette movement, led by Mrs Pankhurst, march through London to demonstrate to the Minister of Munitions their willingness to help in any war service.

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This short newsreel item recorded a significant public event on July 17th 1915. Used to seeing the Suffragettes marching, the film audience might have been surprised at the positive tone adopted by Topical Budget. This was, however, an entirely different type of demonstration - officially sanctioned, in fact paid for, by the Ministry of Munitions, headed by Lloyd George, in which the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) expressed their support of the war effort.

The item is filmed from an upper storey window to get in as much as possible of the line of marchers as they proceed down the Embankment. A banner reads "Mobilize Brains and Energy of Women!", which was the theme of the march - Emmeline Pankhurst titled it the 'Women's Right to Serve', a notion that enabled the WSPU to take over the mobilisation of the female work force for the munitions factories - a task that had proved problematic for the government - but on the strict condition that the women would receive equal pay for equal work. Pankhurst's insistence on the women being seen as fully replacing male workers in the factories and on the land, together with her flair for organisation, was what eventually won women the vote. This event was a key moment in building trust between the movement and the politicians, and it had to be very visible. It is highly significant, then, that the march was filmed.

In the following part of the Topical Budget 204-1 story (listed as a separate item), the title reads "Lloyd George accepts", and shows the procession as it reached Trafalgar Square. The event was highly organised by Pankhurst, with pageant floats to show support for Britain's allies - Belgium represented by a girl in rags and the French by red caps of Liberty. The spectacle was described as most colourful, although we cannot see it on the black and white film, with the colours of the Union flag replacing the traditional purple green and white.

Bryony Dixon

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (0:57)
Pathé's Animated Gazette: Mass Meeting of Suffragettes (1910)
Topical Budget 208-1: Women's March Through London (1915)
Topical Budget: War and Propaganda
Topical Budget: Women