To Death and Glory - Introduction
The peace of Europe is under threat from increasing rivalries between the Great Powers.
In Britain there is growing unrest with fabulous wealth existing
alongside abject poverty. Women are second class citizens who are not allowed to vote, but
the suffragettes of the Womens Social and Political Union (WSPU) are engaged in a
struggle to gain their democratic rights by a campaign of arson attacks, window smashing
rampages and bombs planted in government buildings.
The WSPU is a militant and highly disciplined organisation led by
the indomitable Emmeline Pankhurst.
Hundreds of suffragettes are arrested and many of them go on hunger strike in jail. The
government fears that if any should die they will become martyrs and attract even more
supporters to their cause. After unsuccessfully trying to force-feed the prisoners, the
government passes the notorious Cat and Mouse Act, allowing suffragettes close
to death to be released from jail, only to be re-arrested when they have recovered.
One suffragette does become a martyr for the cause - Emily Wilding
Davison brings down the Kings horse at the Derby and later dies of her injuries.
The suffragette campaign continues until the outbreak of war in
August 1914, when women are no longer second class citizens to be kept confined in their
kitchens, but are suddenly required to cease their activities and support the war effort.
Tom is an idealistic young man to whom social injustice, the subjugation of women
and the threat of war are all consequences of the capitalist system. He is in love with
Alice, a suffragette.
Their love is put to test when she obeys Mrs Pankhurst and goes to
work in a munitions factory, leaving Tom, a conscientous objector, to evade conscription
and preach against the war.
Meanwhile Kate, another suffragette, faces conflict between her two rival suitors -
Jonathan, whose sympathy with the cause she relies on, and Antony, son of the megalomaniac
anti-suffragette press baron Lord Eastcliffe.
Antony is torn between his love for Kate and his duty to his father,
who is also his employer. This triangle has still not been resolved when the two men
unknowingly enlist in the same regiment.
Footnote - Women (over 30) were allowed to vote for the first time in 1918.
This was officially stated to be in recognition of womens work during the war, but
the more likely reason was that the government was not prepared to face a renewed
onslaught from Emmiline Pankhurst and the WSPU.