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Suffragist/Suffragette - What's the difference?

Sometimes people refer to the activists working for suffrage by different names -  'suffragette', or sometimes 'suffragist'. But which is the correct term?

In South Australia it is more appropriate to use the term 'suffragist'.

See below for a quick overview!


Those involved in the first wave of the campaign for women’s votes are known as suffragists. Suffragists believed in peaceful, constitutional campaign methods. In the early 20th century, after the suffragists failed to make significant progress, a new generation of activists emerged. These women became known as the suffragettes, and they were willing to take direct, militant action for the cause.


Suffragettes were members of women's organisations in the late-19th and early-20th centuries who, under the banner "Votes for Women," fought for women's suffrage, the right to vote in public elections.The term suffragette refers in particular to members of the British Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a women-only movement founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst, which engaged in direct action and civil disobedience.

The South Australian women’s suffrage movement

'Suffragette' is largely associated with the UK movement for women’s suffrage in the early 20th century, which began after the vote was achieved for women in South Australia in 1894. This, combined with the fact that the South Australian movement was peaceful and did not include acts of violence, demonstrates that the movement for women’s suffrage in South Australia is better referred to as a suffragist movement, not suffragette.

More info

What is the difference between the suffragists and the suffragettes? British Library

Australian Feminism and the British Militant Suffragettes Barbara Caine for Parliament of Australia

Page last updated : 28 Nov 2019
Provided by:
Department of Human Services
Last Updated:
02 Mar 2021
Printed on:
02 Oct 2023
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