Skip to Main Content

YYGS Music and Power: Suffrage Movement: March of the Women

A guide for the Yale Young Global Scholars class on Music and Power.

Ethel Smyth picture


Source: Misc. Ms. 418, Ethel Smyth: Letters and Scrapbook.

General information

Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) was the most prominent female British composer of her era. She composed operas, orchestral works, chamber music, and other works. She also wrote several books, which are mostly autobiographical.

Smyth was a vigorous and prominent supporter of women’s right to vote. She had a close personal relationship with Emmeline Pankhurst, who headed the Women’s Social and Political Union, the organization that led the struggle to gain women the right to vote in the United Kingdom.

In 1911 Smyth composed The March of the Women, the suffragist movement's anthem. In 1912 she went to prison for throwing a rock through the window of Lewis Harcourt, the Colonial Secretary, who had made disparaging remarks about the women’s suffrage movement.

British women gained the right to vote (with some limitations) in 1918. In the United States, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920, giving American women the right to vote.


The March of the Women

Optional Reading

Newspaper Articles by Smyth

Archival collection

Google Doc for this Topic

Women's Suffrage in the United States

She's Good Enough to Be Your Baby's Mother