The Cat and Mouse Act was the soubriquet assigned to the notorious Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health) Bill introduced to British Parliament by the Rt. Hon. Reginald McKenna in March 1913. This Bill garnered intense media attention, inflamed many Members of Parliament, and sparked a backlash of angry protest by supporters of the women’s vote. The Cat and Mouse Act was an emergency measure meant to apply to a specific group of radical women known as the suffragettes, who hunger-struck when imprisoned for carrying out illegal and frequently violent acts to pressure Parliament to give women the vote. The Cat and Mouse Act was presented as a way to alleviate the hunger-strike, but it also was meant to control the suffragettes’ mobility and provide a deterrent to their illegal activities. This legislation became a dangerous and ineffective tool of Parliament to control the suffragettes, as well as an incitement to the suffragettes to continue radical demonstrations for the vote. An examination into the debates surrounding the Cat and Mouse Act show that British Government embodied a hegemonic masculinity as it attempted to control the suffragettes, and their supporters in Parliament, while passing this controversial legislation.
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Thesis advisor: Keough, Willeen
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