At the beginning of the 20th century, there was one cause dominating newspaper headlines: the fight for women’s suffrage.

This was due to women taking a more militant approach, as advocated by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903. Their motto was ‘deeds not words’. Pankhurst knew that their cause had to be kept in the news if they were to achieve their aims: ‘You have to make yourself more obtrusive than anybody else, fill all the papers more than anybody else if you are really going to get your reform realised’.

The formation of the WSPU marked a move from more peaceful methods towards direct action.

Suffragettes always aimed their violence against property, not people. They set fire to hundreds of letter boxes or poured corrosive acid over the letters inside. They smashed thousands of shop and office windows, cut telephone wires and wrote graffiti slogans on walls.

Across the country, houses - specially selected to make sure they were empty - were burned down, many of them belonging to prominent members of society.

Places traditionally believed to be the preserve of men were attacked, including golf courses, cricket pavilions and horse racing venues.

Popular tourist attractions became targets, with exhibits damaged in the British Museum, paintings attacked in the National Galley and a jewellery case smashed in the Tower of London.

A few Suffragettes even used small bombs. In February, 1913, David Lloyd George’s weekend cottage, which was in the process of being built, was damaged by a small explosion. In June, 1914, a bomb placed beside the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey exploded. Several other bombs were planted, including one in St Paul’s Cathedral and another near the Bank of England.

In Watford, the council was having its own debate about women’s suffrage. However, they were reprimanded as the matter was deemed to be ‘outside the business and province of the council’.

The Suffragette movement had offices at 117 Watford High Street, and their fight for equality was influenced by their sisters’ actions in London.

In March, 1913, the waiting room, offices and platform at Croxley station were badly burnt. Suffragettes were believed to be responsible but there was no proof against them.

On the same night, Saunderton Station near Wycombe was burnt to the ground. The message, ‘burning to get the vote’ was left at the scene.

The following month, Roughwood House in Chorleywood was set on fire by Suffragettes, the floor having been soaked in petrol. Many people travelled just to see the damage.

It is estimated that the Suffragettes’ campaign of destruction caused between £1billion and £2billion worth of damage to property in 1913-14. Hundreds of Suffragettes were arrested and jailed, and many continued their protest in prison by hunger strike.

In 1913, one of the most famous Suffragette protests took place, when Emily Wilding Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. Her purpose was unclear. The incident was captured on three newsreel cameras and recent analysis of the images suggests that she was not, as first assumed, attempting to pull down the racehorse but was reaching up to attach a Suffragette flag to its bridle. Davison died four days later from her injuries.

Far from rallying support for their cause, the Suffragettes’ militant tactics caused public outrage, and support declined for women’s suffrage.

Author Mary Ward was appointed as leader of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League. In an article in The Times in 1909, she wrote that constitutional, legal, financial, military and international problems were problems only men could solve.

The Watford branch of the National League Opposing Women’s Suffrage likewise argued, ‘There are large departments of public life in which women could find scope for legitimate interest but questions of… imperial administration must be left in the hands of the men. The majority of women in Watford are against extending to a sphere which they feel is alien to their real province in life.’

When World War I broke out in 1914, the Suffragettes stopped their campaign in order to focus on helping the war effort.

While the militant actions of Suffragettes had made sure their cause was kept in the news, it was women’s hard work during the war that would prove to be the key to success.

In 1918, women over 30 who were house owners or married to house owners were given the vote. 10 years later, the Representation of the People Act gave the vote to women on the same grounds as men.