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The Women's Suffrage Movement. An Introduction. The Campaign for Female Suffrage. February 6 th 1918 The Representation of the People Act decreed : All women over 30 who were married to property owners or who owned property themselves were allowed to vote in parliamentary elections.

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The Campaign for Female Suffrage

February 6th 1918

The Representation of the People Act decreed :

All women over 30 who were married to property owners or who owned property themselves were allowed to vote in parliamentary elections.

This enfranchised 8 million women


WWI was the most important factor in granting women the vote in 1918. In the words of AJP Taylor it paved the way for democracy.

I think it was the militant tactics of the suffragettes that helped women to get the vote.

The position of women in society was constantly improving after 1850, the vote was just a logical progression of this. The outbreak of WW1 delayed this.

Without the peaceful suffragists, women would not have gained the vote in 1918.

Women got the vote in 1918 as a reward for their work during WW1.


Political Parties

The Conservative Party


Represented the interests of the great landowning families

The Liberal Party


Represented the new middle classes and some working class voters

Many working class voters wanted their own party. This led to the birth of a new party – The Labour Party.


So what about women?...

  • In 1850 women were thought of as second class citizens. People believed women were inferior to men – physically and mentally.
  • Women were paid less than men, and tended to do less skilled work.
  • They were excluded from many professions (e.g. law) and it was thought that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’.

…Women were not allowed to vote in general elections.


It was thought that….

  • Women would lose their femininity in politics.
  • Women weren’t well educated enough to vote.
  • If women became involved in politics the home would suffer.
  • Women were too emotional to handle the responsibility of the vote.
  • Women did not fight for their country so did not deserve the vote.
Opposition to Women’s Suffrage

Before 1900 most people were against

women’s suffrage…

“If women’s suffrage became a reality, the government of the country would be handed over to a majority who are women. Women are creatures of impulse and emotion and cannot decide questions on the grounds of reason as men do.”

Randal Crenmer M.P.


“Only the most undesirable women want this right. Those women who do their duty to the country by marrying and giving birth to children are well represented by their husbands.”

Winston Churchill, 1895

“We are most anxious to enlist the support of everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of Women’s rights.

Lady Amberly ought to get a good whipping! A woman would become the most disgusting of beings if she were allowed to unsex herself. Where would be the protection which man is intended to give the weaker sex?”

Queen Victoria, 1871


Men saw themselves as the dominators of the Public Sphere- that is the place of work and politics.

The "true woman" was pure, delicate, frail and passive.

Women too emotional to deal with political issues.

Public beliefs of the time

Women’s brains smaller than men’s!

Women did not fight for their country so didn’t deserve the vote!

Women were the Angel in the Home!


What did the political parties think?…

Conservatives: Against women voting, worried they would vote for liberal or labour.

Liberals: Many favoured votes for women, however, they feared that if the vote was given to property-owning women, they would vote Conservative – like their husbands.

Labour:, Started in 1900, were in favour of female suffrage but wanted all working class men to get the vote first.


The Women’s Suffrage Movement

After 1850 the campaign grew for ‘votes for women’.

  • Reasons for the Growth of the Women’s Suffrage Movement:
  • Electoral Reform
  • More men were getting the vote – but no women
  • Emergence of a small class of better off, educated women to lead the movement.

3. The position of women

Second class citizens – suffered inequality in law, work and society.


Using the sources, list as many reasons as you can for WHY women WANTED the VOTE.



From the following slides, take notes under these headings

for BOTH the Suffragists & Suffragettes:

  • Name
  • Membership
  • Tactics (early & later)
  • Example of tactics
  • In what way did these help/hinder their cause?
  • Relationship with politicians?
  • Evidence of success?
  • Analysis

Suffragists and Suffragettes



1897 – First UK Suffrage Group

NUWSS brought together women’s suffrage societies from all over Britain into one large organisation.

Millicent Fawcett

  • Organisation:
  • Broad based
  • Included a wide range of opinions – male supporters.
  • Radical Suffragists – attempted to win working class support.
suffragists overview
Suffragists: Overview
  • The FIRST and BIGGEST women’s suffrage movement.
  • Regarded as most SUCCESSFUL.
  • NUWSS numbers grew considerably and was far bigger than the WSPU (Suffragettes).
  • NUWSS – 1907: 6,000 members

1913: 50,000 members

  • Peaceful Methods:
  • Meetings
  • Pamphlets
  • Newspaper articles


Suffragist Pilgrimage, 1913:

Held Pilgrimage to Hyde Park to show govt. they had support for vote. On 26th July, around 50,000 women reached Hyde Park.

analysis success or failure
Analysis - Success or failure?
  • Gained support of many MPs
  • Large membership and propaganda meant they had a wide influence across Britain. Benefits of male membership.
  • Impressed people with their dignity & organisation


  • Failed to gain the vote despite no less than 4 attempts to introduce women’s suffrage bills to parliament.
  • Peaceful methods easy to ignore. By 1905 the press had were virtually ignoring them.
  • Lost essential political support from Liberals from 1910.


Historian Martin Pugh argues that because of the Suffragists quiet persuasion many prominent MPs supported them (such as Lloyd George). BUT, he also states that most MPs gave them only ‘lukewarm’ support.


Suffragettes (WSPU)


1903 – Emmeline Pankhurst broke away from the NUWSS to form the WSPU.

Emmeline Pankhurst

  • Organisation
  • Narrowly based
  • Dedicated to one aim – no male members – no interest in other issues.
suffragettes overview
Suffragettes: Overview


  • Motto = “Deeds not Words”
  • 1905-1908: Campaign of disruption of political meetings, heckling politicians, large parades, chalking slogans on streets etc.
  • 1909-1914: Increasingly violent – smashing windows, pepper bombs, setting fire to pillar boxes etc.
suffragettes the wild period
Suffragettes: ‘The Wild Period’

1909-1914: Change of tactics

  • Winston Churchill was attacked by a woman with a dog whip
  • HH Asquith had his windows broken
  • Politicians were followed around the country by women prepared to heckle them
  • WSPU in 1909 had branches over the country, 75 paid employees and a newspaper “ Votes for Women” which sold 20,000 copies per week
  • Window smashing after 1909 – resulted in women being imprisoned

Hunger Strikes

Cat & Mouse Act

Suffragette arrested

Refused to eat

When Suff. deemed too weak to cause harm outside of prison, she would be released

Only re-arrested if re-offended

  • Imprisoned Suffragettes protested against their imprisonment by refusing food.
  • This followed the example of Miss Marion Wallace-Dunlop, 1909
  • At first, they were released but the FORCE FED – this made the govt. VERY unpopular.

Emily Davison

Davison threw herself in front of George V’s horse at the Derby

She was killed

This was witnessed by a huge crowd & was caught on film

Davison became a martyr for the cause.

analysis success or failure1
Analysis - Success or failure?
  • Brought much needed publicity to the movement. By 1905 the suffragists were being ignored.
  • During Wild Period issue of female suffrage discussed daily in parliament.
  • Some politicians claimed they gave women the vote in 1918 to prevent a return to the wild period.
  • Force feeding and cat and mouse act – good publicity.


  • Some argue that their ‘terrorist’ methods delayed the vote – govt. couldn’t give in to them
  • Pro female suffrage candidates tended to do badly in by elections.
  • Posters ripped up.
  • Membership dropped.
  • Caused divisions in the movement.
  • SUCCESS: M Mackenzie “prior to 1914 it was the WSPU who revitalised the question of votes for women”.
  • FAILURE: Morrison criticises their targets. If they had hit docks, or railway (economic tactics) the government would have taken them far more seriously.

Problems faced by the Women’s Suffrage Movement:

Splits in the Movement.



Sylvia Pankhurst

Radical Suffragists

Women’s Freedom League (1907)

Women’s Suffrage Federation (1914)


More detail can be found in keyring cards.


Problems faced by the Women’s Suffrage Movement:

Conciliation Bills (would enfranchise women)


Votes for women getting the vote = 225

Votes against = 88

- Therefore, passes first reading.

1911-1912: Suffragettes wage a violent

campaign against MPs.


Votes for women getting the vote = 208

Votes against = 222

– Therefore, fails second reading.


analysis overview
Analysis Overview
  • Women did not achieve the vote by 1914.
  • However, the Suffragists and Suffragettes did put the issue of votes for women on the political map.
homework activity
Homework Activity

Task:Complete a detailed summary of the obstacles which faced the women’s suffrage movement.

Due:Monday 20th August

  • Fully explain why FOUR factors were obstacles for women’s suffrage (don’t cover Suffragettes & Suffragists)
  • Use your keyring cards for detail
  • Include evidence, analysis & historiography for each

This summary is for YOUR benefit and as such, the end product will be decided by you. You may wish to make a PowerPoint, mind-map, written report or podcast.

If unsure, see Miss MacKay for advice.


The Women's Suffrage Movement

  • An evaluation of the contribution of the Suffragettes & Suffragists.
debate activity

Yeah but, no, but…

History essays demand

argument and analysis.

To prepare us for that, we

will complete a debating task.

As such, we will use evidence

to argue BOTH sides & back

it up with historiography.

why had women not gained the vote by 1914
Why had women NOT gained the vote by 1914?

ACTIVITY 1: Evaluating & Comparing the

contribution of the Suffragettes & Suffragists.

  • You will complete the debate exercise by applying content knowledge, argument & analysis.
  • Use your keyring notes, class notes, booklet & available textbooks to assist you.



activity 2

Read the following statements:

  • Women had made no social or political progress before 1914.
  • Women had made some social but no political progress before 1914.
  • Women were second class citizens in ALL ways before 1914.
  • Women had made considerable social & some political progress before 1914.
  • Women could not be called second class citizens before 1914.
  • Task:
  • Choose which of the above statements you this is/are correct
  • Support your choice(s) with detailed evidence & analysis
  • For each of the statements you rejected, explain with evidence & analysis WHY you rejected them.

Yeah but, no, but…

There are 4 sheets on paper in

the room. On each you

MUST apply KU &


E.g. The Suffragists contributed greatly to women gaining to vote.


Women & WWI

  • The changing role of women
the new woman pre wwi changes
The ‘New Woman’: Pre WWI Changes

Prior to WWI the lives of some women began

to change in the following areas:

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Law
  • Politics
  • By 1914, 349 secondary/grammar schools were opened to girls.
  • Most universities allowed women to enter but denied them degrees.
  • Colleges opened just for women


As women became better educated, they were

no longer viewed as “too stupid” to vote – they

were now thought to be more deserving of the


  • Still denied better paid and more interesting male jobs.
  • New white collar/office jobs opening up for women – eg. clerical or typing.


New white collar jobs gave women sense of

responsibility and they now had ambitions.

Some women wanted to improve their

opportunities and sought the vote in an

attempt to achieve this.

  • Changes to the law had helped some women:


Married Women’s Property Acts 1870 and 1882.

  • Allowed women to be the legal owners of the money they earn
  • Allowed them to own and control their own property.

Analysis :

As the law was beginning to improve the rights of

women – women believed that their rights could now

be improved further by gaining the right to vote.


Women were given a small part in politics.


  • 1869 – allowed to vote in local council elections.
  • 1870 – women were allowed to join school boards.
  • 1894 – women were allowed to stand as candidates in local elections.
Politics Analysis:

Women were annoyed that they could not

be trusted with this responsibility at

national level.

  • Women were joining political parties such as the Conservative Party’s Primrose League 1883 or the Women’s Liberal Federation 1887.
  • Women were fed up with the two big parties not helping them.
  • Professor Yeo argues that this led to the Suffragists being formed.
impact of wwi
Impact of WWI

Mrs Pankhurst suspended all

campaigning in order to fully

support the war effort.

During WWI, women filled

the place of men by taking

on jobs previously dominated

by men.

war work
War Work
  • Munitions 1917 = 819 000
  • Nursing 1917 = 45 000
  • Transport 1915 =117 000

The dangers of working in munitions factories

left many women jaundiced and infertile.

There were often explosions which caused the

deaths of large numbers of female workers.

changing attitudes
Changing Attitudes
  • Newspapers called women workers “heroines”.
  • “The Nation Thanks The Women” posters went up all over Britain
  • Some politicians (incl. Asquith) found themselves influenced by the change in public opinion
changing opinions
Changing Opinions

Asquith was PM from

1906-16. The WSPU

hated him before WW1.

In 1918 even he said -

“How could we have

fought and won the war

without them ?”

changing attitudes analysis
Changing Attitudes : Analysis

Women had the opportunity to experience:

  • Higher wages
  • More interesting jobs
  • Increased freedom


Marwick argues that men working beside women and observing their hard work and responsible attitudes fostered a new respect for them. Women now appeared more deserving of the right to vote.

representation of the people act june 1918
Representation of the People Act, June 1918
  • Parliament knew it would have to allow young men the right to vote.
  • Men over 21 allowed to vote.
  • Married women (to property owners), property holders, or University graduates allowed to vote.
  • This was only for women OVER 30 years of age.
  • Still unfair but 8 million women did gain the right to vote.
reward for war work
Reward for War Work?

Martin Pugh argues women would have

been given the vote eventually, as Britain

would not want to seem undemocratic and lag

behind other countries – e.g. New Zealand,

Australia and Canada, especially as WW1 was

supposedly fought to preserve democracy.

reward for war work1
Reward for War Work?

Arthur Marwick states:

“The war brought a new confidence to

women, removed apathy, silenced the

female anti-suffragists. Asquith was

only the most prominent of the

converts among men. Undoubtedly, the

replacement of militant suffragette

activity by frantic patriotic endeavour

played its part well”.

activity 1

You will independently complete the following tasks:

  • Types of work done by women in WWI
  • How did war work help women gain the vote?
  • Was the vote a reward for war work?
  • What changes took place during WWI which helped women gain the vote?
  • Did WWI delay women gaining the vote?
  • Voting reforms
  • ‘Yeah, but, no, but: Suffragists & Suffragettes

Additional support: Keyring notes & textbook


On Friday we will be having a quick fire quiz about what we have learned so far.

You will be required to learn KU, understand analysis and historiography. (If you haven’t already done so!)