Background[ edit ] Until the Great Reform Act specified 'male persons', a few women had been able to vote in parliamentary elections through property ownership, although this was rare. This right was confirmed in the Local Government Act and extended to include some married women. After the enactment of the Reform Act, the MP Henry Hunt argued that any woman who was single, a taxpayer and had sufficient property should be allowed to vote.
One such wealthy woman, Mary Smith, was used in this speech as an example. The Chartist Movement , which began in the late s, has also been suggested to have included supporters of female suffrage. There is some evidence to suggest William Lovett , one of the authors of the People's Charter wished to include female suffrage as one of the campaign's demands but chose not to on the grounds that this would delay the implementation of the charter.
Although there were female Chartists, they largely worked toward universal male suffrage. At this time most women did not have aspirations to gain the vote. There is a poll book from which clearly shows thirty women's names among those who voted. These women were playing an active role in the election. On the roll, the wealthiest female elector was Grace Brown, a butcher. Due to the high rates that she paid, Grace Brown was entitled to four votes.
In error, however, her name had been added to the election register and on that basis she succeeded in voting in a by-election — her vote however was later declared illegal by the Court of Common Pleas.
The case, however, gave women's suffrage campaigners great publicity. Outside pressure for women's suffrage was at this time diluted by feminist issues in general. Women's rights were becoming increasingly prominent in the s as some women in higher social spheres refused to obey the gender roles dictated to them.
Feminist goals at this time included the right to sue an ex-husband after divorce achieved in and the right for married women to own property fully achieved in after some concession by the government in The issue of parliamentary reform declined along with the Chartists after and only reemerged with the election of John Stuart Mill in He stood for office showing direct support for female suffrage and was an MP in the run up to the second Reform Act.
Early suffragist societies[ edit ] This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. February Learn how and when to remove this template message In the same year that John Stuart Mill was elected , the first Ladies Discussion Society was formed, debating whether women should be involved in public affairs.
Although a society for suffrage was proposed, this was turned down on the grounds that it might be taken over by extremists. However, later that year Leigh Smith Bodichon formed the first Women's Suffrage Committee and within a fortnight collected 1, signatures in favour of female suffrage in advance to the second Reform Bill. She was also involved with the London group, and organised the collection of more signatures.
However, in June the London group split, partly a result of party allegiance, and partly the result of tactical issues. Conservative members wished to move slowly to avoid alarming public opinion, while Liberals generally opposed this apparent dilution of political conviction. The suffragists were known as the parliamentaries. As well as campaigning for women's suffrage, it sought to advance women's position in local government.
The formation of a national movement[ edit ] Women's political groups[ edit ] A handbill complaining about sexual discrimination during the movement. Although women's political party groups were not formed with the aim to achieve women's suffrage, they did have two key effects.
Firstly, they showed women who were members to be competent in the political arena and as this became clear, secondly, it brought the concept of female suffrage closer to acceptance.
The Primrose League[ edit ] The Primrose League was set up to promote Conservative values through social events and supporting the community. As women were able to join, this gave females of all classes the ability to mix with local and national political figures. Many also had important roles such as bringing voters to the polls.
This removed segregation and promoted political literacy amongst women. The League, however, did not promote women's suffrage as one of its objectives. The Women's Liberal Associations[ edit ] Although there is evidence to suggest that they were originally formed to promote female franchise the first being in Bristol in , WLAs often did not hold such an agenda. They did, however, operate independently from the male groups. They became more active when they came under the control of the Women's Liberal Federation , and canvassed all classes for support of women's suffrage and against domination.
There was significant support for woman suffrage in the Liberal Party, which was in power after , but a handful of leaders, especially H. Asquith , blocked all efforts in Parliament. At this point, all campaigners were suffragists, not suffragettes. Up until , all campaigning took the constitutional approach. It was after the defeat of the first Women's Suffrage Bill that the Manchester and London committees joined together to gain wider support.
The main methods of doing so at this time involved lobbying MPs to put forward Private Member's Bills. However such bills rarely pass and so this was an ineffective way of actually achieving the vote. This is notable as the first attempt to create a unified front to propose women's suffrage, but had little effect due to several splits, once again weakening the campaign.
WSPU poster Up until , the campaign stayed at this relatively ineffective level. Campaigners came predominantly from the landed classes and joined together on a small scale only. This society linked smaller groups together and also put pressure on non-supportive MPs using various peaceful methods. Pankhursts and suffragettes[ edit ] Main article: This had the effect of energizing all dimensions of the suffrage movement.
While there was a majority of support for suffrage in parliament, the ruling Liberal Party refused to allow a vote on the issue; the result of which was an escalation in the suffragette campaign.
The WSPU, in contrast to its allies, embarked on a campaign of violence to publicize the issue, even to the detriment of its own aims. It provided for the release of those whose hunger strikes and forced feeding had brought them sickness, as well as their re-imprisonment once they had recovered. The result was even greater publicity for the cause. Historian Martin Pugh says, "militancy clearly damaged the cause. Their battle with Liberals have become a "kind of holy war, so important that it could not be called off even if continuing it prevented suffrage reform.
Although non-historians often assumed the WSPU was primarily responsible for obtaining women's suffrage, historians are much more skeptical about its contribution.
It is generally agreed that the WSPU revitalized the suffrage campaign initially, but that it is escalation of militancy after impeded reform. Recent studies have shifted from claiming that the WSPU was responsible for women's suffrage to portraying it as an early form of radical feminism that sought to liberate women from male-centered gender system.
Parliament expands suffrage [ edit ] During the war, a select group of parliamentary leaders decided on a policy that would expand the suffrage to all men, and to most women. During the war, a serious shortage of able-bodied men "manpower" occurred, and women were required to take on many of the traditional male roles. With the approval of the labour unions, "dilution" was agreed upon. Complicated factory jobs handled by skilled men were diluted or simplified so that they could be handled by less skilled men and women.
The result was a large increase in women workers, concentrated in munitions industries of highest priority to winning the war. This led to a new view of what a woman was capable of doing, at the same time the anti-suffrage hostility caused by pre-war militant tactics declined.
All the major women's groups strongly supported the war effort. Pacifism existed on the left of politics, especially in the trade unions, but did not play a major role in creating opposition to women's suffrage.
Until now suffrage was based on occupational qualifications of men. Millions of women were now meeting those occupational qualifications, which in any case were so old-fashioned that the consensus was to remove them. For example, a male voter who joined the Army might lose the right to vote, which was an intolerable result. In early , suffragist organizations privately agreed to downplay their differences, and resolve that any legislation increasing the number of votes should also enfranchise women.
Local government officials proposed a simplification of the old system of franchise and registration, and the Labour cabinet member in the new coalition government, Arthur Henderson , called for universal suffrage, with an age cutoff of 21 for men and 25 for women. Most male political leaders showed anxiety about having a female majority in the new electorate. Parliament turned over the issue to a new Speakers Conference, a special committee from all parties from both houses, chaired by the Speaker.
They began meeting in October , in secret. A majority of 15 to 6 supported votes for some women; by 12 to 10, it agreed on a higher age cut off for women. With the Conservative Party in full control in , it passed the Representation of the People Equal Franchise Act that extended the voting franchise to all women over the age of 21, granting women the vote on the same terms as men,   although one Conservative opponent of the bill warned that it risked splitting the party for years to come.
Pankhurst, alongside her two daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, founded and led the Women's Social and Political Union, an organisation which was focused on direct action to win the vote. After many years of struggle and adversity, women finally gained suffrage but Emmeline died shortly after this. She had a peaceful approach to issues presented to the organisations and the way to get points across to society.
She supported the Married Women's Property Act and the social purity campaign. Two events influenced her to become even more involved: Millicent, who supported staying independent of political parties, made sure that the parts separated came together to become stronger by working together.
By supporting the British in World War I, she thought women would be recognised as a prominent part of Europe and deserved basic rights such as voting. Her sister was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson an English physician and feminist, and the first woman to gain a medical qualification in Britain. Elizabeth was elected mayor of Aldeburgh in and gave speeches for suffrage.
She expressed her feminist ideas on paper and was also a major supporter and influential figure during the twentieth century. In addition to suffrage, she supported more rights for women such as access to education. She wrote works and had power with words. She was a large supporter in the times where organisations were trying to reach people for a change. She was imprisoned after heckling Winston Churchill. She left England after her release, eventually emigrating to the United States and settling in New York.
She worked in the trade union movement and in became a full-time official of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union. In , Mary's nieces donated her papers to New York University. The overall effect of the suffragette militancy, however, was to set back the cause of women's suffrage.