Suffragettes and Suffragists

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History GCSE
British depth study 1906 ­ 1918
What rights did women have in the 19th century?
Legal Rights
For a long time married women weren't protected by law ­ women had no legal rights to their children
In 1857 The Matrimonial Clauses Act made it easier for divorce in a normal court ­ you had to prove adultery,
cruelty or desertion
o Previously only parliament could grant divorce
In 1870 The Married Women's Property Act gave the women a right to keep their earning when they got married
o Previously all earnings went to husband
o In 1882 it was extended to allow women to keep their own property
In 1884 Married women were recognised as their own individual and not a possession of their husbands
In 1886 The Married Women Act said that women who had been deserted had to be paid maintenance by the
In 1886 The Guardianship of Children Act allowed women to be legal guardians of their own children ­ and
allowed them to manage any property the children had
Social Rights
Women earned less than men and worked very long hours in sweat trades
They were barred from several professions like Law and Medicine
Middle Class women had some access to higher education and professional jobs ­ but this was limited
o Queens College London opened to train women as teachers in 1848
o Florence Nightingale made Nursing respectable for women and she opened a training college for them
In 1891 Free and Compulsory education for all boys and GIRLS
In 1894 The Parish Council Act allowed women to serve on urban and parish councils
In 1896 The Factory Act bans employment of women after 4 weeks after having a child
o In 1901 workings hours were reduced for women by 1 hour (under the Factory Act)
Political Rights
Women could not vote in National elections
In 1894 The Parish Council Act allowed married women to vote for parish or district councils
What were the arguments for and against female suffrage?
In the 19th century, new job opportunities emerged for women as teachers, shop workers or as clerks and secretaries
in offices. Many able girls from working-class backgrounds achieved better paid jobs with higher status than those of
their parents. Women gained greater opportunities in education. Some women were able to go to university and
become doctors. Laws between 1839 and 1886 gave married women greater legal rights. However they could not
vote in general elections. The number of men who could vote had increased during the 19th century. Some thought
women should get the vote but others disagreed
For Against
Respectable middle class women could not vote while Politics was too corrupt for women
uneducated, illiterate men could
Some MPs and men thought women should be allowed to If women were given the vote, then middle class women
vote would value careers over family
There were single women and widows who had to look Woman's job was to run the home and raise the family, they
after their families and were the main owners, they should should be doing domestic duties
be allowed to vote
They pay taxes, so they should have a say in how money Women are too emotional and irrational as their brains
was spent weigh less and they are guided by their womb

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History GCSE
Women should already vote in local elections and showed There were more important problems (like Ireland) that
they could sensible decisions should be solved first
All men and women are equal in the eyes of God, so should Women are too ignorant of politics to be able to use their
have equal opportunities vote properly
Other countries already allowed women to vote Many women did not want to vote (Queen Victoria)
Women have different skills and expertise to men, so they They are…read more

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History GCSE
Conciliation Bill
In 1911, the government promised a Conciliation Bill which won all party support. The suffragettes suspended all
militant action. The suffragists held 4000 meetings to support the bill. It get a majority of 167. But then Asquith
dropped the bill. Instead he announced he would introduce votes for all men and a clause could be added on to the
bill about women's votes if the MPs wished.…read more


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