Female Suffrage



1900 - Most working men could vote

Women's role - wife and a mother

1901 - Queen Victoria dies

Working class women

1880 - compulsry schooling for everyone aged 5 to 10 years

Girls taught housewifery, laundry work and cookery

Women worked at home, small workshops, sewing, textile factories or making matchboxes

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Background 2

Upper and Middle Class Women

Educated at home by a governess

Educated to be good housewives and mothers

Taught music, drawing to make them a good companion for a future husband

At the end of the Victorian age, changes were occuring in women's lives

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Arguments for Female Suffrage

1. New job oppurtunities for women

E.g. teachers, doctors, shop workers, secretaries --> they were responsible enough

2. Greater oppurtunities in education

E.g. university --> had sufficient intellect

3. Women could already vote locally -

E.g. voting on education boards, charity committees and Poor Law Boards --> can be trusted

4. Women paid taxes

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Arguments for Female Suffrage 2

5. Parliament's decisions affected women

6. Uneducated men can vote but well-educated women cannot

7. There are many widows and single women who bear the same responsibilities as men

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Arguments against Female Suffrage

1. A woman's place is in the home

Men and Women have different "spheres" --> a man's sphere includes public interests

2. Women are irrational

Women a too emotional

3. Women are pure

They should protected from politics

4. Women do not fight in wars

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Arguments against Female Suffrage 2

5. It will encourage them to neglect their family duties

6. More important concerns

E.g.  Ireland and trade unions

7. Giving the vote to women will mean giving it to all men

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The original campaigners for female suffrage

1897 - formed :

National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS)

Led by Milicent Fawcett

Believed in peaceful law abiding campaign

Believed in gaining democratic right by democratic means

  • Challenged MPs
  • Issued leaflets
  • Presented petitions
  • Organised meetings
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Suffragists 2

Milicant Fawcett:    Like a glacier, slow but unstoppable


- By 1900 - support of Liberal and Conservative MPs

- 1912 - supported the Labour Party in elections

They allowed men to join


Neither Liberal or Conservatives adopted female suffreage as a party policy

MPs never got time to create private bills

Numerous female suffrage bills failed in Parliament

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Caused by frustration of lack of success with NUWSS

1903 WSPU (Women's Social and Political Union) formed

Slogan = "Deeds not Words"

Daily Mail called them the Suffragettes

Leader - Emmeline Pankhurst

Key People: 

Christabel Pankhurst

Edith New

Flora Drummond

Emily Davison

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Suffragettes 2

Believed in radical, militant, direct action to show it's an important and serious issue

No men allowedChristabel was very anti-men

Made of middle-class women supporters

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13th October 1905

13th October 1905 - 
1. Christabel and Annie Kenney attended a meeting in London

2. With Sir Edward Grey (Minister in Parliament)

3. The women shouted about female suffrage

4. The police evicted them from the meeting

5. They refused to leave

6. The women kicked and spat on the police

7. They were arrested and charged with assault

8. Fined 5 shillings each

9. Refused to pay so were sent to prison

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WSPU Propaganda

Newpaper - "Votes for Women" 1907 by Pethick Lawrence's

By 1914 - 40,000 papers

Colours - 

Purple = justice

White = purity

Green = hope

Clothes, dolls, belts ect. sold with these colours

Most effective - Posters, postcards and leaflets

1908 - another suffrage bill fails

Campaign intensifies and becomes more radical

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Suffragettes Events

1908 - Edith New made speeches and chained herself to railings of Downing Street --> arrested

1908 - stones threw at 10 Downing Street windows

October 1908 - Emmeline, Christabel and Flora Drummond sent to prison for creating a "rush" to House of Commons

January 1909 - hunger strikes in prison

1910 - announce truce if governement create a policy

Conciliation Bill (women with property could vote) was lost

Asquith announce there's no more time for female suffrage

This led to "Black Friday"

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Black Friday

18th November 1910

WSPU sent 300 women to run past police

Women were assaulted and manhandled by police

Over 100 arrests

Asquith's car vandalised

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Black Friday Consequences


Press sided with Suffragettes

Pictures of women being assaulted

Liberal said they would introduce Suffrage Bill if they were


WSPU rejected this

MPs distanced themselves from WSPU

First time WSPU were met with violence

2 women died 

200 women arrested

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Conciliation Bill

1911 - Government proposed Bill

WSPU suspended militant action

WSPU held 4000 meetings, 30/day

Majority of 167 - biggest ever

Asquith dropped the bill

Introduced votes for all men and women can be added later if wanted

Suffragists and Suffragettes were FURIOUS

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Suffragists reaction

Saw PM to persuade him to rethink

Decided to support Labour Party in next election

Peaceful pilgramage from Carlisle to London - thousands of suffragists

Offered free membership to working class women

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Suffragettes Reaction


  • Abused Asquith
  • Harassed MPs
  • Smashed windows
  • Disrupted political meetings
  • Chained themselves to railings (Buckingham palace/Downing Street)
  • Attacked political buildings
  • 1913 - Emiliy Davison planted a bomb under Lloyd George's new house in Surrey
  • Poured chemicals into and set fire to post boxes
  • Bombed churches
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Suffragettes Reaction 2

  • Damaged golf courses and cricket pitches and burned messages of "No votes, No golf" with acid
  • Bombed warehouses
  • Telephone wires cut
  • Art galleries closed after Suffragettes destrying paintings

Leading to more suffragettes in prison

Resulting in hunger strikes

The government ordered force feeding

Brutal and degrading, won public support

1913 - Cat and Mouse Act -hunger strikers could leave until better

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Emily Davison and 1913 Derby

In prison 9 times

Set fire to post boxes and offices

Hunger striker

Attempted to attatch a suffragettes banner to the King's horse

Knocked over and killed

Funeral 10 days later

1,000s of suffragettes attended

Celebration of her ultimate sacrifice

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Female Suffrage Bills

January 1906 - New Liberal Government 400/650 in favour of Female Suffrage

March 1907 - Bill, but opponents delay it so long it runs out of time

February 1908 - Bill no further than a second reading

March 1909 - Radical new Bill gets majority but no further than a second reading

November 1909 - General Election and bill is dropped

June 1910 - draft Conciliation Bill

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Female Suffrage Bills 2

18th November 1910 - General Election, bill dropped

Black Friday

May 1911Conciliation bill re-introduced

November 1911Liberal Gov. will not support female but

male suffrage

March 1912 - Conciliation Bill defeated

June 1912 - Suffrage bill introduced

1913 - female suffrage bills are withdrawn

May 1913 - private bill defeated

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Opposition and Support

Most men opposed female suffrage

Several leaders of the Labour Party supported it

e.g. James Keir Hardie (firend of Sylvie Pankhurst)

Frederick Pethick-Lawrence funded the WSPU newspaper

Bailed 1,000 arrested suffragettes

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Impact of Suffragettes

Increased violence + alienated support

By 1913, many were in prison

Rivalry developed

1913-14 people left WSPU for NUWSS

1914 - WSPU only had 2,000 members

        - NUWSS had over 500 branches and 100,000 members

Raised profile, but less support

Lost support from leading supporters

Parliament lost support 1911 onwards

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Impact of Suffragettes

The Suffragettes thought :

The government was more serious

Suffragist campaigning had caused empty promises

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World War One

August 1914 - UK delcared war on Germany

Both WSPU and NUWSS suspended their campaigns

They both supported the war effort

All suffragettes were released from prison

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Suffragettes Reaction to WW1

1. 1915 - Emmeline Pankhurst started the "Right to Serve" demonstration:

 - demanded women should be able to work in munitions factories

2. They were more patriotic:

 - the paper was renamed "Britannia"

 - they were renamed "Women's Party"

3. Sylvia Pankhurst = a pacifist :

 - joined a breakaway organisation - did social work

 - criticised the war

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Suffragist Reaction to WW1

Milicent Fawcett :

 - supported war effort

 - opposed conscription and giving of white feathers

1. 1915 - employment register

 - recruited and trained women to replace soldier's jobs

2. Hospitals on the front lines :

 - all female nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers

3. Meetings and pressure on government continued

4. Some women left NUWSS to devote time to war effort

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War Effort

1. Persuaded men to join the army

Suffragettes :

 - The Order of the White Feather (symbol of cowardice)

 - Mother's Union - posters urging mothers to make their sons join the army

 - Active Service League - oath to encourage men to join the army

 - Demanded military conscription

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War Effort 2

2. Filled the labour gap :

 - easily filled office clerk jobs

 - manufacturing :

    - Employers were reluctant

    -  feared women did not have the skills and a threat to men's wages

    - most unions did not accept women

    - By 1916, the engineering industry was desperate

    - Employers were persuaded to employ women

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War Effort 3

    - The gov. set an example by employing women in their own munitions factories

    - By the end of the war 800,000 women were working in engineering

    - Showed that women were as capable as men

Munition Factories were very dangerous :

 - Shifts got longer and longer

 - Disasterous accidents - 

    - e.g. Silvertown January 1917 explosion

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War Effort 4

 - August 1916 - report said women had: 

Breathing difficulties

Rashes + yellowing of the skin - nicknamed "canaries"

Digestion problems

Blood Poisoning

Brain damage

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War Effort 5

Jobs women filled :

Bus conductors and drivers

Farm labourers (Women's Land Army)

Police Officers (Women's Police Volunteer Service0

Military support (Women's Army Auxiliary Corps)

Women from different backgrounds :

 - Married women took on their husband's job

 - Mainly unmarried women took factory jobs

 -  Servants worked with better wages and conditions in factories

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Why women got the vote

1. Chance to give "hero" soldiers abroad a chance to vote 

2.  Women were "heroines" throughout the war and proved responsible and capable

1918 Representation of the People Act

All males over 21

All female householders/married to householders over 30

9 million women affected

Women stood for Parliament - Nancy Astor - 1st MP

Full Voting Rights 1928

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