GCSE History: Women's Suffrage

*Please inform  me of any mistakes or any additions which would benefit this as a revision tool. I am a little worried that the timeline cards may be slightly inaccurate so if you have anything to point out, please do :)

Shall add soon indepth cards about : Black Friday, Imprisonment, Emily Davison

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Women in 1900

*No vote
*Few marital rights - sexual abuse (consent came with marriage), physical abuse, adultery 
*Lack of female aspiration - Women were only fit for the home and marriage.

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HOWEVER, a few acts had come in to improve female life in Britain.

1857 - The Matrimonial Act > divorce available more easily but only through the grounds of adultery, abuse and abandonment. TRIPLE A
1870 - Married Women's Act > if the husband left, the wife was entitled to living expenses through this act.
1870 - Married Women's Property Act > belongings or moneys that had belonged to the women prior to marriage are still her property after the couple marries.
1886 - Guardianship of Infants Act > the mother holds legal responsibility for the child after divorce and the childs possesions also the mothers responsibility if the father dies.

Still, this didn't satisfy many women

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Against the Vote

  • God Intended men and women to have seperate spheres
    Different interests and roles in the world
  • Most women didn't want the vote
    Women had "no interest" in public affairs. If they were offered the vote, it wouldn't get used.
  • Women are already represented by their husbands
    Therefore, "did not need the vote"
  • Women don't fight to defend their country
    Women didn't "deserve" the vote as they did not defend their nation. They wouldn't want Britain to fight wars and if Britain didn't, Britain's "power place" in the world would fall.
  • Women are too emotional and unrational for the vote
    They were "mad" "fustrated" "Spinsters" "hysterical"
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For the Vote

  • The vote would equalize men and women
    Men and women are equal before God. If equality was made clear, women could enter parliament and have laws passed to improve their lives. Wages would be more equal and equal rights within marriage and divorce also.
  • Women are capable of being involved in politics
    Many women are politically aware/active.
  • Changes in womens "intended" roles
    New jobs in society were evolving with some acceptanc of womens capabilities and new technologies (ie. teachers and typists). Many upperclass women were gaining a second education at University and some become doctors. They were in major roles in society and yet didn't get the vote.
  • Other countries already had the vote
    New Zealand and Australia has the vote. Britain was falling behind in social advancment.
  • Vote will improve men's moral sexual behaviour
    Equality of the sexes meant they would be following a higher moral standard. Men destroyed chasity.
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Suffragists (NUWSS)

    National Union of WOmen's Suffrage Societies
  • Founded in 1897
  • Founded by Millicent Fawcett and Linda Becker
  • Men offered participation in the NUWSS.
    They wrote letters and petitions
  • Long-term persuasion - did it win the vote?
  • Low-Key: Held public meetings, petitions, wrote letters to politicians and published material on suffrage
  • Felt that violence would "alienate" potential supporters
    -No sympathy would come from a violent woman
  • 100, 000 members
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Suffragettes (WSPU)

  • WSPU
    Women's Social and Political Union
  • Founded in 1903
  • Founded by the Pankhurst girls: Emmeline and her daughters, Sylvia and Christabel
  • Anti-Men
    No contribution allowded from men
  • Caused a lot of anger - did it lose cause for the vote?
  • Violent: "Deeds not words" - HOWEVER, politicians weren't going to be seen giving in to violence
  • Some thought they were courageous
  • 2,000 members


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1906 - Liberal Landslide Victory
> Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman supports votes for women

1907 - Mud March
> NUWSS holds a procession in London. Over 3000 women marched through cold, wet weather and mud.

1908 - Asquith becomes PM
>Herbert Asquith of the Liberal party was against women's votes.
> He challenges them to find a majoritive number of people in favour of women's votes.

-First Window-Smashing Incident

- Downing Street Attacked
>Both groups are involved in a procession through London. Asquith ignores them. The WSPU reacts violently and begin chaining themselves to railings.

-NUWSS and WSPU split
>NUWSS feel that WSPU are making the Government hostile to the idea of women's suffrage.

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Timeline Continued...

1909 - Force-feeding imprisoned suffrage supporters begins

1910 - WSPU calls a truce on violence
> They do so to allow the Liberal Party to consider a Concilliation Bill (created by NUWSS) for the vote after Asquith agrees to work with them

-Black Friday
> Asquith rejects the Bill
>Subsequently the violence began again in a protest called "Black Friday"
>Many women were sexually and physically abused during Black Friday

1911 - WSPU call anothe truce on violence
>In order for Concilliation Bill #2 to be passed
>It was dropped again
>Violence began again

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Timeline Continued...

1912 - WSPUs Window-Smashing Campaign
>Many arrested and WSPU HQ is raided

-Christabel Pankhurt flees to Paris

1913 - Cat and Mouse Act introduced
>If a prisoner falls sick due to the hunger-strike, they were released but then to be rearrested when they'd recovered. There was no-longer any point in the hungerstrikes.

-Emily Davison dies
>Is killed by a horse at the Epsom Derby

1914 - Sylvia Pankhurt is expelled from WSPU
>She becomes a pacifist  

- War begins
>Both groups agree to suspend campaigns in order to help with the war effort
>The Government relases WSPU prisoners

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The Timeline Events

The events of the previous cards had pros and cons to the campaign.


  • Spread publicity & awarness
  • Pressured the Government
  • Both groups could collaborate for a stronger impact
  • Women are shown as willing to sacrifice& capable of being involved in politics


  • Made the public angry
  • Made the Government look weak
  • Made women seem too extreme
  • Made women seem hysterical and mad; they didn't deserve the vote
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Women in WWI

The First World War...

  • gave women an opportunity to show men how capable they were through war effort
  • had the NUWSS help train women when the time came for them to take over mens work
  • some women were unwilling to participate but many wanted to support the war effort
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Women and Work

> men had left and jobs left empty
> many women succesfully worked in these jobs and some did BETTER than the men

Equality Issues
> Women paid less
> Women promoted less likely
> Many sacked due to discrimination against them
> Simple clothing required for the mens work became normal for women (ie trousers)

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War Effort

Specific work that was aimed at women was created

  • Women's Land Army
  • Voluntary Aid Detachments

And the jobs they took over from the men included

  • munitions
  • engineering
  • banking
  • nurses at battlefronts and at home
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Concerns over womens war effort

  • Many male workers, trade unions and factory owners
    >against women working in factories
  • Male workers thought that the industry and business would fail under a womans "limited skills"
  • Male workers also thought that employers would accept more women due to "accepting low wages" and thus, leaving men without jobs
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Womens War Work Helpful in getting Suffrage?

  • Women began having two roles during the war
    >Home and work
  • With the war work, the had an active role in society
  • They now had a vital responsibility in their nation
  • Sone expectations had changed
  • The public began to accept
  • The government began to accept
  • More accepting due to contribution to war effort
  • The Government is now in a position to give the vote without being "defeated"
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