How and Why Did Women Try to Win the Vote?


Arguments FOR the vote

  • improving the lives of women so they were valued equally to mens and so they got what they wanted such as an Equal Pay Act
  • get rid of prostitution 
  • improve men's sexual behaviour
  • much higher moral standards
  • pre-marital sex --> disappear
  • follow other countries 
  • 'right'
  • not a true democracy until women have the vote
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Arguments AGAINST the vote

  • women (cooking, looking after the home etc) and men (work and politics) have separate spheres
  • most women do not want the vote
  • womens' role is in local affairs
  • women are already represented by their husbands
  • it's dangerous to change a system that works
  • women do not fight to defend their country 
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The Suffragists (NUWSS)

  • National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies 
  • Millicent Fawcett --> president for 20 years
  • writing, lecturing and organising petitions
  • national organisation:
    1914 --> 400 branches, 100,000 members
  • democratic organisation --> elected president and committee
  • many were middle-class
  • did have some working class women
  • men were allowed to join 


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The Suffragettes (WSPU)

  • Women's Social and Political Union
  • Emmeline Pankhurst --> her and daughters controlled organisation
  • impatient with Suffragists peaceful methods
  • militancy was news
  • men- not allowed to join
  • recruited manly middle and upper class women
  • membership of working class women fell 
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Methods used to win the vote

Peaceful Methods:

  • propaganda
  • meetings and demonstrations
  • putting pressure on Parliament
  • civil disobedience 
  • ^ mainly Suffragists

Violent and Illegal Methods:

  • attacking property
  • attacking people
  • hunger strikes --> prison, gain sympathy
  • Emily Davison 'killed herself' by running out in front of the King's horse in the derby
  • ^^ Suffragettes in particular 
  • ^ Response by the government:
    -Cat and Mouse Act: hunger strikers were released to recover their health, once recovered they were re-arrested to serve the rest of their sentence
    -force feeding 
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Why the vote was NOT achieved by 1914

Suffragette Impact

  • made the front page news- lots of media attention and publicity
  • the issue was not going away
  • however, it gave the government a reason not to give in as they cannot be seen as giving into violence 
  • violence showed that women were irresponsible 
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Different reactions to WW1


  • still held meetings and petitions
  • supported war effort
  • opposed conscription and giving of white feathers
  • set up employment register


  • encouraged women to work
  • funds used to help the government
  • became more patriotic to men
  • military conscription and white feathers 

War work:

  • women took the jobs of men- showed they could act responsibly
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Reasons why some women got the vote in 1918

  • defended their country --> war work
  • aged over 30 --> MP's believed they wouldn't vote Labour
  • working class women could vote to make it more fair
  • the government were afraid Suffragettes would restart their violent campaigning 
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