How and why did women try to win the vote?

  • Created by: jaaaz_v
  • Created on: 09-06-15 19:05

Position of women in the 1890s

  • Many people believed in "separate spheres". So women were better suited to being a wife and mother, while decision making and whatnot should be left to the man.
  • When a woman got married, her and all of her possessions became the property of her husband.
  • Women were generally considered as inferior - they couldn't vote or own their own properties.
  • Many working class girls didn't go to school because it was their duty to obey their husbands and make his life as easy as possible.
  • Women had menial occupations - domestic servants, textile factories, lalala.
  • At the start of the 20th century new opportunities arose for women and many started getting an education and entering more skilled jobs like teaching and nursing.
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Arguments for and against giving women the vote


  • Many women were more educated then some men - why should they be kept from voting when those men aren't?
  • Voting is a right to which women should be entitled.
  • Britain isn't a true democracy until women get the vote.
  • Women were proving themselves in new jobs and local politics.


  • Women were too emotional and lacked the right intelligence to vote.
  • Not many women even wanted the vote.
  • Women were already represented by their husbands.
  • Women didn't fight to defend their country.
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The suffragists - NUSWSS

  • National Union of Womens Suffrage Societies (NUWSS)
  • They were the larger organisation - with over 100,000 members.
  • Mainly middle-class and working-class women, and men were allowed to join.
  • They believed in peaceful methods of protests and thought this would get them gradual change.
  • Millicent Fawcett was their leader.

Methods used include:

  • Leaflets and petitions
  • Pin badges, belts, posters, leaflets, postcards and whatnot.
  • Meetings and demonstrations all over Britain.


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The suffragettes (WSPU)

  • Womens Social and Political Union (WSPU)
  • This was the smaller organisation that was set up and ran by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia.
  • They weren't happy with the tactics used by the suffragists and used more violent protests to gain attention - "deeds not words"
  • Men weren't allowed to join the group, and members were mainly middle and upper-class women.

Methods used:

  • Attacking MPs and property
  • Hunger strikes 
  • Emily Davidson threw herself in front of the Kings horse at the 1913 Derby.
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Response of the government to the suffragettes

  • Some MPs were sympathetic and some were angry.
  • Many suffragettes were banned from liberal meetings and were arrested.
  • The female prison hunger strikes got so out of hand that the government were forced to take action. They introduced force feeding and then the "cat and mouse" act.
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Why was the vote not achieved in 1914?

The actions of the suffragettes kept the topic of votes for women in the media, making sure that the issue couldn't be ignored any longer.

However, the violent tactics used gave the government the reason that they needed not to pass any changes. They couldn't be seen giving in to violence.

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Reactions to ww1

  • Both the suffragists and the suffragettes stopped campaigning.
  • The suffragettes encouraged men to join up using the white feathers tactic, and demanded to be allowed to work in munitions factories.
  • The suffragists didn't support the war but helped to set up employment agencies and training schools for women.
  • Women did vital war work like working as bus drivers and postal workers to help keep Britain going while the men were away. They also joined womens branches of the armed forces and worked as nurses in military hospitals.
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Reasons why women had got the vote in 1918

  • By taking over the roles of men during the war they'd proved that they were just as capable as men and important to public life.
  • Nobody wanted the suffragettes to start their violent campaigns again.
  • Attitudes in Britain had changed.
  • The voting system was being changed anyway.
  • At the end of the war the Representation of the People Act gave women over 30 the vote. This was extended in 1928 to give all women over the age of 21 the vote (like men).
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