Votes For Women

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  • Victorians believed a women's role was as a wife and mother. Should obey her husband
  • Before 1870 most working class girls recieved no education
  • By 1880 it was compulsory that all children between 5-10 go to school. By 1900 97% of all kids could read and write
  • Nearly all working class women had to work e.g. domestic servant, factories and workshops
  • They often had to leave when they got married
  • Paid less than men for the same job
  • By 1900 middle class girls had more freedoms - accepted in unis
  • Couldn't become MP's
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Suffragists (NUWSS)

  • In 1886 campaigners tried to get votes for women. It failed but campaigns continued.
  • In 1897 Millicent Fawcett linked lots of these groups together to form the NUWSS
  • Due to this being national the movement gained more support
  • By 1914 there were 400 branches all over Britain with over 100,000 members
  • It was democratic an elected a president
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Suffragettes (WSPU)

  • Formed by Emmeline Pankhurst and her 2 daughters - Christabel and Sylvia - in 1903
  • Branches all over the country but weren't democratic
  • Sey up because they were annoyed at the methods of the NUWSS
  • 'Deeds not words'
  • In 1905 Christabel caused a disturbance at a liberal meeting. Arrested and offered prison or fine. Chose prison
  • Brought a lot of publicity
  • Didn't let men join
  • In 1906 they moved HQ from Manchester to London to attract middle and upper class women
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Arguments for Votes for Women

  • Parliament's decisions affect men and women - women should vote for who is in parliament!
  • Women have special skills and expertise that men aren't so skilled in
  • Women pay taxes - shouldn't be taxed unless they vote
  • Uneducated working class men can vote but educated women can't
  • Women can vote in local elections - shown they can be trusted
  • Many single and widowed women have the same responsibilities as men - responsible
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Arguments against Votes for Women

  • If women get the vote they will want careers as well and will neglect their families - only dull stupid people will have kids
  • Women are not rational
  • Men and women have different responsibilities and interests
  • Women are noble and pure - should be protected from politics
  • Too many other important issues
  • Only middle class women really want the vote - not interested in helping working class
  • Women don't fight in wars so don't deserve the vote
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Methods used

  • Propaganda - used by both. WSPU had its own newspaper. Used their colours to sell jewelery etc. Also used postcards, posters, leaflets
  • Meeting and demonstrations - Both held meetings. Could attract up to 20,000 people and were held all over Britain - kept issue in public eye
  • Putting pressure on parliament - Petitions. Over 250,000 signed it to support the 1910 councilation bill. Also met with MP's
  • Civil disobedience - Argued they shouldn't pay taxes. Also refused to take part in 1911 census.
  • Attacking people - Individuals were singled out
  • Attacking property - Smashed windows, especially gov. buildings, used arson in 1913. Planted a bomb at Lloyd George's house. Burnt messages into golf courts, cut telephone wires, attacked pieces of art
  • Hunger strikes - Started in 1909 - got sympathy. Increased when gov. used force feeding. 
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  • Turned to violence for 3 reasons - thought peaceful methods weren't working, once banned from gov. meetings they couldn't peacefully protest, government had started to use violence
  • Many argue violence turned the public away from them
  • Reinforced the idea women weren't responsible
  • WSPU argued change only comes about through violence
  • Methods kept the issue on the front page
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Reactions of the press, government and public

  • Some newspapers e.g. the times were totally against VFW.
  • Most supported, but condemned violence
  • Asquith = against, MP's that did support didn't feel strongly
  • Protesters were dealt with harshly even before WSPU violence
  • Women were humiliated in prison
  • Passed Cat and Mouse act in 1913
  • WSPU failed to win over majority of men
  • Some men supported and even joined NUWSS
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Did violent methods work?

  • Yes - Made female suffrage front page news. People got used to the idea of VFW. Aquith was already against VFW - violence didnt make it any worse. 
  • No - Gov had an exuse not to give in. Couldn't be seen giving in to violence. Turned moderate men against the idea. Showed women weren't responsible. In 1913/14 women turned away from the WSPU to the NUWSS due to violence
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Impact of WW1

  • WSPU and NUWSS called off campaigns but NUWSS was more reluctant
  • By 1918 1 million more women were in work than 1914 - showed they could act responsibly
  • Some argued the war held up getting the vote
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Actions during the war

  • Suffragettes - Worked well with gov. Their funds helped the government. In 1915 they organised the 'womans right to serve march'. Re named their newspaper - became more patriotic than men. Demanded conscription + gave white feathers to non-uniform men. Not everyone agreed - Sylvia Pankhurst set up an organisation to criticise the war
  • Suffragists - Millicent Fawcett supported the war but was against white feathers and conscription. They set up an employment register in 1915 and trained women for jobs like nurses, doctors and ambulance drivers on front line. Continued to hold meetings and organise petitions
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Winning the vote

  • In 1916 the government began planning changes to voting
  • Done because men fighting the war were unable to vote as the law said anyone abroad for more than a year couldnt vote
  • When Millicent Fawcett heard this she asked that VFW were considered
  • In 1917 they agreed. Women over 30 could vote and become MP's. Men over 21 could vote. 
  • Out of 21 million voters, 8 million were women. However many women who worked during the war were still excluded
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