Votes for Women

Notes on the British Depth Study section "Votes for Women"

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Voting in the 1900s

Who could vote in 1800?

  • Not many - Not seen as a "human right"
  • The rich
  • Had to own property
  • Males

1911: 60% of men were allowed to vote.

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Reasons against votes for women

Even with all the suffrage movements, women did not get the vote till after the war. There were many reasons that people argued that only males should vote:

  • Different interests and responsibilities to men (family)
  • Women arn't rational - hormonal etc.
  • Would encourage women to develop careers and neglect family
  • Lead to less children and of undesirable class.
  • Women should be protected
  • Women don't fight in wars (so should have a say whether England should go to war)
  • Will have to give the vote to all men (even the uneducated - oh no!)
  • Not everyone (female)wanted the vote.
  • Same as giving men TWO votes (because women were expected to hold the same veiws as their husband).
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Reasons for women's votes

The suffragists and the suffragette had lots of good reasons why women should have the vote:

  • Women know more about the home and education
  • Parliament's decisions affect everyone
  • Women are taxpayers too and should have a say in the spending of tax money.
  • Women are churchgoers - spiritual spine of the nation
  • Some uneducated men can vote but not educated women
  • Women have increased opputunities in education and work.
  • Single women bear same responsibilities as men.
  • Can already vote in local elections and serve on local government bodies.
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  • In 1866 campaigners collected 1500 sigitures for women's suffrage
  • 1897, Millicent Fawcett linket may different organisations into NUWSS then became president of NUWSS for 20 years.
  • Democratic organisation: members elected a president and commitee which made decisions.


  • WSPU was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia in 1903.
  • Controlled by the Panhursts - not democratic.
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  • Mainly women but some men.
  • By 1914 it had more than 400 branches all over the country and over 100 000 members.


  • Did not include men and mainly midde- and working-classes.
  • Fewer branches than NUWSS
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  • To (ultimately) get votes for women.


  • To get votes for women - quicker.
  • To get publicity in order to acheive that.
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  • Writing, lecturing, petitions
  • Peaceful methods
    • Propaganda
    • Meetings and demonstrations
    • Putting pressure on parliament
    • Civil disobedience


  • "Deeds not words"
  • Non-peaceful methods (to gain publicity) i.e. militancy.
  • Attackig property/people
  • Hunger strikes
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Sir Henry Campbell:

  • 1906
  • Supports votes for women

Herbert Asquith:

  • Elected 1908
  • Against votes for women

Black Friday:

  • 1910
  • WSPU calls off violent protests as Asquith agrees to work with them and NUWSS make conciliation bill.
  • This turns to black firday

Start of WW1:

  • 1914- Suffragist activity stops.
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Emily Davison

  • Experienced suffragette campaigner
  • Well educated
  • Sent to prison 9 times and went on hunger strikes.
  • Killed on the 5th of June 1913

What is the evidence that the death of Emily Davison was not suicide?

  • She had a return ticket in her pocket
  • She was reported to have been practising with horses nearby her house.
  • Video Footage of her death
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