Do you agree with the view that the First World War hindered rather than helped the case of female suffrage? [40 Marks]

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(b) Do you agree with the view that the First World War hindered rather than helped the case of female suffrage? [40 Marks]

I achieved the full 40 marks for this response

In the sources presented, there are contrasting views as to whether the First World War helped or hindered the cause of female suffrage. 

On the one hand, there were many people who argued that because women had worked so relentlessly during the war, it would be impossible to deny them the vote. This is argued in source 4 in which Asquith states it would be “impossible to withhold from women the power and the right of making their voices heard”, implying that women’s work and effort throughout the war should be recognised and their deeds should not simply be ‘swept under the table’, so to say. During the war some 4 million women were employed in jobs previously done by men, whether this is from munitions factories and land girls, to the extent of secretarial and administration work following the invention of the typewriter and telephone. What is unusual about source 4, is the individual this source has come from. Asquith was a Liberal MP most infamous in fact, for his anti-female enfranchisement views. Now, post war Asquith does change his mind on the issue and goes onto support female suffrage, however at this point he was still believed to be against the cause. Perhaps Asquith has given this speech with the intention of regaining support after losing the Prime Minister post to David Lloyd George in 1916 during the coalition government, therefore this source although somewhat accurate, provides less weight for the argument the war helped the cause of women’s suffrage.

However, source 6 challenges source 4 and presents the idea that in fact the war actually “obstructed votes for women” as according to this source it was seen that although women were taking over men’s previous jobs and even working within the armed forces themselves, they were still seen as “physically weaker” than men. This resurfaces the ideology of separate spheres somewhat, as later in the source it explains “the separation of the roles was also reinforced by geography” implying again that men and women have separate roles, men being the superior and stronger of the two as they were the ones who travelled overseas and fought on front lines.  This idea seemingly enforced that women were still not fit to vote.

This idea however can just as easily be challenged by source 5; an extract of a letter written by Lord Selborne to Salisbury in 1916. In this source Selborne states not only would it be “unjust to women” to avoid the issue of their enfranchisement, but would also be “dangerous to the state” if they only enfranchised fighting men but excluded women. As Selborne goes on to explain, this is because he believes, as more began to at this time - that women voters would become inherent in the near future, and for the…


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