The women's suffrage movement
In the nineteenth century women had no place in national politics. They could not stand as candidates for Parliament. They were not even allowed to vote. It was assumed that women did not need the vote because their husbands would take responsibility in political matters. A woman's role was seen to be child-rearing and taking care of the home.
As a result of the industrial revolution many women were in full-time employment, which meant they had opportunities to meet in large organised groups to discuss political and social issues.
Organised campaigns for women's suffrage began to appear in 1866 and from 1888 women could vote in many local council elections. When parliamentary reform was being debated in 1867, John Stuart Mill proposed an amendment that would have given the vote to women on the same terms as men but it was rejected by 194 votes to 73. The campaign gained momentum after this.
Nineteenth century feminists talked about "The Cause". This described a movement for women's rights generally. It had no particular political focus. But by the close of the century the issue of the vote became the focus of women's struggle for equality.
The movement to gain votes for women had two wings, the suffragists and the suffragettes.
The suffragists had their origins in the mid nineteenth century, while the suffragettes came into being in 1903.
In 1897, various local women's suffrage societies formed the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, under the leadership of Millicent Fawcett. The NUWSS wanted the vote for middle class property-owning women. They believed they would achieve their end using peaceful tactics - non-violent demonstrations, petitions and the lobbying of MPs. Fawcett believed that if the organisation was seen to be intelligent, polite and law-abiding then women would prove themselves responsible enough to participate fully in politics.
The leadership of the suffragists was exclusively middle class but some of the more radical members recognised early on that the movement needed the…