War and the transformation of British society c1903–28
Key Topic 1: The Liberals, votes for women and social reform
Key Topic 2: The part played by the British on the Western Front
The BEF and 1914. Overview
The end of the war. Overview
Key Topic 3: The home front and social change
DORA, censorship and propaganda. Overview
Recruitment and rationing. Overview
The part played by women. Overview
Key Topic 4: Economic and social change 1918–28
The changing role of women 1918–28. Overview
The General Strike of 1926. Overview
Extending the Franchise: Votes for Women
The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave the right to vote to property owning women aged 30 or above. It was passed by a large majority in the house of commons: which came as a surprise to many.
Why were women given the vote in 1918?
There are lots of possible reasons why the franchise was extended in 1918.
Some people have claimed that the vote was a 'reward' for the hard work done by women during the war.
Others say that the nation was weary of conflict and did not want to end the war and see a return to the violent methods of the Suffragette movement.
Many in power were fearful of a Revolution and felt that the risk of not giving the vote to women was too great: how many might join the Suffragettes at the end of the war and where might this lead?
Some historians argue that the limited granting of the vote was simply a means to an end. It gave some rights to women and bought time to deal with the radical elements of the suffrage movement.
On a more practical level the vote was a political issue that concerned the general public. research showed that the majority of voters in Conservative held constituencies wanted the franchise to be extended. How could the MP's vote against it if they knew that their constituents wanted them to vote for it?