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
Key Topic 3: The home front and social change
Key Topic 4: Economic and social change 1918–28
The changing role of women 1918–28.
|Votes for Women
Victorian women had few civil or political rights. A wife had to do as she was told by her husband, who was her protector and adviser. Until 1884 a wife was officially listed as one of her husband’s possessions. In addition, Victorian women were expected to live up to an image of ‘the perfect being’– beautiful, demure and loving. Many women agreed with this attitude. As the 19th century progressed, women were given the right to vote in local elections. But by 1900 they still did not have a Parliamentary vote.
In 1866 a group of women took a petition, signed by 1,500 women asking for the vote to Parliament. They were ignored. In 1897, the different female campaign groups joined together and became the Suffragists. These ‘Suffragists’ campaigned peacefully for the vote. Although the number of MPs who wanted women to have the vote grew, the Suffragists got nowhere.
Votes for Women Campaigners from the NUWSS
In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst formed the ‘Suffragettes’. The Suffragettes, were much more violent. They held mass-meetings, sent campaigners to 10 Downing Street, and shouted from the Ladies Gallery during debates in Parliament. The Suffragists knew that changes were taking place in Great Britain and that it would affect the lifestyles that they had and the homes that they lived in, yet nobody wanted their input or opinion. In fact, some unsuitable men had more of an input into the way Britain was governed than women did.
By 1908 most MPs openly supported the right for women to vote. The
British Prime Minister agreed that the government would send a Bill
to Parliament asking for the female vote. In 1910 and 1911 a Bill was
passed. But the Bills did not become law.
BBC Archive. A collection of oral history interviews with women who were involved in the campaign for womens votes.
Parliament Archives. Documents and information about the Suffrage Movement from the archives of the Houses of Parliament.
History Learning Site. A narrative of the campaign for female suffrage.