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Votes For Women

Position of Women in 1900s

Women could divorce their husbands for cruelty, desertion and bigamy.
Women could keep their own property, and leave their husbands home.
Wife-battering and marital rape were both legal.
Couldnt divorce their husbands for adultery.
A mother had no rights over her children.
Reasons FOR and AGAINST votes for women
The Vote is a way of getting
Women and Men have
rid of other inequalities. If
separate spheres. Women
there were more women in
have babies, men have ideas.
Parliament, more laws would be
God created them different.
passed in the favour of women.
Women are too hysterical for
There have been changes in
womens roles. Destroying the
Women do not fight to
separate spheres idea. If they
defend their country. Women
were active in public roles, so
wouldnt want Britain to go to
why not vote?
war. They dont earn their vote
because they do not fight in the
Its not a democracy until
women have the vote. If over
the country cant vote then
Dangerous to change a
its not a democracy. Others
system that works. If it isnt
banned from voting were
broken, why fix it? Britain was
criminals and those certified
powerful in the already existing

Suffragette vs. Suffragists

WSPU- Womens Social and
Political Union
Formed in 1903
Lead by Emmeline Pankhurst
(with her daughters Christabel
and Sylvia)
Used militant action for their
Women only movement
Run solely by the Pankhurst
Many upper-class & middle class
women in London. More working
class in Manchester

NUWSS- National Union of
Womens Suffrage Societies
Formed in 1897
Lead by Millicent Fawcett
Campaigned peacefully
Men were allowed to join
Democratic Organisation
Many middle class women and
working class women
They had more than 100,000
members by 1914

Main Events 1906-1914


Liberal landslide victory. The Prime Minister supports votes
for women but the ministers were divided


Asquith becomes Prime Minister. Although he is against

womens votes, he agreed to let women prove their support.
Asquith continues to put it off, leading to the suffragettes
smashing windows in frustration.
NUWSS and WSPU split as the suffragists are scared the
suffragettes are making the government hostile.



The conciliation bill was put before the House of Commons,

which would allow wealthy, property-owning women to vote.
The Suffragettes began to step down, but after the failure of
delivering it, there were protests.
From 1910, the suffragettes are sent to prison and demand
to be treated as political prisoners. They are refused because
it would give their campaign a purpose. They refused to be
fed and so were help down and force-fed.


Following the conciliation bill failure, the WSPU sent a

delegation of around 300 women to protest. They were
assaulted- sexually and physically- by police. It was the first
documented use of police force against the suffragettes.


The Second Conciliation Bill was put forward, but instead,

men got the vote. This lead the WSPU to get violent.


WSPU turned to complete militant action.

Emily Davidson dies on June 4th after throwing herself under
the Kings horse. She became a martyr.

The Cat and Mouse Act

Force feeding suffragettes who were on Hunger Strike backfired on the
They introduced the Temporary Discharge for Health Act, which is better
known as the Cat and Mouse Act.
The Cat and Mouse Act allowed temporary short term release of prisoners.
When they were weak they released them on license.
They were then rearrested and put back in prison to continue their
sentence when they were healthy.
Women at War
The war was a turning point for women and attitudes towards women.
The Suffragette campaign stopped when war broke out.
At first it wasnt clear what women had to do. They were used in
propaganda to encourage men to go and fight, e.g. they sent white
feathers to cowards.
Total war meant that women had to take on male roles, much to some the
male trade unionists dismay.
Lloyd George gave Emmeline Pankhurst a 2000 grant to organise a
rally with the slogan Womens Right to Serve
Lloyd George employed women when he set up the Ministry of
In July 1914 nearly 5 million were in employment. By the end of the war, it
has risen to 6 million.
Why did women get the vote in 1918
If the suffragette campaign started again, how could they be put in prison
after helping so much on the home front?
Women defended the country. They were strong, decisive and reliable. The
old arguments about what women couldnt do were clearly wrong.
The suffragettes called off their campaign when war started and instead
campaigned for women to be more involved in the war effort.

Their previous campaign

Despite being involved in the war effort, women in France did not get the
vote until 1945. There was no campaign for Votes for women in France
If the suffragists and suffragettes had not been so active before the war,
then no one would have thought of giving women the vote in 1918.
If their campaign returned, havoc would resume which was the last thing
Britain needed post war.
Other reasons
Men had lost their right to vote because they had been abroad for so long
in the war. There had to be a parliament reform so it was a good time to
include rights for women.
Conservative MPs were happy that only 30 year old women would get the
vote. Young working class women might vote for the Labour Party.
Young and working class women had done the really dangerous work in
the war, e.g. munitions work.
Women in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had won the right
to vote.
Lloyd George replaced Asquith as PM in 1916. He was more sympathetic to
the idea of votes for women.