In the early 20th centaury woman were seen as second class citizens and the general attitude of men was that they belonged in the home in the role of wife and mother, with no place for them in politics as their views were represented by their fathers, husbands, and brothers.
However, these attitudes began to change and in 1918, the Representation of the People Act gave women over the age of 30 the right to vote for the first time. To some extent changing attitudes towards women in society were a reason some women were given the vote in 1918, but the most important point was Women War Efforts. However, there were also other points such as the Suffragists, the Suffragettes and the example of other countries.
One main reason for the changing attitudes towards woman in society is the suffragettes. The suffragettes were a very important reason for some women being given the vote in 1918. The WSPU woman group was formed by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903 and their motto was ‘deeds not words’.
They used militant tactics such as smashing windows, heckling politicians, interrupting political meetings and sending letter bombs. This was important in women gaining the vote because their methods gained lots of publicity and kept the issue in the public eye as their tactics were hard to ignore particularly by male MP’s. Whilst in prison, suffragettes often went on hunger strike which led to them being force fed and this proved hugely unpopular so they introduced the Cat and Mouse Act.
This was important in women gaining the vote because it showed how determined and passionate the women were to try and get the vote and they were not going to give up the fight which also gained a lot of sympathy for the way that they were treated. However, this was less important because it
meant that they lost a lot of public support for the cause, particularly of male politicians due to their negative publicity over their militant tactics. Many viewed them as too immature to be given the vote.
The suffragists were another important cause to help some women get the vote in 1918. In 1897, a national movement called NUWSS were formed by Millicent Faucet, who used peaceful tactics such as sending letters to politicians, sending letters to parliament and handing out leaflets and pamphletes.
This was important in woman gaining the vote because it proved that they were capable of organising a national campaign and that they were mature and responsible enough to participate in the political process.
By 1914 the suffragists membership had reached 53,000 and they had the support of many men including some key politicians, trade unions and the Labour party.
This was important in women gaining the vote because it showed us that they had gained the support of men including politicians like David Lloyd George who were in the position to vote and make changes. However, this was less important because their methods could be easily ignored and forgotten about by politicians and they never gained the publicity or momentum needed to force a change in women getting the vote.
Woman helping in the war.
The third and final point that helped some women get the vote in 1918 was women’s help in the war.
During WWI women took over the jobs of men as bus drivers, conductors, tram drivers and in the Women’s Land Army. Also, over 700,000 women took on extremely dangerous jobs in munitions factories. This was important in women gaining the vote because it proved to men that women were capable of doing the same jobs as men and that they could handle the world of work, so could therefore handle the vote.
At the outbreak of war the woman suffrage groups decided that it would be best to suspend their campaigns for the duration of the war and help the war effort instead. The suffragists raised money for ambulances and the suffragettes ran the ‘white feather’ campaign. This helped gain respect for women from men, including politicians, as it showed woman were committed to help Britain win the war.
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