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The Women’s Suffrage Movement

The Women’s Suffrage Movement

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The Women’s Suffrage Movement

5/5 (1 valutazione)
116 pagine
37 minuti
Jul 20, 2012


This book is an overview of the struggle for women to gain the vote in Great Britain and explores who the women were that formed and led or became members of the women's suffrage movement. Early campaigners and pressure groups in the nineteenth century led to the formation of National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in 1897; many women within this group became increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in their campaign to win the vote and, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, they broke away and formed the Women's Social and Political Union in 1903 . In 1914 the WSPU suspended militant action so as to 'do their bit' during the First World War and by 1918 women were taking the place of working men at home and were serving in uniform and as a result the first women were granted the vote in 1918. Based on contemporary accounts, documents, ephemera and photographs this is a very useful condensed history suitable for family historians, students and anyone interested in social history.
Jul 20, 2012

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  • With an estimated half a million in attendance, Women’s Sunday was a phenom- enal success and suffragettes were urged to wear and display their colours at all times, especially if they were at large events and political meetings.

  • The year 1907 was to be marked by one significant gain: women were admitted to the register to vote in and stand for election to principal local authorities, but still they were not granted the vote in general elections.

  • Many of these women had accepted they might be arrested; indeed many wanted to be, intent on being brought before a court, and made arrest as difficult as possible to draw maximum publicity. The police were only too aware of this.

  • The WSPU, NUWSS and other pre-war women’s suffrage groups kept active through the war, carrying on the patriotic ethos and fighting for better working conditions and equal pay for women, and continued to press for the enfran- chisement of women.

  • And above all, when the general election was called on 14 December 1918, for the first time in legal and political history, a significant number of women had the right to vote.

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The Women’s Suffrage Movement - Molly Housego



UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE, IN OTHER WORDS the right to vote, was not a right enjoyed by all British people in the nineteenth century. The right was limited to men with considerable property or land: in 1831 just 4,500 men out of a population of more than 2.6 million people were entitled to vote in parliamentary elections. The situation had also become farcical because the electoral areas were out of date and un-reformed – the new industrial cities such as Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester had no members to represent them in Parliament, while some ‘rotten boroughs’, such as Dunwich on the coast of Suffolk, once a bustling town and port but reduced through erosion and storm to a village with a population of thirty-two in 1831, were still sending two MPs to Westminster.

Cavalry charge to disperse the open-air meeting of the Manchester Patriotic Union on St Peter’s Field, Manchester, on 16 August 1819. Over six hundred people were injured and fifteen died as a result of the incident, which became known as the Peterloo Massacre.

Pressure had come in the late eighteenth century from radical reformers such as Thomas Paine (the author of Rights of Man, 1791) and continued throughout the nineteenth century, notably during the 1830s and ’40s from the Chartists, who demanded ‘Universal Manhood Suffrage’ as part of their six-point charter, and from the less radical Reform League in the 1860s. These waves of pressure for parliamentary reform resulted in three main Reform Acts in 1832, 1867 and 1884, which extended the franchise first to all householders who paid rates in ‘constituency boroughs’ and then to ‘county constituencies’. As a result, some 6 million men (almost 60 per cent of the adult male population) joined the voting registers but women were still denied any vote at all.

Appeals and arguments for widening the franchise to include women can also be traced back to the eighteenth century, when Mary Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), a year after Paine’s Rights of Man. Female suffrage was advocated by the respected philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham in his book A Plan for Parliamentary Reform (1818), and was also argued for as part of a wider platform of universal suffrage by radical orators such as Henry Hunt. Hunt stood for equal laws, equal rights, annual parliaments, universal suffrage and the secret ballot (a legend he would later emblazon upon the labels of the boot-blacking bottles he manufactured). He was asked by the Manchester Patriotic Union to address a rally of over sixty thousand on St Peter’s Field, Manchester, on 16 August 1819; on the platform with him were a number of others who were due to speak for reform, and beside them was a woman carrying a banner bearing the legend ‘Female Reformers of Roynton – Let us die like men and not be sold like slaves’. Shortly after the arrival of Hunt, local magistrates, disturbed by the enthusiastic greeting he had received, ordered his arrest and the dispersal of the crowd. This order was carried out with extreme violence by the military, including a cavalry charge with sabres drawn. Fifteen people died and over six hundred were injured in the incident, which became known as the Peterloo Massacre – it was often recalled by those who fought for suffrage over the ensuing years with the cry of ‘Remember Peterloo!’

In 1832 the so-called ‘Great Reform Act’ had explicitly excluded all women from voting in national elections by using the term ‘male’ rather than ‘person’ in its wording. Henry Hunt had been elected member for Preston in 1830 and had argued that any woman who was single, a taxpayer and had sufficient property should be allowed to vote both before and after this legislation had been passed, and in response to the Reform Act presented the first petition in support of women’s suffrage to Parliament in 1832. The petition was, however, mocked and Hunt was exposed to antagonism for his efforts.

Although the issue of women’s rights and changing roles in society was discussed by both men

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