Why did a campaign for women’s suffrage develop in the years after 1870? Essay

The women’s suffrage campaign developed after this time because of various factors, by this time the first women who had been allowed to go to university in 1848 had been educated and had a fuller understanding of politics. This meant that they were able to apply that knowledge to the cause and begin to lead others in a way that would make a difference. These were all middle class women who were only after the right to vote and be seen as equal to men not to look out for the working women who needed to be helped in order to have a decent life.

These working women couldn’t help themselves because between working and looking after the family they had no time or energy, whereas middle class women had a lot of time to do as they pleased and they had their husbands support. Even thought the Victorian man was a family man who had values and didn’t believe in women exposing themselves they still supported their wives.

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In 1867 suffragist committees were set up in London and Manchester, within a year they were also founded in other major cities, this added to the development after 1870 because by that time these groups had been given the time to grow and branch out expanding in members and ideas. In the years leading up to 1870 changes in women’s mind may have changed to give them the idea of suffrage, in the 1840’s they were given rules over working in factories and in 1857 women were stopped from divorcing their husbands which would anger many women as they would be trapped in unhappy marriages.

The same right that women didn’t get until 1923. The Second Reform Act in 1867 would of angered women in high society again because it mean that men below them that they employed could vote yet they still could not. This would seem unfair to many women and they set out to change it. At this time it was a new generation that had been brought up around the idea that maybe women weren’t inferior to men, this would of led them to try to change things in their favour.

Once the movement had been started it kept picking up speed which came in to play after 1870 and policies such as the Married Woman’s Property act and the right to see children after divorce came along which allowed more people to be used to the idea and to see that there was something that could be done and they joined the movement allowing more campaigning to reach a wider audience and have heavier weight behind it when talking to Government.

Up to 1890 the majority of protests were non-violent then the Pankhurst family and other suffragettes such as Millicent Fawcett became violent and impatient that things had not been happening and they weren’t being taken seriously. All that had happened in the time of protest was the right to vote for school boards and being able to train as doctors or nurses. Describe the ways in which the methods of the Suffragists and Suffragettes were different.

Suffragists were different to Suffragettes in the sense that they came first and we more respected and established in society. The Suffragist groups such as NUWSS in 1867 were accepted by society as a group of women who were respectable and were working for a cause, people didn’t agree with them but they didn’t try arrested them or destroying them. These women came mainly from the middle class’s and kept with puritanical views on their dress and actions, they didn’t take a lot of outrageous actions and relied on the power of words to get through to men.

In 1903 when the WSPU was formed it was because of women becoming impatient towards the progress of the Suffragists, these women resorted to drastic public acts of violence to get the attention of men and reach their goal. The one crucial different between the Suffragists and Suffragettes was that Suffragists were non violent whereas Suffragettes were very violent. We remember more names of Suffragettes than Suffragists because they are the ones that became martyrs for the cause, they were arrested and they went down in history as the constructive or destructive members of the women’s suffrage movement.

The only real name remembered by people from the Suffragists is Millicent Garrett Fawcett who was the founding member of the NUWSS. Famous names from the Suffragettes parties are the Pankhurst family, Emily Wilding Davison and Mary Richardson. The Pankhurst’s founded the Women’s Social and political Union (WSPU) and Christabel Pankhurst is known for interrupting political meetings and harassing politicians. Mary Richardson was a Canadian famous for jumping aboard King George V’s carriage and presenting him with a petition along with being one of the most militant suffragettes.

Emily Wilding Davison was killed under the hooves of the Kings horse at the Epson derby. It is still uncertain whether her death was suicide or an accident during an act of trying to pin a sign to the side of the racing horses. Suffragettes often opted for the more violent methods of protests such as arson, vandalism and verbal abuse. They were frequently seen sailing down the river Thames shouting abuse at Parliament; they were known to repeatedly chain themselves to public buildings. Suffragettes were famously blamed for the destruction of all the windows on Oxford Street.

They often went to prison rather than pay fines to accentuate the injustice of the system, when in prison they would go on hunger strikes meaning they had to be force fed causing more problems for government and prison wardens. After awhile Government got used to this and issued the Cat and Mouse act that said that if a woman went on hunger strike she was released after they had become incredibly weak and then they were released. After a brief period of time in which they could recover they were arrested again for minor offences to start the whole cycle again.

After a few times of going through this the woman would be to weak to protest and would be unable to cause much trouble for the Government. This was an act against human rights but worked efficiently in the way it was designed. This also put the Government out of blame if they were to die from malnourishment out of prison. Suffragist used methods such as petitions, strikes and public meetings to get their message across; they also went campaigning door to door to find more support for their cause.

This meant they were not arrested but they were also not in the paper so much. It is not certain whether or not suffragettes were a help to the suffrage movement. They got the issues into the paper but mainly had bad publicity, the Cat and Mouse act showed how Government looked down on these women as a nuisance. After the Emily Wilding Davison incident men thought that women were going to far and could not be trusted with the responsibility of being able to vote as they were silly in getting themselves killed.

Suffragist used non-violent methods and did not get very far in over 30 years but gradually things were beginning to change and they were being listened to but when the suffragettes came along not much more was improved until after the war. I feel that the Suffragettes did not do a lot to further the cause as they made themselves look like fools and spent more time causing problems for Government than trying to talk to them about the issues. Women over 30 gained the vote in 1918 mainly because of women’s contribution to the war effort.

Do you agree? Explain your answer. In December 1917 a vote in the house of commons finally gave the vote to women 364 to 23. This could have been due to their contribution in the war or due to the threat to the government. In 1916 the government wanted to produce a new electoral register and they realised that under the household franchise as they had joined the army and therefore did not live at home. This lead to the government’s decision to give the vote to all men over the age of 21 as it was easier than figuring out a new law about voting.

They also decided that it was unfair for men to have fought for their country but be unable to vote, because of this they introduced a temporary cause which granted the vote to men over 18 who had served in the war. On 6th of August 1914 the NUWSS decided to abandon all militant political activity and put all their efforts into helping during the war on patriotic grounds. When men volunteered and went to war a lot of jobs were left open that were vital to the economy keeping up and the replenishing of goods for the war effort such as ammunitions and food.

The woman took up these jobs and if they had not it is certain that we would have lost the war. It was said that women actually did a better job than en in these jobs due to the fact they were more dedicated and had nimbler fingers to do the work. Between making the ammunitions and tanks, keeping the country running and working as nurses on the front line women played a bigger part as the men who fought on the battlefield. When conscription came about in 1916 women again stepped up and filled many roles, they managed to go to work and to support their family bring up children right and keeping a tidy home.

This showed the government how efficient and hard working women were and showed tat they were not self-centred and did have a great deal of patriotism. When the war finished in November 1918 and the men came home from the war victorious they automatically assumed they would go straight back into work, this meant that women were kicked out of the jobs they had efficient worked in for 4 years. Due to this fact and that the government had given the vote to all men over 21 and the women still had no vote, they became increasingly worried about the growing threat of militant suffragette movements restarting worse than before.

After the government was still recovering from the war a trying to avoid an economical crash and dealing with the depletion of the general public they could not afford to be hassled by militant women. To avoid this they gave women over 30 the vote; it was said to be because of their effort during the war. After the war women were not seen to as a big threat to voting and a lot of the arguments that had been against them were no longer valid. These were arguments such as they were not responsible enough to understand the importance of being able to vote or they were not mature enough to have real morals and values.

Men believed that women’s votes would just follow their husbands because they did not have a mind of their own and did not have any freedom in their marriage. After the war many of these were useless as women had taken on the responsibility of men’s work and given up their own battle to be patriotic and that they understood the finer workings of politics. Women may not understand the full details of politics but it is doubtful that all men do but what is certain is that all people have their own opinions and know what they want so they are capable of picking a candidate or political party.

Herbert Asquith who was very much against women getting the vote before 1914 now saw that they could be trusted and spoke in favour of them. A lot of men came round to admitting that they could not have won the war if not for the efforts of women. I believe that it was more to do with the government’s position at the time rather than women’s contribution during the war that got the vote to women. Also the fact that they only gave the vote to women over 30, who were householders or married to a householder, this is what kept the household franchise alive.

This was difficult, as a lot of men had been killed during the war and now a lot more women were widows. At this time a lot of land was still rented not owned or was in the husband’s name and the women could not prove that they were associated with the land so they still could not vote. The conservatives gave the vote to women who were over 30 only because they believed that if they gave the vote to women who were younger they would vote against conservatives therefore they would lose power. This also meant the women voters would not out number men only 6 out of 13 million women were eligible to vote.

They thought younger women would vote for other parties because they would not stand by the Conservative Party issues and ideas. By only allowing women who were land owners to vote it meant that not a lot of people in the working class could vote therefore they were stopping Labour Party from coming to power as they didn’t have enough people in the working class to vote in favour of them. This may not have been the proper way to look at it but it is still a factor that needs to be considered when looking at the Victorian males mind as they stood for family values and puritanical views on life.

Before the act went through parliament it was almost forgotten to put in a clause about women running as candidates, when the time came to vote only one women actually gained the position even thought 16 ran including Christable and Emmeline Pankhurst. A decade after the first act had some into place giving women the vote after social and legal changes it seemed the restrictions on women voters were ludicrous and therefore the vote was given to women on the same grounds as men. This was partially due to the fact that there had been no disasters when women had voted.

Men still dominated the political side of things so they felt they could manage to give the vote to all women to stop all campaigns without having to worry about not completely dominating politics. During the decade between the Representation of the People Act’s women were given the right to divorce on the same grounds as men and to inherit from marriage and the right to use contraception even thought it was seen as socially unacceptable. This was a big step for women as it allowed us freedom and as soon as we were given some it kept on growing with time until now when we are seen by the law as equal to men.


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