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Why, between 1903 and 1914, did the women's suffrage movement fail to achieve its objectives?

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  1. Why, between 1903 and 1914, did the women’s suffrage movement fail to achieve its objectives?

Between 1903 and 1914 there where many reason why women’s movement fail to achieve its objectives because it did not have major support form the public, the different social classes, and not all women wanted it and they did not have the support of parliament, another thing was that not all the in the movement worked together and some followed a more violent protest, and due to this there was poor commutation and ideas between different groups. The Prime Minster of the time Asquith had other major issues to deal with, like Home Rule for Ireland, Parliament act 1911 and the coming of WWII, so to Asquith the women’s movement would have been the lest of his worries, with a world war coming and his Parliament position under fire. The traditional view of women put limits on what so women wanted to do to help the movement. The women’s movement failed to achieve its objectives because of many reason.

Before you can say why the women’s movement failed between 1903- 1914 you have to take a count for what the women achieve before 1914. Like the fact that every year between 1867 and 1884 the women suffrage bill was debated, and had a growing support from the MPs but yet no bill passed, nothing happened, how could nothing happened with a great number of MPs supporting it, this was because any women suffrage bill would throw open a whole debate for male suffrage and no government wouldn’t to go throw that. There were many legal changes that effected women before 1914. Like the one in 1839, a Custody of Infants Act, which allowed separated women the right to custody of their child under the age of 7, in 1857 a Matrimonial Causes Act this allowed for easier divorces, as before you need a act of parliament to get a divorce. In 1870 a Married Women’s Property Act, allow women to keep any income or property acquired, in 1878 magistrate’s courts were given greater power to empower grants of separation and maintenance orders to wives of abusive husbands, this help working- class women as they this was a lot cheaper then the Divorce Courts, and in 1882 a second Married Women’s Property Act allowed women to keep all property and income acquired independently of their husbands. It was also that a lot of women were going into employment like in 1871 nearly 31% of the British labour force was women.  Education was changing before 1850 the opportunities for girls to be educated outside the home was limited, same as for the working- class they could not afford education for there children. In 1860 saw a change in education for both sexes and with the Education Act of 1870 saw for the first time children age between 5 and 11 got a basic education, it was made compulsory in 1880 and free in 1891, with Grammar schools open up more a move got a change to be educated and move on to universities. Many universities admitted, apart for the old established universities at Oxford and Cambridge. The mould was being broken with a space of 50 years, all the women need was the vote, they had the law rights, the same education rights as men and many did better then men, but yet the one thing they wanted the most was not going to happen for them, they want the vote. They had achieve great thing before 1914, but to then not the greatest, they wasn’t the right to vote which lead to the women’s suffrage movement.    

 One of the main reasons was that the movement failed was that was there was not enough support for the movement, they could not get the support from the public as they saw why should the women get the right to vote yet there are many men that have not got that, and that different social class held different view, like the fact that working classes men and women did not have many rights, many men did not even have the right to vote, though also in the working class women held traditional view of women so feel strongly against the movement, through some not all of working class women held this view and wanted equality for all women and the working class men. Where upper class women had a very traditional view of women and plus having husbands in high power places meant that was not to be seem supporting group that are lower down on the social ladder. This was also not helped by the idea of separate spheres, a widely held view within men and women, which by nature men and women were fitted to perform different roles. What also wouldn’t of helped the women get the support was the use of anti- suffragist propaganda like the poster “This Is The House That Man Built” and other ones like it. This would of have being a long term factor as it was a view that would have been passed fromgeneration to generation, that women should do this that and that, like look over the children, clean the house and not to do what ever her husband say. Where the men would of them told that to go out to work and earn money and that’s it.

 Another reason is that there was not a lot of support from Parliament and the MPs, as they came from the higher social classes it was likely that people for the same class to follow them, plus nothing could be change with out parliament say so. The support for the public, different social classes and Parliament held different view so support for the movement varied, as many people held tradition view of women and also why should women get the vote but most men do not have it so support from the people that matter was not strong, which would have been a short term factor, though many held the tradition view of women, the MPs would have easily change there minds if the public support was great, as they want to be in power and will follow public view if they have too.  

 You can link with not enough support is that of the violent protest, as this would of stopped powerful people supporting them as they don not want to been seem supporting a group that uses violent to get what it wants, as it would be seem as bad press and weak for a leader to give in. this also the view of many of the public and many women why should I support something that uses violence and not word to get its point across. Though not all off the women’s groups used violence, Millicent Fawcette wrote in 191 that the NUWSS should” To show the world how gain reforms without, violence, without killing people and blowing up building and doing silly things that men have done when they wanted the laws altered”, this would off separated the woman, as some women lost patience with the tactics of the NUWSS, they said that the peaceful campaign was in fact going nowhere. Also that not all the women worked together on the movement so you had some of the women going about it the right and peaceful way to protest and if all women in the movement did this they would have had a lot of support, but because of some of the women in the movement using violence which don’t get the support as they went about it the wrong way, but because they used violence they would of got more press them dose who did not, so even if they did not get the support they would of got their issues and points across. Also what lead to the violence was that in 1911 Parliament give it first reading to the Conciliation Bill, which would of give women the vote, it passed with a majority of 167 and the government said they would proceed with the Bill the following year, but in November the Government dropped the Conciliation Bill and introduce a Franchise Bill, but this did not included women, though MPs where told they could add women if they want, but when MPs try to include women into the Bill they was told the Bill have changed so much it had to be withdrawn. This triggered a wave of violence by the women. Which would have been as short term factor as because as when the women change the way they where protesting from violent to peaceful, and the leader would of meet once a month to know what they was doing the whole public view would of change of them.    

Through this wasn’t help with the fact there was poor communication between the different groups of the women’s movement so one good would be doing one thing and a different group would do a different thing with out the two knowing what the other is doing, which could to let to the violent protests and not working together. So if they all worked as one unit and not many different groups doing their own thing, they would of got there point across and would of got more support then they did if the all worked as one unit and not many smaller groups fighting for the same cause.

A reason why the women’s movement failed between 1903- 1914 was that the Prime Minster of the time Asquith had other major issues to deal with, like World War I around the corner, home rule for England, his parliament position was under fire, the Parliament Act 1911, so the women’s movement would be the least of his worries. The very fact that Asquith had to make sure that the country had to be ready before 1914 so during and before the start of the war and the years that followed, one of Asquith main aim would to supply and maintain a successful fighting force to win the war. IT was also that Asquith was never in favour of the women’s movement from the start of his political career, though while he was climbing the political ladder, he did speak in public about this, this is because he wanted power, he did not like being in opposition, and with a general election in 1905, with the conservatives losing support, his party saw a change to go for power and get the support they lose. When Asquith become Prime Minister in 1908, he had it chance. Though Bills where put forward to Parliament, they were withdrawn or defeated in a vote, and with the violence starting, this was what Asquith was looking for, as the violence give him the excuse he needed. With the end of his time as Prime Minster he lead coalition government following the outbreak of World War I, but was ousted by Lloyd George, who become Prime Minster in 1916. The home rule for England which shift the balance of legislative power from the Lords to the Commons preventing the Lords from rejecting public legislation. Thought being Prime Minster of the time he would have gone with what the voting members of the public wanted, and as many of the higher class men don’t want women to have the right he would off gone with them as they had the voting power to make sure that he remains in power, this would have been the greatest hurdle for the women’s movement was that to get the support of MPs, government MPs and the Prime Minster, though a few backbencher had to forward privet members bills for universal suffrage but it failed. The reason why Asquith lead to the women’s movement failing because of that he do not want to upset the voting public mainly upper class people, and that in the end for the women’s movement to be come successful it would of that to pass as least three votes in the Commons and three votes in the Lords which was very unlikely in that day and age for that to happen and with out the Prime Minster backing it would stopped in the commons before the final vote. This would have been as short term factor as because when the Prime Minster was you be voted out and a new one voted in their whole political think and what they stand for would be different.  

Many factors had long term and short term effects like the traditional view of women is long term as generation of men/ boys were bough up on the fact that women do the raising of the children, if the can not afford to pay for a nanny, they cook and clean, but if the could afford a cook and cleaner hair would not do it, and that they should not work, where the man went out to work and earn the money, this is the view that generation where brought up on and to change it would be to change most people views. A short term effect would be Asquith as he was Prime Minster between 1908-1916, this can be seem as short term as when the new Prime Minster Lloyd George, could change every thing and give the vote to women. Many short term effects have a effect on the long term as nothing is mutually exclusive on one happens on its only on its own these is something that happens before that triggers for it to happen, as a short term can have a effect in the long term, like the fact of rising one generation to have a traditional view of women, cause a effect in that some women don’t want the same rights as men as they have been brought up with view on view and could pass if view on to there children and so on. So short term effect had an effect on the long term.

The women's suffrage movement was the first highly organized political movement to adapt itself successfully to the new publicity methods to which the national daily id. Newspapers had given rise. The processions, demonstrations, bazaars and badges and regalia, parlor games and illustrated post cards, have all been copied by subsequent political agitations and exemplify the ingenuity with which public notice was directed to the demand for votes for women.There are many reasons why the women’s movement failed was that they not have the support in the public, for the MPs, and the different social classes, this was down to the fact that some of the women used violent protests, and there was poor communication between different groups of the women’s movement and them not working together as one unit and not smaller littler groups doing there own thing. It was also that many people held very tradition views of women so some found it hard to even get started. Also that Asquith had many over things on his mind like the coming of World War I, Parliament Act 1911, his position in Parliament and the home rule for England, so the women’s movement was the least of his worries. The women’s movement failed due to many factors and effects, though in the end women got equal rights to men but not in the time of when the movement started any many years later not till the 1928 when women final got the vote on the same terms as men.

Paul Robinson                       History Coursework

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