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

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Introduction

History GCSE Coursework, James Cunnington Why did a campaign for women's suffrage develop in the years after 1870? Women in the hundreds of years preceeding the crucial date of 1870 had always faced a life that they would be better of in as men. They had few, if any, rights to the things they owned, even there own children and they could effectively be bought or sold by parents and prospective partners alike. A woman belonged first to her parents then to her husband and was expected to carry out certain duties according to her class, without hesitation or complaining. The closer we get to the 1870s, the more middle and upper class women start to realise that the duel roles of child bearer and home maker are not the one that they need to be confined to. Shifting views in society about the role of women happened over time but nothing was really accomplished until 1839 when the 'Custody of Infants Act' was passed which meant that women could now take custody of her children in the then unlikely event of a divorce. It was, many believe, the first step on a long road to equality which would take well over 150 years. ...read more.

Middle

However, this was the first time the NSWS had used its collective power in a constructive way and, although they had not been successful it was a good indicator of the women's movement was to go about things in future. Working women tended to be a lower class phenomenon in the 1800s but when, in 1883, the 'Corrupt Practices Act' was passed, women for the higher echelons of society were called upon by political parties to do voluntary work for them. This was because the 'Corrupt Practices Act' made it illegal for people to be paid to do political work meaning rich women could step in and become part of the political system at a grass roots level. As a direct result of this, the Conservative Party's Primrose League allowed women to become members and by 1893 the number of females in its ranks was estimated to be about 500,000. Purely political work was not the only area women in which women developed the suffrage movement, however. Jobs that many would now traditionally associate with women, such as teaching, became ever more highly valued at the time because of the 1870 'Education Act which meant that schooling was required for all girls up to the age of 10. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although this, and many other bills, were defeated by Gladstone's objection to them, J S Mill, Henry Fawcett, Jacob Bright and other MPs with similar views on the issue all campaigned long and hard in one of the few places where women could not - in parliament itself. Without the help of the male contingent, the suffrage movement may have taken far longer and become far more extreme in order to get its wish. Overall, I feel that out of the panoply of different reasons for the way in which the suffrage movement developed, the most major ones are those relating to the various leaders of the movement. Without proper leaders who have the ability to unite and empower the people who believe in them there would be no movement at all, only subversive muttering and unheard complaints. It is also my belief that the schooling plays an important part in creating women with the will to fight for the vote. If fewer women were learned enough to take up the argument on an intellectual level then the movement would have been unable to get going with the same force of support. If I were to sum up why the suffrage movement developed after 1870 in three words they would be these; education, unification and determination. ...read more.

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