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Womans Vote

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Introduction

In 1918, at the end of World War One, certain women over the age of 30 were finally enfranchised. This marked a major point in democracy, as it was the first time in the UK that women had been given any electoral power. It is generally accepted by many historians that the main reason for women gaining the vote was due to their role in the first world war, that it was a "thank you" from the government. However there are other historians who view this theory as being overly simplistic and that there are a number of other factors that contributed to the granting of votes to women. Historians such as Alistair Gray and Arthur Marwick believe strongly that women gaining the vote was a direct result of their war work on the Home Front while the men of Britain fought abroad in the Great War. Over the 4 year period of the war, 1914 to 1918, women filled the gaps left behind by men in areas such as industry, engineering and munitions factories the number of women working in such positions increased to over 700,000, this was considerably dangerous, with risks not only from explosions but from the chemicals used, and in government departments, which had previously been filled solely by men, now were almost entirely dominated by 200,000 women, ...read more.

Middle

not granted the vote once the war was over, meaning that either the French government was much harsher on its female population, or that British women were given the vote merely as a coincidence colliding with the end of the war. It can therefore be seen that the arguments of Alistair Gray, and others, is seemingly weak and, indeed, simplistic. A possible argument which has gained weight, is that the government feared the militancy of the suffragettes, would recommence after the war and could cause further damage to the war battered Britain. The government felt obliged to grant limited franchise to appease the suffragettes. As put by the historian Constance Rover "it was obvious that the militant campaign would return once the war was over if nothing was done to enfranchise women." Some credit has been given to the suffragettes as having persuaded men of their right to vote with their willingness to die. However, while the suffragette campaigns certainly publicised their cause , the damage they perpetrated did little to enhance their reputation or build up mens trust. Therefore it would appear, it was not so much the suffragette campaigns themselves but more the fear of these campaigns which prompted the government to grant votes for women. ...read more.

Conclusion

The example being set overseas by British colonies such as New Zealand, Canada and Australia along with Norway and four American states who were already enfranchising their women would have been humiliating for Britain, the 'mother' of all Parliaments if they stopped their own people from receiving the vote. It is therefore clear that women's war wasn't the main cause for their eventual enfranchisement in 1918. This however is probably only a minor factor in governments change in policy. In conclusion, it is clear that although the war was important in giving women a platform to show their value and that it contributed to a change in attitude towards women, hough it was not the sole reason for women being enfranchised. Neither is it solely due to any of the other arguments mentioned above. If it had not been for the removal of Asquith as prime minister, the fear of suffragette militancy and the enfranchisement of women in other countries then women may not have received the vote. Therefore it is clear that the view of "women only receiving the vote in 1918 on account of their war work" is overly-simplistic and cannot e considered accurate. There were other more significant factors which must be considered and it was the combination of all these factors which led to the enfranchisement of women in 1918. ...read more.

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