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“Without the First World War British women would not have gained the right to vote in 1918” - Do you agree or disagree with this interpretation?

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Introduction

"Without the First World War British women would not have gained the right to vote in 1918". Do you agree or disagree with this interpretation? To a certain extent I do agree with this interpretation. However, as to WW1 being the sole reason for women getting the vote in 1918 is still a highly debateable question and a very controversial issue. A simplistic answer to the question, "What gave British women the vote in 1918?" would be to say the First World War, but World War One was merely one of a few contributory factors to women getting the vote. The campaign for women's suffrage had been running long before the beginning of the war. The first attempt for female suffrage was made by the Suffragists who, for over 50 years, used peaceful methods; such as petitions and protests to gently persuade MPs into enfranchising them. They had laid the foundation for change and their non-violent, legal tactics publicised women's suffrage without alienating the public and angering the government. Nevertheless, they failed to achieve government backing and their campaign was so slow and frustrating that many women began to get disillusioned, amounting in several supporters losing faith and turning to other, more violent, methods for the answer. ...read more.

Middle

It is still a much argued debate as to whether, if it wasn't for the Suffragette's militant tactics antagonising the public and politicians so much, Suffragists would have received the vote, well before the beginning of World War One. The 'Great War' began in August 1914 and because of it both the Suffragettes and the Suffragists suspended their campaigns- seeing it as their patriotic duty to make themselves vital to the War Effort. In Source H, we are shown the front-cove of the War Worker magazine, published in June 1917, which shows a man and a woman working, united, for a common cause. This type of source was used as propaganda during the war to get more people involved in the War Effort, so therefore it is not as reliable as other sources, however it does show us how women began to be treated differently. Despite the prejudice described in Source I, attitudes towards women did change during the war, for a number of reasons; women were supporting the government on recruitment- sending white feathers (a sign of cowardice) ...read more.

Conclusion

Another reason for giving women the vote was because the government felt pressured- other countries had given women the vote and so the English government believed they'd lag behind if they didn't. The First World War, and hence women's contribution to it, has often been given as the main reason for British women gaining the right to vote in 1918, however there were always three stages towards the emancipation of women; the first was the long campaign of propaganda and organisation by the Suffragists, who laid the foundations for change, the second was the militant campaign by the Suffragettes, and third, was the War. We know that it was not the War alone that secured women the vote, as the French women had participated just as much in the war effort in France but were not given the vote afterwards. In France there had been no suffrage movement and therefore no pressure on the government for change, so in conclusion the women's suffrage movement in Britain before the war must have made a difference. Had there been no war, the emancipation of women would inevitably have come, although just much slower. Aoife Flynn Suffragettes Coursework-part C - 1 - ...read more.

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