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Choose one reason and explain how it contributed to women being given the vote in 1918.

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Thematic Study D: The Changing Roles And Status of Women, C.1840-C.1990 Question 1: Choose one reason and explain how it contributed to women being given the vote in 1918. The First World War played a very large part in allowing women gain the vote. It permitted women to demonstrate that they were more than capable of working as men worked at the time. Although women were not allowed to work in the army, instead, they worked in the equally important ammunition factories. I say equally important, since without this supply of ammunition, Britain obviously could not play a substantial part in the war other than by code breaking. It took a considerable time for women to be employed in large numbers. However, Mrs. Pankhurst, (a prominent suffragette) conducted a 'right to serve' campaign. This undoubtedly sped up the process, which made it possible for women to be recruited in large numbers into industry. In 1917, there were around 60 000 women working in banking and commerce and almost half a million in Local Government. Women joined the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps, and in 1917 there were 40 000 nurses serving in France and Belgium. In 1918 there were 120 000 bus conductresses and there were 18 000 working in the Women's Land Army. On 4th August 1914, England declared war on Germany. Two days later the NUWSS announced that it was suspending all political activity until the war was over. The leadership of the WSPU began negotiating with the British government. On the 10th August the government announced it was releasing all suffragettes from prison. In return, the WSPU agreed to end their militant activities and help the war effort. The Women's Freedom League disagreed and continued with its campaign for the vote. Some leaders of the WSPU such as Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter, Christabel Pankhurst, played an important role as speakers at meetings to recruit young men into the army. ...read more.


The arson campaign was a deliberate attempt, in the words of Christabel Pankhurst, "to create a difficulty so great as to be found intolerable by the politicians." Government attempts to call a halt to the arson campaign were ineffective, partly due to the Polices inability to catch the arsonists. `It would seem clear from this evidence that the Suffragettes were willing to go to some lengths, through their militant campaign, to promote the issue of female enfranchisement. It has been suggested, however, that as a tool of propaganda, the militancy practiced by the Suffragettes was essentially limited. For example, in many cases the militant strategy was seen to lose considerable public support. Firstly through the press, who were initially hostile to the use of militancy, and in many cases grew more so as militant acts became more extreme. For instance, as regards the window breaking campaign, the Times wrote, "...None of its [the W.S.P.U.'s] previous follies have been so thoroughly calculated to discredit the Suffragette cause.", whilst The Morning Post commented that, "...Nothing could indicate more plainly their lack of fitness to be entrusted with the exercise of political power." `The press often had a strong effect on public opinion, so, for example, when the W.S.P.U. sent a deputation to the King on the 21st May 1914 the photographs printed in the press of the ensuing violence did little to further the W.S.P.U.'s cause. Particularly if one takes the same view as the American Suffragist Anna Shaw, that "...women never show up their real weakness so much as when they attempt force.". The ramifications of the W.S.P.U.'s often-unpopular public image were far reaching. For instance, the public reaction, especially against the arson campaign began to curtail some of the W.S.P.U.'s legal activities, in the sense that the W.S.P.U. were banned from holding meetings in the Albert Hall, or in any of London's parks due to the disorder which was likely to occur. ...read more.


`There were many factors at work which influenced how quickly women were enfranchised, quite irrespective of militancy, or indeed any of the propaganda techniques employed by the Suffragettes. For example, arguably the second conciliation bill was not passed in March 1912 because only twenty-five out of forty-one Labour M.P.'s were present to support the bill, due to an outbreak of strikes in the North. Similarly, it could be said that women were granted the vote when they were due to their invaluable work during the war. In September 1916 the war office announced that women "had shown themselves capable of replacing the stronger sex in practically every calling." It became clear that some adjustment, both in attitude and legislation, would be necessary regarding women, after the war. It would appear that any social or political change is the result of a number of factors. The militant campaign was clearly important in raising the issue of female enfranchisement, although it is obvious that a number of other factors were at work in eventually winning the vote. For this reason it is perhaps unfair to say that the campaign of the militant Suffragettes demonstrates the limitations on the power of propaganda to affect social or political change, because propaganda is just one of a number of factors which brings about such change. `In conclusion, it would appear that the campaign of the militant Suffragettes was a key feature in the overall campaign for the enfranchisement of women. It cannot be doubted that the campaign created much publicity for the cause, and this publicity often translated into positive public support. For example, the "hero worship" of many imprisoned Suffragettes upon their release from prison. `However, the campaign also created its share of bad publicity also. For instance, the hostile reaction of much of the press towards the militant campaign, and it is in this sense that the militant campaign could be said to have demonstrated the limitations on the power of propaganda to affect social and political change. Jason Tucker-Feltham 11F ...read more.

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