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How important was the First World War in achieving votes for women in 1918?

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Introduction

How important was the First World War in achieving votes for women in 1918? The First World War had a serious effect on womens suffrage. Just as Britain was going to war against Germany in August 1914, the WSPU declared peace with the Liberals. So in theory the war of the sexes was swamped by the World War. However, it has been argued that the greatest effect of the war on women's suffrage was that women were given the vote towards the end of it. In the past, historians have generally agreed that women were awarded the vote as a symbol of thanks for their war work. As ex-prime minister Asquith says here: "The highly skilled and dangerous work done by women during the war in the armament and munitions factories........was probably the greatest factor in the granting of the vote to women at the end of the war." Despite this statement, nowadays historians have claimed the direct link between women's war work and women's suffrage to be a weak argument. They argue that the emphasis placed on women's economic input to the war discounts the groundwork put in by the pre-war suffrage campaign and some even believe that far from the war aiding votes for women, it actually delayed its achievement. ...read more.

Middle

This meant it left its organisational structure intact, giving it the chance to restart suffrage activities when the time was right. This was important, for whenever the franchise question was raised in the House of Commons, the NUWSS were well written about in the press, and well thought of by the trade union and the government in support of women's suffrage. Up to this point, it can be said that the hard work of the Suffragettes and Suffragists during the war, ended the harshness of militancy and gave a good name on the suffrage cause. This showed women involved in the suffrage movement were capable of defending democracy and having responsibility. It was also supposed that women were enfranchised because the war had changed male views about women's role in society. For the first time women were accepted into the world of work, which later led to their acceptance in the world of politics. Women of all social classes were involved in the war effort. Many upper-class and middle class women experienced their taste of paid work during the war, entering occupations that would have been looked on as inappropriate in peacetime. ...read more.

Conclusion

This Speaker's Conference, as it was known, proved useful because luckily for women, there were many supporters of women's suffrage to assure a sympathetic hearing. However, only a limited number of women were granted the vote because it feared that they might swamp the male electorate, over eight million women were enfranchised. Secondly, fears that one party might benefit from women's suffrage were laid to rest. The enfranchisement of some eight million women did not show an advantage to any single political party. The Liberals and the Labour Party thought that the new proposed female electorate was much too large and socially mixed to give any advantage to the Conservatives. Yet the Conservatives recognised that this time adult male suffrage was unavoidable and so had little to lose- and perhaps something to gain- by women over thirty, who were thought to be politically moderate, to be included. In conclusion, it would be naive to think that women only received the vote because of their services in the war. Only women over thirty were given the vote and they were not the ones who made the most substantial contribution towards the war. Indeed young women such as those working in the munitions factories were actually denied the vote. ...read more.

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