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Votes for Women in Britain 1900-1918

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Introduction

Question 1: Explain why women failed to get the vote between 1900 and 1914. Between 1900 and 1914, despite vigorous campaigning of different sorts, women failed to gain the vote for government in Great Britain. There were two groups at the time campaigning for the vote. Though these two groups had the same principle aim, they had very different ideas about how to go about achieving it. In many ways, it was the fact that they were both on the extreme ends of the scale that led to them failing to achieve the vote. The NUWSS The NUWSS (more commonly known as the Suffragists) believed that in order to gain the vote, they had to prove that women could be respectable, sensible and trusted people in society. They therefore decided that they would put together peaceful and intelligent campaigns to convince the government and the public that they both deserved and could be trusted with the vote. These campaigns usually consisted of marches through the streets, and were gradually growing in popularity (3,000 participants in the 1907 'Mud March' compared to 13,000 participants in the 1908 Albert Hall march), however they were still nowhere near large scale enough to even warrant large scale media coverage, let alone such a large change in government policy. In 1910, thanks to huge numbers of support gatherings and meetings held by the NUWSS, women came the closest they had ever being to gaining the vote, when the Conciliation Bill was drafted and passed by a 110 majority in June that year. However, the bill was never introduced, as Prime Minister Asquith called for a general election in November the same year, meaning the Conciliation Bill was thrown out. To many, this may have proven how futile the attempts of women were at getting the vote, and showed how such a bill was never going to go all the way through parliament. ...read more.

Middle

The media at the time would have had a huge impact on the attempts of women to gain the vote, hence the reason why the WSPU tried all it could to get more media attention, and the dismay of the NUWSS as they watched their attempts ruined by the bad press that the WSPU were beginning to generate. Without media backing, their attempts were sure to be futile and pointless. Conclusion Though both sets of campaigners tried their very different methods to gain votes for women, they failed to do so before 1914, after decades of campaigning and protesting. Both sides in the end had created their own failure, as the NUWSS was seen as too weak to deserve the vote and the WSPU were made out as a terrorist organisation that should never be given in to. The two sides could perhaps be thankful of the break in campaigns brought about by the war, as shortly prior to it their public and political support seemed to be getting ever slimmer. There were also other factors affecting their chances of success, such as the nation's hesitation and general opposition to begin with of giving the vote to women. Both sides also failed to gain the support of the mass media, which was perhaps the most important factor in the whole scenario. They were either ridiculed or despised by newspapers and political publications. The campaigners often gained the public attention they needed, but the majority of the time it was for all of the wrong reasons. Question 2: "Without the First World War British women would not have gained the right to vote in 1918." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain your answer using the sources and knowledge from your own studies. Before 1914, women failed to achieve the right to vote in Britain, despite much campaigning. Parliamentary discussion on the topic was brought to a halt throughout World War One as the nation's security and the ongoing international war was seen as more important than any domestic national matters such as that of voting and people's rights to it. ...read more.

Conclusion

Many of the reasons for not awarding women the vote before the war had now been completely dismissed and it now seemed wrong to still be denying women the vote when they had very much proven their worth. Source B, the Suffragette postcard, though published in 1910 and somewhat biased due to its origin, highlights the situation which was still ongoing at the end of World War One. Women were able to take up jobs which were highly respected in society, such as teachers, doctors, nurses and even mayors whilst still not being able to vote. However, men that were in prison for serious crimes, in mental asylums and ones unfit for work were still able to vote. This situation had been greatly highlighted by the efforts of women during the First World War and the government was becoming increasingly aware of how unfair the situation was appearing. It was starting to be inevitable that women would soon be awarded the vote. Based on my own knowledge of the situation, plus the information given in the five sources (A-E) I believe that the First World War played a large role in getting women the vote and that they would have probably not gained it had the war not have broken out. During World War One women were, for the first real time, able to show the nation how much they could be trusted with important roles in society. I believe it was mainly their actions to support the war effort that lead to the favouritism finally being swayed in the favour on the debate over votes. Without World War One, the Suffragette campaign would have been likely to continue and this would have been disastrous for women's chances of been able to get the vote, as they were more and more been seen as an enemy who would be damaging to the country and could not be trusted in society. ?? ?? ?? ?? J. Lee History Coursework 1 ...read more.

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