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Why did a campaign for Women's suffrage develop after 1870?

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Introduction

Why did a campaign for Women's suffrage develop after 1870? In 1870 neither working nor middle class women were recognised by the law and regarded the property of men whether it were their husband, father or brother. In 1773, Mary Wollstonecraft argued that women were kept child like within the family, uneducated and denied the right to shoulder responsibility. If for any reason a couple divorced, the women would be left with nothing as women had no legal existence. Working class women worked long hours in poor paid high health risk jobs, and were still expected to go home and carry out house chores. On the other hand, middle class women were expected to be a good housewife and produce heirs. They were seen as failures if they did not commit to these. Either way both classes wanted equal rights and more freedom. Later on, in the next twenty years, the situation of women would improve slightly. In 1873 the infant custody act was passed which allowed a divorced mother to apply for custody of her children over seven after her husband's conviction for adultery. In the years 1882 and 1883, the Married Women's Property Act was granted, allowing women full legal control of all property owned at marriage, while they were married through their own earning and through inheritance. ...read more.

Middle

In the years leading up to 1900, the suffragists sent a bill to parliament 15 times and 15 times this failed. However, all of their ways to gain the vote were peaceful and legal. In comparison, the suffragettes used frequent violent campaigns to gain publicity which often got them sent to jail. Their motto was 'Deeds not words'. Supporters of the union were encouraged to wear clothes sashes and badges in the union's colours of green, purple and white to bring attention to themselves, whilst more extreme ways to gain publicity included demonstrations which often involved the police and arrests of suffragettes. At huge Liberal meeting, on 13 October 1905, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney kept shouting out "Will the Liberal Government give the vote to women?" but their question was ignored and they eventually got thrown out and were given a fine. Many imprisoned suffragettes often went on hunger prison strikes to protest against conditions in which they were held and they believed if they died for the campaign this would receive public sympathy. However the prisons introduced force feeding by place a tube down the nose or throat which could be painful and caused a lot of public up rise, In 1913 the government passed 'the prisoner's temporary discharge for ill-health' act. ...read more.

Conclusion

In 1914 Mary Richardson, a suffragette, walked into a national gallery museum with a meat cleaver and slashed at the Rokeby Venus painting several times which earned her the nickname 'Slasher Mary'. It was such acts of violence that lost respect from the general public hence making it hard for the government to grant rights to such inappropriate behaviour. Even after gaining the vote, most women who worked during the war were unable to vote as they did not fit into the criteria. Although out of 142 constituencies, 98 supported women's rights to vote it was only given to property owners over the age of thirty, as these were thought to most likely fit into the category of being married and more likely to not make rash decisions. This only applied to 8.5 million women who made up 40% of the vote therefore men still had overall power. In conclusion, I believe that it is clear the war played a crucial part in getting women the vote, however the government saw this was an easy time to give in without much criticism and found the excuse they had been looking for. If it was not for previous efforts of suffragists though, I feel that the issue would not have been raised till much more recently. ...read more.

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