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Why did a campaign for women's suffrage develop in the years after 1870?

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Introduction

Votes for Women, c1900 - 1928 History Coursework Assignment Question 1. Why did a campaign for women's suffrage develop in the years after 1870? One of the main factors that a campaign for women's suffrage developed in this time was the introduction of the Forster Act in 1870. This entitled both boys and - for the first time in England - girls, to a free education of primary level. In turn, women all across England became more educated, therefore could develop larger roles in society if they wished, for example become nurses, teachers and clerks. This education also made more women more aware of their unequal status in everyday life. It was perfectly normal as a woman to be thought of as her father's property until she got married, then her husband's property after this. Only if a woman's husband died, with her becoming a widow would she gain a little respect and status. Being more educated, women, from mostly middle-class, wealthy backgrounds began to question why they were being treated so unfairly. By many women this was frowned upon, as many of them had almost been brainwashed into believing that "Women were and are destined to make voters rather than be voters themselves." This was the view of London-born Marie Corelli, written in 1907, when the campaign for women's suffrage was at its climax. Another important factor in the development of the campaign for women's suffrage was that many other changes in Britain happened at or around this time, which were mostly all positive for women. Local councils decided, in 1882, that women should be given the right to vote in the council elections. This was because it was becoming more and more obvious that female voters did not harm anyone or anything, including local democracy. These feelings however did not have the strength to change the opinion of more or less every male mind in the United Kingdom. ...read more.

Middle

By this I mean that without the Suffragists, the Suffragettes would never have even been formed, but without the Suffragettes and the WSPU, the campaign for women's suffrage would have been left out of the limelight for far too long. Question 3. Women over 30 gained the vote in 1918 mainly because of women's contribution to the war effort. Do you agree? Explain your answer. Women's involvement in World War I clearly did have a huge impact on public opinion in relation to women's suffrage, but it was not the only factor that led to the enfranchisement of women in 1918. In this essay I will first look at the inevitability of women ultimately gaining the vote, and also at the general political changes already taking place prior to the war, including the campaign for women's suffrage. I will then go on to study the impact of women's actual involvement in the war, which will lead to the question of "No Taxation Without Representation". Next, I will consider the ways in which the British political parties saw the question of votes for women, and how it would affect them practically. The reason I only partly agree with the statement is that it seemed inevitable that women were going to gain the vote, even without the First World War to push the campaign forward. British politics seemed to be moving more liberal, more left wing. The "Great Socialist Movement", as phrased by feminist Ethel Snowden in 1913, was spreading rapidly across the globe - and Britain - as an ideal that was both practical and possible. Snowden also wrote, in relation to the inevitability of women's suffrage: "Neither ignorance nor vice, self-seekers nor politicians, things present nor things to come, will be able to stay the onward march of womanhood in the struggle for the full and complete recognition of its humanity." Arthur Balfour, a leading Tory politician, admitted the next substantial parliamentary reform would have to include the enfranchisement of women. ...read more.

Conclusion

These included the problem of Ireland, the Labour Movement, Socialism and the trade unions. This could have been seen as both positive and negative in terms of women's suffrage, because politicians could have seen it as a minor case of little importance, or something that had to be considered in light of all the social unrest happening at the time. To add to this unclear political activity, MPs were also questioning exactly how they would extend the vote to women, if they ever did at all. It looked as though the women's suffrage campaigners wanted the right to vote on exactly the same terms as men, but the Liberal government was worried that this would mean the Conservatives gained more votes, and also that if women were given the right to vote, then the anti women's suffrage believers would no longer vote for them. In the Liberal's eyes, votes for women would simply not get them any better election results, therefore was not a major issue to them. All this political and social action made it very unclear whether women's suffrage was going to be granted, but at this stage it looked as though votes for women would only have happened before World War One if one of the major parties had adopted it as one of their main policies. They didn't for the reasons I have just spoken about, but sure enough, women over the age of thirty were given the vote in 1918. It is for these reasons that I both agree and disagree with this statement. This is because I believe that yes, the huge contribution of women to the war effort was most certainly the factor that gave the women's suffrage campaign the final push that it needed for the cause to be granted, but I also believe that were it not for the sizeable amount of work towards the campaign done by many groups, namely the Women's Freedom League, the NUWSS and the WSPU, then this final advance would never have happened. ...read more.

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