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

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Introduction

History Coursework - 'Votes For Women' 1. Why did a Campaign for women's suffrage develop in the years after 1870? The campaign for women's suffrage gathered support after 1870, mainly because of a growing number of women who, through education, realised society was extremely unequal and recognised a need for change through action. The Forster act of 1870 which gave compulsory primary education to girls, was a landmark event that meant the women of the future would have the ability to question the inequalities of a chauvinistic society. Other important factors were an increased awareness of women's suppression throughout society, the general public's changing view of a women's place, not just in the home but at work and the growing economic power that women had inevitably gained through an increasing presence in the workplace. These reasons meant that by 1897 an organised, nationwide movement, the 'National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies' (NUWSS), had been formed to fight for the rights of women. The NUWSS were campaigning for these rights because they saw that the laws of the land were hugely sexist. Not only were a woman's legal rights owned her husband but her body was also his legal property. When it came to divorce a man only had to prove one of the three grounds of divorce (adultery, cruelty and desertion) in order to divorce his wife, where as a woman had to prove 2 of the 3 and often had added difficulty in arguing their case in a court. ...read more.

Middle

The WSPU also campaigned through chaining themselves to railings, smashing shop windows, burning post boxes and even going as far as burning down churches. Through action such as these, suffragettes made enemies as well as gaining a bad reputation. They were thought of by many as just acting as irrational women and thus proving that women were incapable of voting. On October 13th 1905, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney, both leading members of the WSPU, interrupted a Liberal Party meeting whilst a government minister, Sir Edward Grey was speaking. They shouted "Will the Liberal Government gives votes to women?" When they refused to stop shouting the police were called to remove them from the meeting. Pankhurt and Kenney refused to leave and during the struggle to evict them a policeman claimed they kicked and spat at him. This was a huge moment in women's suffrage as it was the first time that violence was used to and it shocked the nation. The women were found guilty of assault and told to each pay fines of 5 shillings but both refused and so were sent to prison. In 1907, Suffragist activists presented the king with a large petition and also floated a hot air balloon above London, dropping 'Votes for Women' leaflets into the streets. At a demonstration in Hyde Park in 1908, organisers claimed over 250 000 people had attended the rally. The Daily Chronicle newspaper said of the event 'Never, on the admission of the most experienced observers, has so vast a throng gathered in London to witness an outlay of political force'. ...read more.

Conclusion

In other areas, women's organisations such as the 'Women's Police Volunteer's' helped patrol areas at where the police force was stretched due to the war. Members of the WSPU also became involved in the 'Women's International League' which was an organisation, that had female representatives from every country, with a united aim to form peace between the nations. Although the war effort undoubtedly won over supporters for women's suffrage, women would have certainly gained the vote had they not been so involved. The enfranchisement of women in other countries - for example Canada in 1918, Germany in 1919 and Austria in 1919 - shows that women's suffrage was defiantly a western trend of the time. Society's changing opinion of women was further helped along its way by the war and many peoples prejudges were undermined but it was certainly changing before the war began. The numerous alternations to laws between 1860 and 1912 clearly show represent that and votes for women was the obvious next step from those laws. There was also a large amount of support in the house of parliament for women's suffrage before the war began which of course developed with time. I do think that women over the age of thirty gained the vote in 1918, partly because of their involvement in the war effort. However, the war took place only in the last four years of an extensive fifty-year campaign. It just took the war to prove, along with the campaign for suffrage, that there is no place for sexism and inequality in a democratic society. - 1 - Philip Holtam 11.8 Mr. Cornish ...read more.

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