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Why did women gain the vote in 1918?

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Introduction

Why did women gain the vote in 1918? In 1918, women gained the vote. Historians have suggested that there was no one reason for this legislative change, but several, often related reasons. In this piece, we shall draw out some of these reasons, which include suffrage campaigns, diplomacy, militancy, the women's war effort, and the positive effects of publicity arising from these actions. Diplomacy was used from the inception of the campaign, between 1860 and 1908 by two campaigning groups, the WSPU and the NUWSS. Meetings and demonstrations were held at venues such as the Albert Hall to publicize the issue of votes for women, featuring campaigners such as Lydia Becker. One of the most important meetings was held at the 'Women's Parliament' at Caxton Hall which protested against their exclusion from the franchise. Demonstrations also took place, one of the largest was in 1907, organized by the NUWSS, and became known as the Mud March, due to the weather conditions at the time. Another important demonstration held by the WSPU, which was in response to the failure of the first Conciliation Bill in 1910, became known as 'Black Friday' as protestors were treated brutally by police officers. ...read more.

Middle

In 1911, the Women's Freedom League organized a boycott of the census, which was supported by the WSPU and the NUWSS. They encouraged women to stay overnight at their headquarters to avoid census officials and provided all night entertainment. In 1908, the WSPU decided to increase political pressure and used confrontational methods to force MPs to enfranchise women. Suffragettes adopted militancy as a response to the failure of their peaceful campaigns, and their reaction to the Liberal government of 1906 who denied the suffragettes their right to protest legally, and who force-fed women in prison. They felt that militancy was the only alternative and it challenged male supremacy, therefore the WSPU were seen as heroic and modern feminists. Some illegal methods of militancy included window smashing, the first attack occurred in 1908 at 10 Downing Street, after Mary Leigh and Edith New had their deputations refused by the Prime Minister. This tactic was then adopted by the WSPU, who made it their official policy. Emily Davidson committed the first arson attack in 1911, after she set a pillar-box alight. This brought militancy to a new level, as it spread through Britain and became official WSPU policy. ...read more.

Conclusion

The invaluable support given by both organisations showed that women were reliable and mature and could do the same jobs as men just as well. In addition to these reasons, the main contributing factor, which gave women the vote, was the political change in 1916. The Coalition Government of 1916 meant that no single party would benefit from women's suffrage, as at this time party divisions were less important. Women had showed their determination for the vote by their suffrage campaigns before the war and their contribution during the war, which showed that they deserved to be enfranchised, unlike in France where women were denied the vote, as they had not been any women's suffrage movements before the war, even though they helped with the war effort. Britain was also keeping up an international trend by enfranchising women as other countries such as Iceland and New Zealand had already given women the vote. As we have seen, there were many contributing factors to women's enfranchisement. However, there is probably not one single reason. Although women's work during the war undoubtedly brought women's utility into public view, there were many contributing factors for why women were enfranchised, and one reason was the general political change during the war and the many MPs who sympathised with women. ...read more.

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