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Women's Suffrage

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Introduction

1. A campaign for women's suffrage developed in the years after 1870 due to socio-economic and political reasons. The transformation of Britain into an industrialised nation prompted a change in the way gender roles were perceived; separate gender spheres in business, politics and the home were accentuated. Although a woman's role was still thought to be in the home, they had complete control over all domestic affairs, and began to acknowledge the need to exert more power in the outside world. Religious missionaries, active in the humanitarian movement, were among the first feminists. It was from this feminine public sphere that demands for improvements in the position of women began to be made. By 1900 women's moral mission had also become a political mission. The Married Women's Property Act, passed in 1870, was a key turning point. This allowed women to keep upto �200 of their own money. Until this time their husbands owned all their property, even clothes. I870 also saw an overwhelming public response in favour of letting woman stand for local elections. In 1884 married woman ceased to be chattel of their husbands. In 1871 the first woman was admitted to Cambridge. ...read more.

Middle

One of the most noted incidents was when Emily Davidson ran under the King's horse at the derby race in 1913. She was trying to emphasise the cause of women's suffrage. To show they had no fear, the suffragettes even attacked Buckingham Palace in May 1914. In addition, Amelia Brown and Alice Paul went to the Lord Mayor's banquet with Winston Churchill and pretended to be kitchen staff. Then when they all toasted the King, the pair threw their shoes at the windows. They refused to pay fines, and when arrested went on hunger strike in prison. However, these methods actually had a negative affect; the suffragettes were seen as savage and brutal, and men looked down on their unfeminine ways. Their actions were also not conducive to bettering society; supposedly women's ultimate goal should they gain suffrage. Prompted by the Suffragettes, the Suffragists did actually up the ante in their methods, but they never moved away from seeking a democratic solution. In 1908 they organised a mass demonstration in London; 13,000 women paraded through the streets, culminating in a meeting at the Royal Albert Hall. The Suffragettes did not support this as they were preparing their own demonstration in Hyde Park, which attracted a crowd of half a million people. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Suffragists and the Suffragettes both declared a temporary armistice with the government for the duration of the war; Christabel Pankhurst of the WSPU remarked later that 'as Suffragettes we could not be pacifists at any price...we offered our service to the country and called upon all members to do likewise.' Millicent Fawcett of the NUWSS proclaimed 'Women your country needs you... let us show ourselves worthy of citizenship, whether our claim to it be recognised or not.' When the war ended in 1918, the surviving men returned home and demanded their jobs back; they were generally appeased. However by then the shift of women's roles and power within society was so evident that the campaign for women's suffrage was advanced. International forces also played a part in procuring women's suffrage. Denmark, Norway, New Zealand had already given women the vote; as a superpower England did not want to lose respect and credibility by appearing backward in matters of domestic policy. Women's contribution to the war effort undeniably shifted their perceived roles in the public sphere and sped up the recognition of women as equals. Although these factors perhaps brought forward the date at which women gained suffrage, the fifty year long campaign carried out so passionately by Suffragists cannot be overlooked, and is in my opinion the main reason for women over 30 gaining the vote in 1918. ...read more.

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