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“Women gained the vote in 1918 as a resultof their performance on the Home Front during the First World War” - How far do you agree with this statement?

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Introduction

"Women gained the vote in 1918 as a result of their performance on the Home Front during the First World War." How far do you agree with this statement? Single, property owning women over 30 gained the vote in 1918. Some people argue that this act was passed as a result of changes that occurred in the war. However it is also argued that the war may have delayed progress but the most important thing to remember is that the Representation of the People's Act was a significant achievement for women at that time. Women of all social classes carried out a number of different jobs during the war and made a vital contribution to the war effort, leading Prime Minister Asquith, a resolute anti-suffragist to ask "how could we have carried on the war without them?" For the majority of upper and middle class women it was their first experience of paid work and they entered jobs which were thought of as unsuitable during peacetime. ...read more.

Middle

However, some historians believe the war may have delayed reform as key MPs such as Asquith, Lloyd George and Sir John Simon had shown a willingness to enter into negotiations which was stopped by the war. War was a catalyst for change rather than the main cause as there was already a need for general franchise reform as large numbers of the armed forces were unable to vote under the existing legislation. In 1916 the Speakers Conference was held to draft a proposal on the franchise and registration and, although there were no official female contributors, there were many supporters of women within the conference. Although only a limited number of women were granted the vote, there were fears they would swamp the male electorate as over 8 million women were enfranchised. There were also a number of changes in Parliament which altered the balance between those who opposed and those who supported women's suffrage. ...read more.

Conclusion

The WSPU formed in 1903 as it was annoyed at the lack of progress made by the NUWSS and other suffrage societies at that point. It was a more radical organisation with a number of northern and working class members. It used similar campaigning techniques to the NUWSS but later adopted more militant techniques such as smashing windows, arson attacks, harassing MPs and interrupting the speeches of male politicians. It is clear that women's role on the Home Front helped to lead Asquith and other previous anti-suffragists to ask "How could we have carried on the war without them?" persuading them to reward some women with the vote in 1918. However without the political changes which occurred in the war and the fifty years of campaigning which preceded it, there is much evidence to suggest women would not have been granted the vote so rapidly after the war. French women, for example, aided the war effort but were not enfranchised until 1948 largely due to the fact there was no women's suffrage movement before the war. ...read more.

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