The first instance of phase two of the militant campaign was seen in Rally organised by the suffragettes in June 1908. Phase of the campaign was categorized by a greater willingness on behalf of the women to use violence against property and “technical” violence against the authorities in provoke arrest. The rally which became known as the “women’s Sunday march” was in support of the government following Asquith saying that he would back an electoral reform bill worded in such a way that would allow an amendment introducing women’s suffrage.
Phase two ended when the WSPU announced a suspension of militant action following the promise of a “conciliation bill” at the end of January 2010. An election was held at the end of the same month and the outcome was a Liberal government without an overall majority. This new government set up a cross party conciliation committee to draft an electoral reform bill acceptable to all parties. In the hope that the said bill would bring the implementation of women suffrage, Emmeline Pankhurst called a truce, all militant action was suspended. The truce lasted until November 1910, when on the Friday of the said month, Asquith failed to mention the Conciliation bill when outlining the government programme. This date became known as Black Friday. The Liberals only entrenched this dire situation in 1913 with the creation of the “cat and mouse act”, which made legal the hunger strikes that Suffragettes were undertaking at the time and stated that they would be released from prison as soon as they became ill. One of the defining moments of phase three of the campaign came in June 1913 when Emily Davison stepped out into the line of an oncoming horse in the Derby race, following the collision she received fatal head injuries.
Despite all of the above the Government in power at the time, which was the Liberals remained unwilling until after the First World War to implement full female suffrage. Clearly one of the most contentious issues of the time in was very important for the liberals to make the right decision and there was many a reason why they did not put in place full female suffrage before 1914.
A reason why the Liberals were against female suffrage was because at the time not all men had the vote, it was unthinkable to give females the votes when not all the males had the right. The liberals though however would no jump to the opportunity to grant full male suffrage because the group of males who could not vote were the working class. The liberals new that if this group of society was given the vote, that they would more than likely vote for the liberals rival, the Labour party. The working class also held very strong view regarding women’s right to the vote, as in that area of society there was an inherit believe that women were inferior.
The Prime Minister was also a reason for the reluctance to grant female suffrage. Despite giving off the impression that he was for it, with the announcement he made in 1908 that he would back an electoral reform bill; Asquith was against the idea of female suffrage. Also was well as Asquith over leading liberals such as David Lloyd George were against the idea, as he believed that the women would most likely vote conservative if given the vote.
It also appeared that the Militancy of the suffragettes had a negative effect on the chanced of gaining suffrage before 1914. The Government could not be shown to be bowing down to violence pressure, as it would send a dangerous precedent to society. The government did not only have the suffragettes to contend with but also discontented trade unions and as ever the problem of Ireland. A dangerous message would have been sent around the nation if the Government had awarded the suffragettes the votes following the militant campaign.
It appeared that the biggest turn around in the suffragette movement came following the break out of WW1. The women of Great Britain played a hugely pivotal role in the British war effort and ultimately the victory. On June 19th 1917, the House of Commons voted by 385 to 55 to accept the Representation of the People Bill’s women’s suffrage clause. Suffragists were astonished by the margin of support given to them by the still all-male Commons. The Bill was made an act in 1918 at the end of the First World War. The general consensus was that the commons were willing to pass the Bill because of the work done by the women in WW1. However despite this there is evidence that the role of the women in the war in term of importance in getting the bill past has been heavily overstated. It is possible that the vote was just in fact a continuation of the way in which the issue had been moving before the war. There was a similar vote in 1911 to that held in 1917, and of the 194 MP’s who voted for the bills in both 1911 and 1917, only 22 had changed their stance. 14 had changed to being in favour of female suffrage and 4 changed from being for female suffrage in 1911 to being against it in 1917. Hence this evident it seems likely that the direction Parliament were moving pre 1914 was a more significant factor in the 1918 bill being past. So it is possible that the work done before the war by the suffragettes than the work they did during the war. In France to use an example, the women did a huge amount during the war effort, working in factories and farms, however they did not see any political suffrage rights following the war. There was though in France no history of women fighting for their political rights before the war. Parliament may have also been concerned that the militancy seen before the war might return following the war, they would have been made more concerned with the Russian overthrow of the tsar in February 1917 and the Bolshevik take over of Russia at the for front of their mind