Votes For Women

Question One A Campaign for women’s suffrage developed in the years after 1870 because of the disadvantages women had in the community. Women in these times were considered as second class citizens. Women created this campaign because they wanted to be ordinary citizens and have an equal status to men. Although they sought independence, men were skeptical and objected to them saying that they were more likely to vote for the best looking man or would take most of their time choosing what dress to wear.

In the 1800’s, both rich and poor women had to depend on men when it came to money. Husbands practically owned their wives, the property and earnings all belonged to the husband and they would always keep custody of the children when divorced. Men were even allowed to imprison their wives in his own home. Many working class women had to go to work whilst many rich and upper class women stayed at home which signified that their families were better off than others. Women were there to obey their husbands and please them, if not they had the authority to beat them.

Another reason which contributed to the foundation of the campaigning for Women’s Suffrage was the poor education system for girls. All children were taught to read and write but in 1878, ‘Domestic Economy’, a new law was introduced which meant giving girls lessons in washing, ironing and various other housewife jobs. Middle class girls were going to schools and being taught science and mathematics by the 1880’s, these qualifications would help them get a temporary job as a teacher or secretary until they would retire when they got married.

A small amount of females went to university and rarely became doctors or architects but were paid much less than their male counterparts. The campaign also started because women were becoming more educated and actually found out that they could not vote in the general election. Upper class or richer women demanded another freedom which was to wear clothes that didn’t reduce their breathing or movements. They were victims of the new fashion, which was corsets, these made women have slim waists and well rounded hips which restricted their breathing and even made it hard to eat.

A lot of these women wore the corsets in bed to maintain the fashionable figure that they yearned to have. The influence of other countries also gave the British women reasons and more confidence to campaign. In 1900 New Zealand became the first country in the world to enable women to vote, other countries followed such as Australia in 1902, Finland in 1906, Denmark in 1915, Iceland in 1915 and Russia in 1917. Women were also gaining more status in different fields.

They were allowed to sit on school boards and also Guardians of the Poor. They were also allowed to vote in council elections. The 1869 and 1882 Municipal Council Acts enabled women to do this, they also voted in elections for school boards and boards of health from 1870 onwards. Also they were allowed to vote in election to the London Country Council from 1889, although a great step for women it came to nothing because women were allowed to vote but the laws did not say anything about them being elected.

This was proven when Lady Sandhurst stood and was elected for Brixton but her opponent objected to this because of her gender and subsequently took the matter to court, the judge inevitably decided that she could not take her place. All these points contributed and gave the Women’s Suffrage Movement great reasons to start their campaign. Women started this campaign because they were being deprived of their freedom, males were allowed to vote whatever their current status whether they were a convict, a proprietor of white slaves, unfit for service, a drunkard or even a lunatic. This shows the inequality women were subjected to during these times which built up to the revolutionary Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Question Two Suffragists and Suffragettes were the women behind the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Millicent Garrett Fawcett took over the leadership of an ongoing campaign from Lydia Becker after she died. She soon founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) which was later known as being the Suffragists.

The Suffragists used passive and peaceful methods to get their ideas and opinions through to the government. They recruited 50,000 members including men (which showed the increase in their support) who helped create 500 local organizations. The suffragists were very tactical but their methods did not attract enough attention from the Government. Many women from the NUWSS felt that their campaign wasn’t effective enough and joined Emmeline Pankhurst and her three daughters who formed the Women’s Social and Political Union which was exclusive to females.

They were later known as the Suffragettes, the Suffragettes believed in direct action, they used everything in their power to get some sort of publicity such as propaganda, violence and vandalism. The Suffragettes specialized in aggressive methods unlike the Suffragists who, themselves did not oppose to this at all but refused to believe they would come in effect, but then again the motto of the WSPU was ‘Deeds Not Words’ and they wanted ‘immediate enfranchisement’.

The first militant action by the suffragettes came from Christabel Pankhurst (daughter of Emmeline) and Annie Kenney (the only working class suffragette leader) when they disrupted a political meeting with their shouting, Annie was imprisoned four times. The headquarters for the WSPU moved from Manchester to London in 1906 to give the government more awareness about their continuous campaigning, they held many demonstrations near the Houses of Parliament. Indian suffragettes at the helped them get publicity at the Women’s Coronation Procession in 1911.

Publicity was their main target, they wanted to make votes for women a huge issue. They chained themselves to railings which gave them more time to protest causing much more controversy, they created banners which had to be skillfully made to catch the public eye. They even published their own weekly newspaper, ‘Votes for Women’ they were sold in all of the WSPU shops scattered around the capital. 300,000 Suffragettes joined a march to Hyde Park in 1908 wearing their trade mark colours, white green and purple.

These colours all signified something, Purple signified dignity, White was purity and Green was a sign of living things and hope for the future. The Suffragettes became more militant, they were described as an ‘army’ by Emmeline Pankhurst, they did things such as breaking street lamps, filling keyholes with lead pellets, painting house numbers out, damaging telephone wires out and even hacked thirteen pictures in the Manchester Art Gallery. They set houses on fire and placed bombs in London, Dublin and Doncaster and set mail boxes alight.

They even tried to harm the prime minister, Asquith, they threw an axe at him, and even tried to burn No. 10 down. Many of these activists were arrested but that didn’t end their campaign by any means, in 1914 a new law was introduced known as the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act. This allowed the women who starved themselves to be released until their health was revitalized and then re-arrested. They were also force fed before this law came into play but the government decided to stop because of the bad publicity they might receive.

Emmeline Pankhurst wanted to receive more public sympathy, so in each public appearance she made she was followed by a nurse to display the ill treatment she and her colleagues were receiving. She used even more propaganda when she took pictures of her and her three daughters in prison uniforms. The next great step for the WSPU came from the help of Emily Wilding Davison, she became the first martyr for the Women’s Suffrage Movement on 4 June 1913. The incident was not planned by the WSPU it was completely spontaneous, Emily ran in front of the King’s racehorse on the field. She was severely injured and died four days later.

Newspapers at first tried not to give the WSPU too much publicity, they only announced her death in small paragraphs, but the public sympathized with the death, after all she gave her life for her beliefs and the ‘Sunday Times’ called her ‘the most unassuming and gentlest of creatures, though she possessed a spirit capable of heroic deed and sacrifice’. During World War One the Suffragettes and Suffragists buried their differences to campaign for victory. This showed that their aims were the same and that they could work together. However, fundamentally their methods were different, the Suffragists being pacifists, the Suffragettes violent.