Women's Suffrage

Women’s Suffrage Movement

  • The Women’s Suffrage movement was a nationwide campaign during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, aimed at gaining women the right to vote.
  • The core belief behind the movement was the notion of ‘enfranchisement’, the idea that women should have the same constitutional rights as men.

Key Organisations

  • The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Fawcett, believed in peaceful protest. They lobbied politicians and organised meetings to advocate their cause.
  • The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded by Emmeline Pankhurst, employed more militant tactics, including hunger strikes and arson. Their motto was ‘Deeds Not Words’.
  • Both organisations increased public awareness and pushed for political change, despite their contrasting strategies.

Consequences of the movement

  • The movement hugely impacted public opinion and legislation. It brought the issue of gender inequality to the forefront of national discourse.
  • Women’s participation in war efforts during World War I further strengthened the cause, leading to a change in societal attitudes towards women’s suffrage.
  • The relentless campaigning of suffrage organisations eventually led to the Representation of the People Act of 1918, which granted voting rights to certain women over 30.

Post-suffrage developments

  • The Equal Franchise Act of 1928 extended the right to vote to all women over 21, placing them on an equal footing with men in terms of electoral rights.
  • The suffrage movement played an instrumental role in broader social changes, leading to women’s increased participation in public life and their progress in achieving socio-political equality.

As you revise, underline the profound impact of the suffrage movement on British society. Keep an eye on the relationship between changing societal attitudes, political shifts and the role that both peaceful and militant tactics played in advancing the fight for women’s rights.