Women and WW1
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What will I learn?
 What is meant by the reward theory.
 The work carried out by women during
WW1.
 Arguments for and against the reward
theory.
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Reward Theory: Historian
Arthur Marwick
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Marwick argues that women still did not
have the vote by 1914 and in fact the
last Conciliation Bill 1912 – 208 voted
for and 222 MPs against women’s
suffrage.
Yet by 1917 – 387 voted for and 57
against.
Marwick states that something dramatic
must have changed politician’s minds.
Was the vote purely a reward for
women’s war work?
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Suffrage Societies
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Both NUWSS & WSPU Patrioticsupported the war effort.
Pankhursts called off militant campaign.
WSPU organised a pro-war rally in 1915
attended by 30,000 women which
demanded “The Women’s right to serve”
WSPU “white feather” campaign.
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War Work
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Women found themselves undertaking all
kinds of work, some unfamiliar, much of it
dangerous or physically demanding.
Munitions 1917 = 819,000 female workers.
Nursing 1917 = 45,000 female workers.
Transport 1915 =117,000 “
“
Example of dangers in munitions = explosion
at Silvertown factory in East London killed
hundreds.
Toxic Jaundice/canaries.
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Click on images to view video clips
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Analysis - Changing Attitudes
 Women – work gave them the taste of freedom,
better wages, more interesting jobs, promotion and
responsibility. Many women would no longer put up
with their old pre-war lifestyle and discrimination.
In turn, women would want the vote to ensure their
position in society improved.
 Marwick argues men working beside women and
observing their hard work and responsible attitudes
fostered a new respect for them. Women now
appeared more deserving of the right to vote.
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Changing Attitudes continued
 Newspapers called women workers
“heroines”.
 “The Nation Thanks The Women” posters
went up all over Britain
 Politicians – before the war many argued
that women like the suffragettes could not
be trusted, but some such as former Prime
Minister Asquith changed their minds
because of war work or more likely the
changing mood of the public towards women.
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Representation of the People
Act 1918
 Parliament knew it would have to allow young
men who had fought on the Western Front
the right to vote. The act passed easily with
a large majority of 387 to 57 against.
 Men over 21 allowed to vote.
 Married women over 30 or property holders
allowed to vote.
 Still unfair but 8 million women did gain the
right to vote.
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Analysis
 Did the war alone change attitudes to
women’s suffrage?
 Arthur Marwick says - YES! There was a
connection between war work and the vote.
 “The nation thanks the women” billboards.
 Former PM Asquith was the best example
of an anti-suffrage MP who was converted
to the cause of votes for women.
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Marwick Quote:
 Arthur Marwick states:
 “The war brought a new confidence to
women, removed apathy, silenced the
female anti-suffragists. Asquith was
only the most prominent of the
converts among men. Undoubtedly, the
replacement of militant suffragette
activity by frantic patriotic endeavour
played its part well”.
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The Vote was not a reward
 NO! – As argued by historians Martin Pugh
and Paula Bartley.
 Pugh argues Suffragists not given enough
credit for having shaped attitudes before
WW1 e.g. 2 weeks before war broke out
leading suffragists were negotiating with
government representatives over the
suffrage.
 Bartley argues it was a strange reward as
most war work done by young women in early
20s but they were not given the vote – only
their mothers or older sisters over 30 – who
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didn’t do nearly as much war work.
Arguments against the
reward theory:
 Pugh argues women would have been given
the vote eventually, as Britain would not
want to seem undemocratic and lag behind
other countries – e.g. New Zealand, Australia
and Canada, especially as WW1 was
supposedly fought to preserve democracy
 Bartley states: pre-war suffrage campaigns
had a high profile. Even though women in
France did war work they did not get the
vote until much later (1945) – largely
because there was no pre-war campaign by
women to push politicians towards votes for
women.
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Arguments against
reward theory
 Martin Pugh states “…it has been
claimed that women’s valuable work for
the war effort radically changed male
ideas (about women)… seems simplistic
and erroneous. It obviously overlooks
the pre-1914 changes of attitude as
well as the hard campaigning by the
suffrage groups..”
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Arguments against reward theory
 Paula Bartley states:
 “It would be naïve to believe that women
received the vote solely for services
rendered in the First World War”.
 “The significance of women’s war work in the
achievement of the vote is therefore
perhaps not as great as first assumed.”
 She states it was easier for crafty
politicians like Asquith to give women the
vote in 1918 as they were “heroines” rather
than to militant suffragettes.
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Women & WW1 - Coatbridge High School