How important were the actions of the suffragettes in

How important were the actions of the suffragettes in helping women gain the vote in
In 1918 the representation of the people act enfranchised 8 million women who were
over the age of 30 and owned property or were married to a property owner. It is a
source of debate about what achieved this. Some believe that the suffragettes were an
important factor. However it is important to assess their contribution against other
factors such as the suffragists, the changing attitudes to women and the effect of
WWI. After assessing all these factors this essay intends to argue that the suffragettes
were not very important in helping gain the vote in 1918.
Firstly between 1909 and 1912 it can be said that the suffragettes did help their cause
because they revitalised the campaign and gained publicity. Their tactics were more
militant than the peaceful suffragists, they believed in 'deeds not words' and this
made them less easy to ignore. During this period they heckled politicians, chained
themselves to parliament and pretended to spit at police men. In 1909 they won
sympathy and respect as they were force fed while on hunger strike. In 1909 they also
sold their own newspaper, of 25,000 copies per week. this helped because it got the
campaig noticed. However ultimately not all the actions of the suffragettes helped
women get the vote. Between 1912 and 1914 the suffragists began to act as a barrier
to women getting the vote. They fired bombed churches and other property. Slasher
Mary cut a painting in the National Gallery and they put acid on golf courses and in
letterboxes. This certainly did not help women get the vote, as although it brought
them publicity - as in the time the issue of female suffrage we debated daily in
parliament - it was bad publicity. This hindered the cause because the 1912
conciliation bill was blocked and blamed on suffragette violence. Also by acting as
terrorists the government could never give in and give them the vote or else this
would encourage other terrorist groups. On the other hand it is worth considering that
while they acted as a barrier before 1914, in 1917 the Wild Period did reap results as
some MPs were keen to give women the vote to avoid a return to the wild period.
Therefore although in the early years and in 1917 the suffragettes did help, however
during the wild period they acted as an obstacle. What also helped was the peaceful
tactics of the suffragists.
Historian Alastair Gray argues that the vote was given as a reward for women's war
work and therefore this helped more than any other factor. It is true that women
worked hard in the war, for example by 1918 60% of shell makers were women and
919,000 women were employed in munitions. Over 7 million were employed in some
kind of war work, including the Land army to provide food. However it would be
worng to say that the vote was a reward as it was given to wealthy women over 30
whereas most muntion workerss were young working class girls. For this reason, the
vote was not a reward. Where war work helped was because it improved their public
image, it showed that women could be hard working and responsible, espcially after
the negative reaction to women in the wild period. Combined with the lack of
violence from the suffragists it gave them the opportunity to back down without
losing face and finally it also removed the argument that women had not served their
country and didn't deserve the vote. However had it not been for the pre-war suffrage
campaign which had made the idea of votes for women generally accepted it is
unlikely that war work alone would have given women the vote, after all in France
women completed war work, but they had no pre-war suffrage campaign and did not
receive the vote in 1918. In light of this yes the suffragette campaign helped provide
the ground work and war work provided the opportunity for the vote to be granted.