Women and the Vote

Higher History
Britain: Womens’ Suffrage
Why did women get the vote in
Britain in 1918?
We are learning to…
Explain why women received the vote in
I can…
Build up notes on the topic
Plan a 20 mark essay
Pass a 20 mark timed essay
• In 1918, the Representation of the People
Act gave women in Britain the right to vote
for the first time
• These women had to over 30 plus be
married, own property or a University
• Historians debate the reasons why women
were given the vote
• It is your job to explain all of the reasons;
but also to judge which are more important
than others
Background (need for intro)
• During the 19th century many laws were passed
which made Britain more democratic by
enfranchising men, but women were never given
the right to vote in elections
• Most men, including those in government, believed
women were uneducated, unworldly, fickle,
immature and understood little about the world of
politics, economics and business
• A woman’s place was believed to be at home in the
role of wife and mother; men and women were
seen as operating in separate ‘spheres’ or worlds;
men in politics and women in motherhood
• Women wanted the vote as it gave them a voice
nationally and they needed it to force greater
change for women in Britain
The arguments for women getting the vote
‘The Factors’
Pre war changes (pre 1914)
The Suffragists
The Suffragettes
War Work
Foreign Influence
You should aim to cover 4 of these in your
essay; but you must know all of them in case
it is the isolated factor.
Pre war changes: Knowledge
Even towards the late 19th century things had been
improving for women slightly in terms of the law & their
• In 1882 & 1893 Womens Property Acts gave women full
legal control of all property they owned at marriage or
that they had inherited or earned whilst married
• In the 1870s universal primary education became
compulsory for boys and girls
• University became more accessible for women with many
universities allowing women through their doors for the
first time to study degree courses and there were even
female colleges, i.e. Girton College at Cambridge
• From 1894, women could vote in local elections if they paid
taxes and could stand as a candidate for elections
• ‘white collar jobs’ involving typing and clerical work in
offices and banks opened up and created career
opportunities for women who tended to be preferred by
employers; many women entered nursing and teaching
professions too
Pre war changes: Analysis
Analysis (basic)
• This shows that the status of women in society
was improving as they gained more rights,
became more educated and participated in local
politics and prejudiced attitudes of males were
improving towards women
• It shows women were proving their competence
in many areas and proving that there was nothing
to fear by giving women the vote – they were
reversing the view that women were too stupid,
irresponsible and immature for politics
Pre war changes: Analysis
Analysis (+)
• However, even though women were making some
progress they were still expected to leave their jobs
when they were married (the marriage bar), women
were not awarded degrees by universities and the
numbers of women serving on local councils was very
small – 24 out of 11,140
• In addition, many middle class women in the late 19th
century cared little for womens’ rights and were
horrified that women wanted to advance their
position in society – even Queen Victoria called
women’s rights a ‘mad, wicked folly’ in 1870
A (up to 4/6) and A+ (6/6)
This shows that…
This is important because…
On one hand…however on the other hand…
Task: write your paragraph on pre
war changes (10 min)
Success Criteria
A topic sentence i.e. ‘ There were pre
war changes for women which helped
them seem more suitable for the vote.
At least two points of knowledge (all)
One point of basic analysis (all)
One point of Analysis + ‘On the one
hand…however on the other hand…(some)
The Suffragists: Knowledge
• The National Union of Womens’ Suffrage
Societies (NUWSS) was founded in 1897
under the leadership of Millicent Fawcett
and campaigned for womens’ suffrage
• They believed in moderate, peaceful tactics
or ‘peaceful persuasion to win the vote for
middle class women and were nicknamed
‘The Suffragists’
• They used a campaign of meetings,
pamphlets, petitions and parliamentary bills
which were introduced by sympathetic
backbench MPs
• Their membership was around 53,000 by
1914 and they reached agreements of
mutual support with some male Trade
Unions and the new Labour Party
Suffragists: Analysis
Analysis (basic)
• The suffragettes impressed many British people,
including thousands of men, and showed that
they were intelligent, capable and trustworthy
women capable of organising a successful
nationwide campaign
• The NUWSS were successful in winning the
support and respect of many important MPs and
future PM David Lloyd George and have been
credited with turning the tide in parliament
towards women's’ suffrage
Suffragists: Analysis
Analysis (+)
• However, many historians have claimed that the
suffragist campaign was tedious and slow moving
and was easily ignored by politicians and the
suffragists were never able to achieve the
publicity of the Suffragettes
• In addition, some historians claim that the
NUWSS membership was only so high in 1914
because many women had become disillusioned
with the Suffragettes during their ‘wild period’
and switched groups
Task: write your paragraph on
Suffragists(10 min)
Success Criteria
A topic sentence i.e. ‘ The Suffrgists
were also important in achieving the vote
for women. (all)
At least two points of knowledge (all)
One point of basic analysis (all)
One point of Analysis + ‘On the one
hand…however on the other hand…(some)
The Suffragettes: Knowledge
• Emmeline Pankhurst was a NUWSS
member who became tired of the slow
progress and formed the Womens Social
and Political Union (WSPU) with her
daughters Christabel and Sylvia in 1903
• They had the motto ‘deeds not words’
and wanted to use more militant tactics
to breathe new life into the campaign –
disrupting meetings, heckling MPs,
chalking slogans on streets
• In 1905 they made headlines when Sir
Edward Grey a government minister was
heckled noisily and the two WSPU
members responsible were arrested
following a struggle and prisoned – the
Daily Mail nicknamed them The
The Suffragettes: Knowledge
• When anti women’s suffrage HH Asquith became
Prime Minister in 1908, the Suffragettes entered
their ‘wild period’ as a protest
• They smashed windows, poured acid into
letterboxes, carried out arson attacks, sent
letter bombs and security was tightened up
across the country i.e. at Holyrood Palace
• In 1909, Suffragette Marion Dunlop started a
hunger strike campaign in prison designed to
embarrass the government if or when a
Suffragette died in their care – women were
violently force fed by doctors through tubes
• In June 1913, Suffragette Emily Davison died
after running out in front of the King’s Horse
Anmer at the Epsom Derby whilst waving a flag of
Green, White & Violet (GWV=Give Women Votes)
Suffragettes: Analysis
Analysis (basic)
• It cannot be denied that the Suffragettes
succeeded in their aim of publicity; they regularly
made national headlines, were talked about in
parliament and were almost unavoidable through their
violent methods
• The Suffragettes certainly caused much trouble for
the government and did force the government to act
to try and save face – the Cat and Mouse Act was
passed in 1913 to let hunger striking women out of
jail temporarily until their health recovered
• The lengths the Suffragettes went to gained support
and admiration from many people across the country
and some people may have believed women should get
the vote in order to end the disruptive militant
Suffragettes: Analysis
Analysis (+)
• However, many historians have claimed that the
Suffragettes actually held back progress for women
because they reinforced the idea that women were
irresponsible, immature and unable to cope with
• Many MPs were incensed at the law-breaking
campaign of the WSPU and changed their mind about
giving women the vote – Lord Robert Cecil said in
parliament the Suffragettes had brought disgrace
upon women
• Some historians argue that the Suffragettes also
undermined the progress that the Suffragists had
made between 1897 and 1903 and actually caused
votes for women to regress due to their bad
Task: write your paragraph on
Success Criteria
A topic sentence i.e. ‘ The Suffragettes
were also important in achieving the vote
for women. (all)
At least two points of knowledge (all)
One point of basic analysis (all)
One point of Analysis + ‘On the one
hand…however on the other hand…(some)
War Work: Knowledge
• Two days after war was declared on
Germany in August 1914, both suffrage
groups announced a suspension of their
political campaigns for the duration of the
• The WSPU were given £2000 by the
government to stage a march and a
propaganda campaign demanding ‘Womens’
Right to Serve’ and help the war effort
• The Suffragettes even changed the name
of their newspaper from The Suffragette
to Britannica and they focussed on
patriotism rather than feminism for the
duration of the war
• Suffragettes also started the ‘white
feather’ campaign to encourage
recruitment, using them as symbols of
cowardice on men who were not in
War Work: Analysis
Analysis (basic)
• Both Suffrage campaigns gained support and
respect due their willingness to get behind the
war effort and ‘muck in’ rather than potentially
sabotaging Britain in the war by continuing their
Analysis (+)
• However, the Suffragettes were criticised by
some for their sudden willingness to cooperate
by the government and the pacifist Womens’
Freedom League and some more extreme
Suffragettes accused them of betrayal
War Work: Knowledge
• Women's war work was important to Britain’s ability
to fight and win and women stepped into the gaps
where around 3million men went to fight
• Women worked as conductors on trams & trains, as
typists and secretaries and 20,000 women worked
in government departments
• Over 700,000 women worked in munitions where
explosions were commonplace and TNT poisoning
caused women to be nicknamed ‘canaries’ (around
400 women died form TNT poisoning during WWI)
• By 1917, 25,000 were working on farms with around
23,000 In the ‘Womens’ Land Army’ growing food
for those at home and soldiers at war
War Work: Analysis
Analysis (basic)
The work that women did was of major national
importance and everyone in Britain was thankful to the
nation’s women for the role they had played in winning the
war- it was believed Britain couldn’t have won without the
• Historians have put the ‘reward theory’ – that women
were given the vote as a reward for their hard work in
the war and the 1918 timing of the vote and end of war
might support that – the government certainly would have
felt the need to do something as the vast majority of
women were sacked when men returned from war
• There was also ‘The Nation thanks the women’ billboards
across the country and newspapers called women
‘heroines’ which could be considered evidence that women
were given the vote at the end of the war as a reward and
thank you for their efforts
War Work: Analysis
Analysis (+)
• However, it does seem a strange ‘reward’ because
the women given the vote were 30+ whereas the
majority of women who did war work were in their
20s so not actually rewarded with the vote
• Other historians have said that the reward theory is
‘too simple’ as a lot of the groundwork for women
getting the vote was done by the suffrage groups
and pre war changes and the war was merely a
‘catalyst’ which served to change the views of
politicians who still opposed women’s suffrage
• It is certainly true that it would be easier for MPs
to award the vote to ‘heroines’ in 1918 than
‘terrorists’ in 1914 so perhaps the war made it more
publicly acceptable to give women the vote
Foreign Influence
• During the 19th century, Britain saw itself as the
‘cradle of democracy’ and one of the most politically
advanced societies in the world; Britain’s empire
included around 1/3 of the world – colonies such as
Australia, New Zealand, Canada
• However, more democratic nations around the world
had declared women’s suffrage much earlier on. For
example, New Zealand granted women’s suffrage in
1893, Finland in 1872 and Norway in 1907.
• In addition, the Russian revolution in 1917 saw the
autocratic Tsar who denied people democracy
ousted in a bloody revolution and killed by the
poorer Bolsheviks in Russia, which sent shockwaves
and fear of revolution around the world
Foreign Influence: Analysis
Analysis (basic)
• As the most developed nation in the world and a
‘Great Power’ it was embarrassing for Britain that
other countries appeared to be overtaking Britain in
terms of democracy, particularly when the
government argued that WWI was fought to protect
democracy in Europe – Britain could not ‘lag behind’
• The fact that women had been enfranchised abroad,
particularly in colonies like New Zealand, may have
added pressure to politicians and certainly given hope
and renewed enthusiasm to the suffrage campaigns –
• The fear of revolution was a real one in Britain and
middle class Brits were terrified of Communism, it
may be the case that the Rent Strikes in Glasgow in
1915 had added to government’s fears that the
working class and women would not wait patiently for
the vote forever
Foreign Influence: Analysis
Analysis (+)
• However, there exists no evidence to say that
foreign influence played any part in the
government’s decision to extend the franchise in
1918 and no evidence to say it was even
discussed by MPs in parliament
• It was likely that between 1914-18 British
politicians were far more concerned with the war
effort on the Western Front and at home than
they were with events in Russia and many
historians have downplayed ‘Red Clydeside’ and
the importance of the Rent Strikes
• A good idea when you have taken all
your notes for a topic is to create a
condensed revision guide for the essay
• This might be a mind map, picture map,
bullet points etc. but should fit on one
• Do this for homework (example on next
Essay Questions
• Women is an example of an isolated factor essay – this
means the SQA will ask you whether women got the
vote because of a specific factor (one of the 5 we
• You must talk about the factor in the question BUT you
do not need to agree it is the most important
• Examples
To what extent was the extension of the franchise to
women in 1918 due to the suffrage movements?
How far can it be argued that women received the vote in
1918 due to their war work?
‘The extension of the franchise to women in 1918 was due
to the work of the Suffragists’. Discuss.
Introduction – 3 step plan
• Background (give 2-3 sentences of what
life was like for women before the changes
you will discuss) ‘During the 19th century…’
• Factors (what are the factors in the
essay?) There were many important factors in
women receiving the vote such as… (a list is
• Argument (what will you be arguing is most
important?) It can be argued that the most
important factor was …because…
Conclusion – 4 step plan
• In conclusion, there were many reasons for
women receiving the vote in 1918.
• On the one hand… (you should take one key
factor here and explain why it was
• On the other hand… (now you should do the
same with another key factor to balance
your argument)
• Overall, the most important factor was…
(keep your strongest until last, backing up
why it is so important and it should be
clear why it outweighs the other factors)
• A good way to approach trying to get the
final 4 marks for evaluation is to take your
factors (5 in this case) and rank them from
most important to least important
• Try to come up with a reason Why each is in
that place (not why it is important but why it
is more or less important)
• A priority diagram can be a good technique
to use – try to relate every factor back to
your most important
War Work
Most important because it was a pivotal event of 20th
century and proved to everyone in Britain the worth of
women and women would need rewarded
They were the most important suffrage group and gained
respect but only from those who listened whereas the war
work was noticed by everyone
Pre war changes
It was through these that women were able to actually
form suffrage groups i.e. education but they were less
important than war work because changes happened
slowly over decade but war work changed women’s
position overnight
Foreign Influence
This was important as it pushed politicians to change
but less important than war work as politicians
couldn't; ignore the role women played in winning
war but could ignore events abroad
they damaged the cause of women through law breaking and
‘terrorism’ and undid the good work of suffragists and pre war
changes; the war work saved them from being completely hated
by all as they supported war effort
E1 and E2 - 2 marks can be gained from
making evaluative comments which relate to
individual factors
Example – Upon evaluation, women’s war work is
the most important factor in getting the vote
because WWI was a pivotal event of the 20th
century and it finally proved to all Brits that
women were useful, needed, responsible and
the war would not have been won without them.
NB – You must be saying something new in your
evaluation, not repeating your analysis or doing
‘mini conclusions’
Evaluation +
E+ - up to 4 marks can be gained from making
evaluative comments which show the relative
importance between factors (i.e. you compare two)
Example – Upon evaluation, the suffragettes were
less important than womens’ war work because they
actually brought disgrace and shame upon women
through their law breaking and militancy and they
needed the war to save the group’s reputation due
to the change in attitude towards them once they
supported the war effort.
NB – You must be saying something new in your
evaluation, not repeating your analysis or doing ‘mini
Remember analysis is really tricky and many
candidates get 0/4 but still get an A!