The vote for women would mean that the state would perceive women

The vote for women would mean that the state would perceive women as no longer being second class citizens as a predominately held view was that women were physically, intellectually and morally inferior to men and therefore not capable of voting. The Conservative’s and the Liberals were against women gaining the vote as they were afraid that if they were granted the vote, women would choose the opposition instead. It was argued that women and men regulated in contrasting ‘spheres’, with their social roles being established by their differing abilities. However, improvements were being made, and it would be wrong to presume that these descriptions of women as dependent, ‘second class citizens’ held true for all women up until 1918 as on the 6th February 1918 some women over the age of 30 were formally granted suffrage. The suffragist campaign is partly responsible for women receiving the vote. A more important factor is changing attitudes towards women in society. The other factors to consider are women in the war effort, the suffragist campaign and the suffragette campaign. An important factor in women receiving the vote was the change of attitudes in society towards women. The position of women around 1850 is well described by the historian Angela Holdsworth “As many manual and professional jobs were closed to them it was a struggle for women to support themselves.” (Changing Britain 1850-1979 by Donald Morrison, Elliot Morrison and Tom Monaghan. Published in 2000). Women were stereotyped to be at home cleaning and cooking whilst the men worked to make a living in order to provide for their family, this view never really changed until 1851 when women started to work, 33% of Britain’s workforce were women. In 1874, in Cambridge, a college for women was opened-Girton. Most people believed that education for women wasn’t necessary; however, more and more women were being allowed to join universities and so were more educated, many became nurses or went into teaching. The Local Government Act 1894 gave women the right to vote in local elections if they were property owners and ratepayers. This was important in the women gaining the vote as their continuous cooperation made it increasingly difficult for opposition to rationalise the exclusion of women from national elections. Following this, by joining political parties and becoming more involved in politics, the stereotypical outlook on women was no longer there as it was seen as old-fashioned. This was important because they were destroying male prejudices as a result of the social and economic changes to women’s lives. The facts indicate that women were becoming more successful in the ‘male’ world and were demonstrating that it wouldn’t distract them from their duties in their roles as mothers or wives, which is what most men were afraid off. The more females became successful in the ‘male’ world, the more it became acceptable. This, in turn led many to question women’s rejection from politics. However, it was still a male dominated society as women only earned half as much as men in offices and factories. As well as this women also risked sexual assault from men on a daily basis.Women’s war work was another factor that contributed to the women gaining the vote. The main women’s organisations postponed their campaign after outbreak of war. The WSPU intently urged men to join the armed forces. Women’s war work was crucial to Britain’s eventual victory as over 700,000 women employed in munitions. Women also worked as tram drivers, nurses at the Western Front and there were over 250,000 in the Land Army. This was important because the success of thousands of women entering the workplace to do jobs usually done by men won them extensive respect and admiration. Women contributing to work for the war helped counter the negative opinions of women created during the Suffragette’s ‘outrages’. Women proved themselves to be every bit equal of men as they were doing jobs that were viewed as jobs only men could do, jobs that were too dangerous for women or jobs that women wouldn’t be smart enough for. A common occupation for women during the war was shell fillers. It was considered the most dangerous job and was usually done by young working-class women. Many served with such distinction, particularly in the medical services, that their political cause gained credibility. Marwick claimed that war work increased women’s self-esteem and that “they gained a new self-consciousness and a new sense of status.” (Changing Britain 1850-1979 by Donald Morrison, Elliot Morrison and Tom Monaghan. Published in 2000). While this may be the case, it be argued that political advantage is a better explanation. There were fears of a revitalised Suffragette campaign after the warm the rent strikes of 1915 reminded the government of the potential for unrest if women made no progress towards the vote. War can be regarded as a catalyst which speeded up progress to votes for women but the tide was flowing for female enfranchisement before it started. In evaluation, women in the war work was not that important as in 1918, the women who were given the vote were ‘respectable’ ladies, 30 or over yet, munitions workers were largely young, single women below age 30 and they did not get the vote. Also, in France, women had worked equally hard for the war effort but did not get the vote. The Suffragists, also known as the NUWSS, were led by Millicent Fawcett and played an important role in the vote for women campaigns. They believed in peaceful methods to win the vote and mounted a persuasive campaign of meetings, pamphlets and petitions. Many supporters joined the Suffragists because they wanted to contribute to the movement but not be associated with the methods of the Suffragettes. They were successful in gaining support of a handful of trade unions for the women’s cause outside parliament. Parliamentary bills were introduced by supportive MPs and the NUWSS claimed that 50% of MP’s were in favour of the vote for women. By 1914 the Suffragists were a well-run organisation nationwide and had over 53,000 members. They were happy to receive support from men unlike the WSPU and deliberately titled their newspaper ‘The Common Cause’ to welcome men. It could be suggested that through using non-violent tactics and gradualist approach women had demonstrated that they could be trusted with the vote and that the argument for votes for women by 1914 had been won. In 1916, Lloyd George, who supported women’s suffrage, replaced Asquith as prime minister, and many pro-suffrage MPs who had been young men before 1914 now held influential places in the government. So the women won by patient persuasion, after all. In evaluation, the Suffragists were not that important as it can be argued that these gradualist and peaceful methods meant that the suffragists were less important as the government could ignore their demands. Diane Atkinson in Votes for Women, argues that the “NUWSS, of all the women’s suffrage societies, had the most to offer to working-class women.” (Changing Britain 1850-1979 by Donald Morrison, Elliot Morrison and Tom Monaghan. Published in 2000).Additionally, the Suffragettes were important to the women receiving the vote. It was also commonly known as ‘The Women’s Social and Political Union’, it was formed in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. Emmeline Pankhurst had grown impatient with the NUWSS and felt that there was no progress being made leading to newspapers losing interest in the cause. As a result of this she decided to form her own suffrage movement. She believed it would take an active organisation, with young working class women, to draw attention to the cause. ‘Votes for Women’ was a newspaper published by the WSPU and successfully sold 20,000 copies a week. The motto of the Suffragettes was ‘Deeds not Words’ and they were more willing than the Suffragists to use illegal and violent methods to get their point across. Some members assaulted Churchill, smashed government buildings’ windows, burned down a racecourse and disrupted political meetings. They wanted to intensify their profile in the media and parliament and attain their goal faster than the NUWSS were allowing. From 1912 onwards the Suffragettes became more militant in their methods of campaign. As a result of their violent tactics, many WSPU members were put in prison. They demanded political prisoner status and many went on hunger strikes. The government decided to force-feed them. This was important because the rough treatment of many Suffragettes arrested and jailed during their protests won increasing sympathy and support from the public and their militant campaigning gained widespread publicity. They were getting the publicity that the Suffragists weren’t able to do and were making headlines of newspapers meaning more people would see their cause. They would also see the extreme lengths that the women were going to for the right to vote, showing that they really wanted it. However, on closer inspection, it can be argued that much of this publicity was negative and the cause lost support because of tactics and methods adopted. Some argued that women who acted like this did not deserve the vote. A lead writer in the Daily Express demanded that “these women who unite to disorder and riot, shall be punished with the utmost severity.” (Changing Britain 1850-1979 by Donald Morrison, Elliot Morrison and Tom Monaghan. Published in 2000). An organisation was started in 1911 called the ‘National League for Opposing Women Suffrage’ which opposed the militant campaigns of the Suffragettes. The press became hostile to the WSPU because of its terrorist tactics. By 1913 the WSPU were becoming more anti-men and claimed that most men had venereal disease before marriage, this did not help. In evaluation, the Suffragettes was not the most important factor in the women receiving the vote as they lost a lot of support due to their campaign methods and the Government could not and would not give in to the violence. By mid-1914, Suffragette leaders were either in prison, in hiding, or ill. By the eve of the First World War there were very few Suffragettes still actively campaigning. Overall the most significant reason for the women gaining the vote was the changing attitudes to women in society. This is because by 1851 there was no longer a stereotype of women at home and the men making the money as 33% of Britain’s workforce were women. Furthermore because their participation in local councils, boards of guardians, and other organisations, made it increasingly difficult to justify their exclusion from national elections. The Suffragists was significant because they used peaceful protest methods and mounted a persuasive campaign of meetings, pamphlets and petitions. However it was less significant than the changing attitudes to women in society because their gradualist and peaceful approach made it easier for the government to ignore their demands. The women in the war effort was significant because women’s war work was vital to Britain’s eventual victory as over 700,000 women employed in munitions. However it was less significant than the changing attitudes to women in society as in 1918, the women who were given the vote were ‘respectable’ ladies, 30 or over yet, munitions workers were largely young, single women below age 30 and they did not get the vote. The Suffragettes was significant because their rough treatment won then sympathy from the public. However it was less significant than the changing attitudes to women in society because the publicity that they gained was negative and pushed supporters away as they believed that women who acted like this don’t deserve the vote.

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