How important were the activities of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the decision to grant women the vote?
On February 6th 1918, women were finally granted the vote in Britain, albeit it was reserved for women over 30 who were householders or married to householders. This came after sixty years of campaigning by suffrage groups. The women’s suffrage movement was a powerful political force by 1914. There were 56 suffrage groups and two main national bodies – the Suffragists (NUWSS) and the Suffragettes (WSPU). How far the women’s suffrage movement was responsible for women being granted the vote needs to be judged against other important factors such as the First World War, political changes and changes in other countries.
By 1914, there 56 different groups of women’s suffrage with 300,000 members. The Suffragists (NUWSS) by 1910 had over 21,000 members. It consisted of mainly middle class and liberal links, but also working class members. The suffragists were a non-violent group, who used tradition actions in help to gain the vote. They gained support from MPs shown in a series of Private Members Bills. The Suffragettes (WPSU) employed 98 women office workers in London. They were associated with upper class, but also working class support. They went by violent, militant actions. Their use of violent actions lost sympathy and support from much needed supporters. In 1903, women’s suffrage was put back on the agenda after parliamentary lull in 1897-1907. It is clear both groups had positive and negative effects. They united women of all classes for the first time. They kept issue at the forefront of the media. On the other hand, Martin Pugh said: “The Pankhurts (WSPU) proved a highly divisive force within the women’s movements. They inflicted a catalogue of splits among militant forces.
There are no grounds for the view that the WSPU shifted public opinion in favour, rather than reverse.”
The First World War had a large impact on women gaining the...
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