WHY DID WOMEN GAIN THE VOTE? (THE SUFFRAGISTS (KU (The tactics used by the…
WHY DID WOMEN GAIN THE VOTE?
The tactics used by the NUWSS were often overlooked in comparison to the militancy of the WSPU. The NUWSS adopted methods such as Peaceful Protests, leaflets, rallies and talking with MPs.
This was significant as the suffragists 'set the ball rolling' for the votes for women cause and gained respect through their peaceful, political campaigning.
However the impact of the NUWSS was limited as the suffragists were often criticised for being elitist; their membership was overwhelmingly middle class and initially they only campaigned for middle-class enfranchisement..
In 1912, the conciliation Bill which would have given the vote to 1 million women was defeated in Parliament by a margin of just 18 votes, however the suffragists were responsible for the 280,000 signatures on he petition and getting the backing of 36 MPs.
This was significant as the suffragists gained the backing of the Labour Party by the 1900s and had worked hard to gain support from other MPs of whom 50% had stated their support for the cause, showing the peaceful tactics were effective.
Overall this was the most significant factor in helping woman achieve the vote as the political campaigning of the suffragists was vital to women achieving the vote. Their campaigning helped to prove woman were capable of being politically involved and crucially won support from politicians, including the Labour party who were heavily involved in granting women the right to vote.
Although the work of the militant suffragettes was very significant in gaining the media attention and drama that the suffragists lacked, it was not more significant than the role of the NUWSS, who through years of campaigning gained respect and alliances with the government which cannot be said for the WSPU.
The WSPU adopted violent methods; starting fires, smashing windows, pouring acid into letter boxes and assaulting police officers
This was significant in helping women achieve the vote as the work of the WSPU was hugely publicised and gained lots of media attention, therefore spreading the message of the suffragettes, loud and clear.
However , although the suffragettes certainly gained momentum and media attention from their militant tactics, much of the attention they received was negative and therefore it is fair to say that the suffragettes 'marched the cause backwards' as it became easier to argue against female suffrage due to their militancy which many regarded as stupid
The WSPU adopted the the dangerous tacticts of going on hunger strikes whilst in prison.
This was significant as the government gained bad publicity due to the deaths of many suffragettes such as Mary Clark and Jean Hewart who became martyrs for the cause.
Furthermore the impact of this factor was significant as the rebellion in prisons led to the Cat and Mouse Act in 1913, highlighting the pressure the group put the government under and the power they had over them
Overall, the WSPU were a significant factor in helping women achieving the vote as the militancy of the suffragettes was in itself crucial in breaking down stereotypes of the roles of women. Just by adopting violent tactics the suffragettes were moving into the 'male sphere'.
However, thus was not completely significant as many historians have argued that the militancy and in particular the Wild Period hindered the movement rather than helped as by 1914 many WSPU leaders were hiding or in jail.
The treatment towards politicians did nothing to change their opinion on votes for women and the campaign lost public support as the group were seen as common criminals as opposed to respectable women. Finally it can be said that the violent tactics made it easy to ‘prove’ irresponsibility and irrationality of women and damaged the positive work done by the suffragists, therefore the WSPU were not as significant as the NUWSS in helping women achieve the vote.
Before WW1, a woman’s role was considered to be within her home doing only domestic work. Public life including politics was seen as solely a topic for men only. There had been some progress towards a change in attitudes towards to women to improve their standing in the world.
Attitudes towards women changed as they were eventually viewed as capable individuals, who risked their lives working in dangerous environments to help with the war effort. This was significant as women were now in high responsibility roles such as doctors, bankers and accountants and proved they were more than capable of thinking for themselves.
Furthermore, politicians could no longer argue that as men were the main breadwinner and earned all the household money, government spending only concerned them as it would not affect their unemployed wives
HH Asquith, leader of the Liberal Party and Prime minister during 1908-1916 was very opposed to women’s suffrage partly due to the multiple attacks on him and his property by the WSPU.
This was significant as Asquith was Prime Minister during 1910-12, when the Conciliation bill was being discussed. This means that had he not been so opposed, he had the power to give women the vote much earlier, once again showing the drawback of WSPU tactics.
However, Asquith changed his mind about women after he saw the WSPU give up their militant campaigning to help with the war effort.
Overall this was a significant factor in helping women achieve the vote as the changing attitudes towards women helped support the movement and encouraged politicians to rethink their previous views and be more open minded.
However, although changing attitudes were vitally important in women gaining the vote, they were no more significant than the work of the suffragists; despite the fact that the NUWSS were labelled as too quiet and easily ignorable it can be said that the responsible peaceful tactics used by the group combined with the role of women during WW1 helped accelerate changes in attitudes.
WOMEN'S WAR WORK
Some women took on important roles such as bus conductors and nurses while others worked in dangerous munitions factories.
This was significant as women soon became involved in varied, skilled and dangerous work. .
Furthermore this factor also meant that women were enjoying more freedom as well as now making an income, munitions work was highly paid therefore it attracted a lot of women from jobs in domestic services which saw a large drop in numbers during the war years.
By mid-1917, it is estimated that women produced around 80% of all munitions.
This was significant as it showed how important the roles women were now in and how much men now relied on them to win the war.
. Overall this was a significant factor in helping women gain the vote as it gave woman greater economic independence. In the absence of husbands who were away fighting, many married women found themselves head of the household. For the first time they were in control of the wages and they were the decision-makers, increasing their independence and confidence.
However, this factor is no more significant than the role of the suffragettes as although it can be argued that the role of women during WW1 led to the Reform Act 1918 which gave the vote to women over thirty, the majority of women who helped with the war effort were in their late teens and early twenties, therefore the vote was not given to woman as a ‘thank you’ for their war efforts. The Majority of the NUWSS were over 30, highlighting the fact that it was the tactics and campaigning by the suffragists that led to the vote in 1918. Although women’s war work was very significant it was not as significant as the work of the suffragists and suffragettes as the groups provided the building blocks for the changing of attitudes and the role of women during WW1.