Model Answer “Changing attitudes in Britain Society towards women was the major reason why some women received the vote in 1918”. How accurate is this view? During the 1900s, many women were beginning to stand up for themselves and no longer wanted to be inferior to men. Prior to 1918, women were disrespected and under – valued in society. There was a change in attitudes towards women as the image of the “New Women” began to arise. They were becoming involved in various different jobs, having the ability to be better educated and get involved in politics.
However, this view that the “New Women” was the only factor that contributed to women getting the vote is untrue. Women began their own campaigns in order to get the vote. This included the Suffragists and the Suffragettes as both organisations were tired of being ignored and seen as “undeserving”of the vote. Furthermore, another addition to the factors is the “Reward Theory”. Women during World War 1 became greatly involved in helping Britain in the war (e.
g taking up jobs which were dangerous and only men would have normally done them).
Therefore, the views upon women had changed and had a great impact on the reason women got the vote, but this is not the only factor that aided their achievement. Due to the break-down of the “separate spheres” during the 1900s, women were able to become more ambitious and better themselves. Before hand, women were not allowed to earn their own wages and most were not allowed to work. However, more women became employees of “white collar” jobs (e. g clerical or computing assistants in offices). Therefore, these new jobs allowed women to gain a sense of responsibility and many ambitions.
This also led on to countless women wanting to improve their opportunities in society and in order to do so, they saught the extention of the franchise. In additon to this, education became compulsary for everyone at Primary school, which gave men, aswell as women a basic level of understanding. Later, 349 Secondary or Grammar schools were opened by 1914 for women. Also, colleges for only women were opened (e. g Girton College in 1869). Therefore, as women became more educated they were no longer viewed as “too stupid” to vote.
Moreover, the involvement in Politics also aided the change in attitudes towards women. Women were allowed to take part in local authority elections. In 1869, women were granted the ability to vote in Local council elections. In 1870, women were allowed to join the schools boards and in 1894 they were able to stand as candidates in the Local elections. This showed the great deal of success women could have if given the chance, but women were still annoyed that they were untrusted with the ability to get involved in National elections.
However, despite the fact that the changes to the attitudes towards women in the British Society had a major impact on their right to vote, this was not the only reason they received the vote by 1918. Women began to campaign for their rights and started the suffrage movements. The first of the movements was the Suffragists, which was led by Millicent Fawcett. The aim of these campaigners was to use peaceful tactics to demonstrate that they were derserving for the vote. Their tactics involved regular meetings, issuing pamphlets and frequent Parliamentary bills introduced by friendly MP’s that the Suffragists had persuaded to support them.
The Suffragists had a vast amount of support as by 1919 its members had risen to 50,000. Countless people were impressed by the dignified and well organised manour in which the Suffragists conducted themselves. One of the MPs that was won over by the Suffragists was Lloyd George and this is argued by the Historian Martin Pugh. Their quiet persuasion gained alot of support. Also, only two weeks before the out break of the World War, the Suffragists were negotiating with the Government over their right to vote.
However, there was alot of anti-suffrage from people, for example Queen Victoria and working class men. Moreover, due to great frustration the Suffragettes were formed as their vote was still not passed. Between 1909 and 1914 the motto of their campaign had expanded – “Deeds not Words”. This meant that peaceful methods were abolished by them and militant tactics were reforced, such as smashing windows, pepper bombing various places and setting fire to pillar boxes. Their aim was to be recognised all over Britain as they were desperate for the vote.
The death of one of the dedicated followers, Emily Davison led to the Hunger campaign. This resulted to force feeding in prisons as the members refused to eat whilst they suffered from imprisonment. Furthermore, this resulted in the Temporary Discharge Act in 1912, which is also known as the “Cat and Mouse Act”. Therefore, the Suffragettes gained alot of publicity and sympathy for the women’s suffrage as women were dying or suffered from a great deal of pain for their beliefs. This also put pressure on politicians to appease women.
However, their was distinct male back-lash against the Suffragette as they were vigorously violent and seemed undeserving of the vote due to their methods. Martin Pugh, a well known Historian, argues that the Suffragettes harmed the cause of womens suffrage as they turned MPs against the movement. The conciliation bills of this time highlight the effect that the Suffragettes had on the suffrage movement as in 1912, 222 MPs were against giving women the vote after the Suffragettes set an attack upon MPs. However, both the Suffragists and the Suffragettes made womens suffrage a “political hot potatoe” and put their cause on the political map.
Therefore, despite the fact that women had not achieved the vote whilst their campaigns were conducted, it did aid to the “new women” image and without the Suffragists and Suffragettes women would have never had a voice at this time. An additional factor is the “Reward Theory” for the war efforts made by the women during the war. Both the Suffragists and Suffragettes were very patriotic and ceased all campaigning, which led to them pledging full support to the war. Therefore, this meant the amense amount of energy and effort the members put into campaigning for the vote was used for the purpose of helping in the war.
The Suffragettes had a pro war rallie in 1915 and 30,000 women demanded “The Women’s Right to Serve”. Also, the “White Feather” campaign was also started. Therefore, people saw that women were serious about aiding in any way possible to the war and their enthusim towards their country. Women undertook in extremely dangerous jobs that only men were initially employed in (e. g munitions employed 819,000 women). It was tremendously harmful to their health and in Silvertown factory in East London a great explosion killed hundreds.
The work gave women a certain degree of freedom as they made their own wages, they were now able to have interesting jobs and most importantly – this change made women more determind to achieve the vote as they did not want to return back to the “old-pre war” lifestyle. A Historian named Arthur Marwick argues that men working next to women now saw the hard work that women were capable of and fostered a new respect towards them. Also, the newspaper headlines consisted of the description of women now being seen as “heroines” and posters titled “The Nation Thanks the Women” were all over Britain.
This meant that legislation could now be passed as now Politicians could pass woman as “heroines” rather than be seen to give into viloence. However, there is a strong argument that the “Reward Theory” is non-existant. The right to vote was not given to those women who were involved in the war work and is sarcasticly seen as a “Strange Reward” by Paula Bartley, another Historian. The vote was given to women of the age of thirty or above, those were the women who done little to help in the war. Also, it is viewed by Martin Pugh that the “votes for women” was coming, perhaps even before the war.
Britain would not have wanted to seem undemocratic in comparison to New Zealand, Australia or Canada. In addition, Bartley also informs us that pre-war suffrage campaigns had high profile. Women in France aided in the war, yet they did not achieve the vote after their efforts, but they did not have the Suffragists or the Suffragettes. Therefore, women in France had wait until 1945 to gain the vote as there was no suffrage campaign to force the matter onto the Politicians. Pugh says that it would be too “simplistic” to say that the womens war effort was the main cause of women gaining the vote.
Therefore, women did aid a massive amount in the war and were seen by many people, such as the Prime Minister Asquith, as more deserving of the vote, which means the change in attitudes prior to the war was not the only influence on legislation being passed by 1918. In conclusion, the changes in attitudes towards women before the war had a significant impact on why women gained the vote by 1918, but this factor did not achieve the vote alone. On the one hand, women were now viewed more deserving of the right to vote as they were better educated and proven their abilities in new white collar jobs and in local politics.
On the other hand, the Suffrage movements put the issue of votes for women on the political map. The Suffragists gained support, including that of many MPs, through their dignified methods of protest. The Suffragettes gained a mass amount of support from the hunger strikes and gained a lot of sympathy and publicity for the cause. Also, as argued by historian Marwick’s Reward Theory, women received the vote in 1918 as a ‘thank-you’ for their work in WW1. Overall, changing attitudes towards women prior to WW1 was one reason for women receiving the vote but it is also evident that the suffrage movements and WW1 had a role to play.
Cite this Higher History Women
Higher History Women. (2016, Dec 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/higher-history-women/