Women's Right to Vote Essay
Source A, the Suffragette poster shows pictures of skill-full women and the jobs in which they are able to meet the requirements - Women's Right to Vote Essay introduction. A mother, nurse, doctor, teacher, factory hand and even a mayor all jobs showing responsibility and respectability. A woman can get qualifications to be a teacher or doctor, (and still didn’t get equal pay to men in the same job) get elected to become mayor, but no choice when it comes to government affairs.
On the other hand the poster showed the men who weren’t necessarily mentally fit or moral who could vote. The poster shows Convicts, the mentally ill drunkard etc. It shows several different types of men with little responsibility or respect for themselves. E.g. the Proprietor of White Slaves. And these people had the vote because of their sex. This poster was trying to show the double standards between men and women and the absurdity of who can and cannot vote.
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Others who could not vote also included
* Men who did not own a property or payï¿½10+ a year on rent
* Servants who lived with their employers
Women were frustrated by the fact that they were put in the same category with uncivilised people and felt that by having the vote, this would eventually give them opportunities to make changes in the law. Emmeline Pankhurst once said ‘we are here in our efforts to become law-makers’. Emmeline Pankhurst was the head of the Women’s Social and Political Union. (WSPU) and lead the suffragette movement. There was another group called the National Union of Women’s Suffrages Societies (NUWSS). The fundamental difference between these two groups that both wanted women to be able to vote was, NUWSS led peaceful protests. WSPU became more militant as time went by.
The poster is a bit unfair in trying to argue that a man unfit for service doesn’t really have the right to vote and also lunatics couldn’t vote.
Source F is a poster by the Government drawn in the middle of the First World War (1916). The Caption reads ‘Women munitions workers, Enrol at Once’. This shows how desperate the Government were for more munitions workers. The caption is very demanding ‘At Once’ implying now.
Source G is Statistics from a school text book, published in the 1980s, about women’s employment in Britain from July 1914 to July 1918. The largest are of increased job employment was the Government offices. This had increased by an amazing 11,250%, from 2000 to 225,000. However, many people disagreed with the NUWSS’S and WSPU’s support for the Government during the First World War. Sylvia Pankhurst was one of these people. ‘To me it seemed a tragic betrayal of the Great movement to bring the mother-half of the race into the councils of the nation.
Women during World War 1 made a big contribution to the War effort. They worked in metal factories, government offices, as bus conductors and the list goes on. On the 4th of August, 1914 when England declared war on Germany, NUWSS announced that they would stop all political activity to help with the war effort. The some members of the WSPU like Emmeline Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst decided to negotiate with the Government and all Suffragettes were released from prison. Some members did however disagree.
As more men were needed over seas for the army, more and more women were needed to fill gaps in many industries such as the metal and chemical industries. In July 1914, there were 170,000 women working in the metal industries. By the end of the war in 1918, this number increased by 350% to 594,000. Women worked as doctors, treating the wounded British soldiers. Half a million women became clerical workers in private offices. A quarter of a million worked in agriculture. Over 700,000 women worked in highly dangerous munitions industry. There was also a big demand for women to do heavy work like unloading coat building ships, stoking furnaces etc.
In Christabel Pankhurst’s book ‘Unshackled’ she explained her reaction to the news in 1914 about the war. ‘Mother and I declared support for our country’ ‘we offered our service to the country and called upon all members to do likewise’. Emmeline Pankhurst once said ‘what would be the good of a vote without a country to vote in!’ Good point.
Source F was published by the government, meaning it was propaganda and quite insistent in its tone. It shows that there was an incredibly high need for women in the munitions industries. The statistics also show that women rose to the occasion and worked in all the areas where there were gaps. The fact that they worked in heavy load and agriculture shows their dedication to the war effort. As source G was written decades after World War 1 it seems more balanced and less biased. Therefore, source g is more effective in showing the contribution of women to the war effort.
There have been many debates as to whether women gained the vote because of their contributions during World War 1. Some people believe that the war was the cause of women being enfranchised. Source J would agree. But sources H and I show a different opinion.
Source H is from a history book called ‘Women’s Suffrage in Britain, 1867-1928. It was written in 1980. It says ‘A very simple view would see the vote as a reward for loyal wartime service’ it goes on to say ‘careful study shows how little change resulted from the war’. This gives the impression that women’s effort during the war was not one of the reasons that they got the vote.
Source J is part of a speech made by Herbert Asquith in 1917, Asquith was prime minister from 1908-1916. He was also very well known for opposing women’s right to vote. ‘They have contributed to every service during this war except that of fighting. I therefore believe that some measure of women’s Suffrage should be given’ Asquith, being former prime minister, must of still been quite influential in Government affairs, and his input might of been a reason for women getting the vote because of their efforts during the war.
However, source I written in 1980 called ‘Women at War, 19141918’, shares the same view of source J and H. ‘To say that the war brought votes for women is to make a very rough generalisation , yet one with some truth’. This source is quite balanced and is trying to say that women’s effort during the war might have had some weight in deciding whether women should have been enfranchised, but wasn’t the main reason for this.
The War gave women the opportunity to prove their worth in the war effort, to prove that they could do work just as good as men. Many women joined the Women’s Land Army or the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VADS). Also, this would shut the government up. They could no longer argue that women were irresponsible and not to be trusted with issues that men faced. They often proved that they could do a job better than the men did! Public opinion towards women became incredibly favourable and they were no longer subjected to loads of criticism by the press. Media did change public opinion and definitely played a part in creating more equality between the sexes. Also, there was less divisions between the classes.
There was a genuine feeling that people wanted there to be a better world and that would include everybody getting the vote. Possibly the fact that sooo many women started to work for the government would of made some difference to being enfranchised as well. Besides, it was obvious that after the war, the suffrage campaign would continue. All this information would seem to imply that women’s effort during the war did play a part in them getting the vote.
On the other hand, Paula Bartley who wrote ‘Votes for Women’ in 1998 seems to disagree with this ‘women over 30 were given the vote, the very women who had helped in the war effort-the young women who worked in the munitions factories-were actually denied the vote’. Interesting, this shows that the actual fact that women could do men’s jobs had no influence on the Government’s decision to give women the vote. One important thing that happened during the war was the fact that Lloyd George replaced Asquith as Prime Minister who was more kind-hearted towards women’s Suffrage. Also, new Zealand, Australia, Finland, Denmark and Norway women had already been enfranchised. Britain would look stupid being the ‘Mother of Democracy’ to lag behind.