One hundred years ago today, on 6th February 1918, the Representation of the the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent and passed into law. The Act almost tripled the size of the electorate to seventy-eight percent of the adult population and gave around forty-three percent of adult women a vote.
“We should greatly prefer an imperfect scheme that can pass, to the most perfect scheme in the world that could not pass.” Millicent Garrett Fawcett
The political climate was not yet ready for women to have the vote on the same terms as men. It took another ten years for women and men to achieve equal franchise, but the 1918 Act did secure the vote for women over the age of 30 who met the property qualification. This change in the law was the result of decades of hard work, lobbying and campaigning by more than fifty suffrage societies.
While the militant “suffragettes” of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union are the best known today, they were by no means the only campaigners: nor were all those who actively supported women’s suffrage female. Groups, now often overlooked, included Sylvia Pankhurst’s East London Federation of Suffragettes, the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage, along with many others such as the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association, the Church League for Women’s Suffrage, The Artists’ Suffrage League; and largest of them all, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett.
It wasn’t until 1928 that all women got the vote on the same terms as men, but before we wait another ten years for that centenary….
….. why not celebrate 100 years of Votes for (some) Women by joining one of our walks?
Suffragette City on 3rd March or 29th April gives an excellent overview of the Suffragette protests immediately before the First World War.
The Garretts of Gower Street on 18th February or 19th May focusses on Millicent Garrett Fawcett of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and the other extraordinary women of the Garrett family.
Or come to Bow, in the afternoon on 11th February for the Radical Women of the East End to find out more about Sylvia Pankhurst’s East London Federation of Suffragettes.
While on 18th February, in the morning Newington’s Radicals takes us right back to the 1790s and Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman.