One hundred years ago today, on 6th February 1918, the Representation of the the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent and passed into law.
Women’s Freedom League badge, c. 1907 image courtesy of TWL
Votes for Women Rosette and badges 1913 image courtesy of LSE Library
Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage
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.
TheGarretts of Gower Streeton 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.
After a couple of months of hibernation and planning I’m shall be starting to offer a regular programme of walks again from March. I’m excited to announce new walks for 2017 about two women I admire very much.
Ada Salter: Beautifying Bermondsey
This year Capital Walks ventures south of the River to Bermondsey celebrating the life and achievements of Ada Salter; socialist, pacifist, environmentalist, youth-worker and Quaker. Ada was the first female Mayor in London and the first Labour woman mayor in the British Isles. Ada loved singing and plants; with her husband, local doctor and MP Dr Alfred Salter, she made a significant impact on health, housing, employment and labour relations. The Garden Suburb she created and the tree planting she championed can still be seen today. Oonagh Gay, of Crouch End Walks, and I have put a route together that explores her achievements and the ethical socialism that underpinned them.
Back in Bloomsbury, I have been indulging long-held enthusiasm for the writing of Dorothy L Sayers and developing a walk around some of DLS’s haunts along with those of her alter ego Harriet Vane and other familiar characters from the novels. See where Peter Wimsey broke his collarbone, where Harriet lived, where her fictional lover Philip Boyes imbibed Strong Poison and find out more about the woman who brought them all to life.
Meet the independent women of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Long before the Boris bike (though that should really be the Ken bike) the Rover safety bicycle offered new freedom to women as well as healthy outdoor exercise.
Fashion adapted to meet these new demands, introducing simpler more business-like styles.
In America, Amelia Bloomer gave her name to a particular form of comfortable clothing, while a few years later in the UK, the Rational Dress Society protested “against the introduction of any fashion in dress that either deforms the figure, impedes the movements of the body, or in any way tends to injure the health. It protests against the wearing of tightly-fitting corsets; of high-heeled shoes; of heavily-weighted skirts, as rendering healthy exercise almost impossible; and of all tie down cloaks or other garments impeding on the movements of the arms” .
Its members were more likely to advocate Dr Jaeger’s ‘sanitary’ woollen wear. Just the thing for the the aspiring doctor studying at the London School of Medicine for Women!
Join my walk on Saturday 16th January to discover Bloomsbury’s ‘New Women and they legacy they left behind.