4GK005 Campaigning and Citizenship
Campaigning for equal citizenship in Britain 1914 onwardsTask for students
Imagine you are living in England in 1918 and you are the same age, gender, class and ethnicity as you are now. If you are 24 or over, you may have some memory or experience of the pre-war suffrage campaigns. What would have been your main concerns in 1918?
Chronology of legislative change1916 A general election in Britain was overdue, the electoral register was out of date and the existing rules determining which men could vote would result in many soldiers and sailors being denied a vote in the next election.
So the government set up a Speaker's Conference, with representatives from all political parties in Parliament. Women's suffrage was not on the original agenda for the conference, but became included, partly because of pressure from the suffrage movement and partly because it was hard for politicians to defend extending the vote to more men but not to any women.
The main recommendations of the Speaker's Conference were included in the 1918 Representation of the People Act.
1918 Representation of the People Act - women over 30 who were householders or the wives of householders or university graduates became eligible to vote in Parliamentary elections
Extract from the Representation of the People Act, 1918 http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/citizenship/brave_new_world/docs/repofthepeople_act.htm
The Representation of the People Act 1918, with explanatory notes by Sir Hugh Fraser, 1918, London: Sweet and Maxwell, http://www.archive.org/stream/representationof00frasrich#page/n25/mode/2up
As a result of this act, the electorate consisted of 10 million men and 6 million women.
1918 Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act allowed women to stand for Parliament regardless of age.
1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act - women could join legal profession, become magistrates and serve on juries.
1923 The Matrimonial Causes Act gave right to wives to petition for divorce on account of their husbands' adultery.
1925 The Guardianship of Infants Act gave parents equal claims over their children.
1926 Criminal Justice Act abolished assumption that a married woman who committed a criminal act in the presence of her husband had been coerced.
1928 Equal Franchise Act
This act added 5 million women to the electorate.
1937 Matrimonial Causes Act introduced new grounds for divorce, including desertion of 3 years or more, insanity, cruelty, adultery, rape and sodomy.
Task for students
On the outbreak of war, the NUWSS and the WSPU suspended suffrage activities.
Some of the smaller sufrrage societies and a minority of the NUWSS and WSPU continued the suffrage campaign but added other issues to it.
While the majority of the NUWSS and the leaders of the WSPU were not pacifists, many feminist activists were.
1915 Women's Institute formed - also still exists - see http://www.thewi.org.uk/)
1916 Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women's Organisations formed.
1917 Women Citizens' Associations formed by National Union of Women Workers and National Council of Women.
1917 Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst established the The Women's Party. Stood several candidates in 1918 election but did not win any seats. Emmeline later joined the Conservative Party.
1918 Several members of women's suffrage organisations stood as Indpendents in 1918 election - none elected.
After the 1918 Representation of the People Act, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies became the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC) and were in existence until 1945.
Liberal government opposed to NUSEC and PM Stanley Baldwin refused to meet a deputation until 1927. As a result, NUSEC developed close relationship with Labour Party.
Extract from biography of Eleanor Rathbone (President of NUSEC from 1919) by Mary Stocks
Women's Freedom League campaigned for equal suffrage, the opening of all professions to women, equal pay, the right of a woman to retain her own nationality on marriage and equal moral standards. Continued in existence until 1961.
The Co-operative Women's Guild, women's trades union organisations and women's organisations within political parties also involved in campaigning
1921 The Six Point Group founded by Lady Rhondda
Consultative Committee of Women's Organisations formed by Nancy Astor.
Ideological differences between feminists
Women MPs1918 Constance Markievicz elected for Sinn Fein but did not take up her seat
1919 Nancy Astor elected for the Conservatives in a by-election - remained an MP until 1945.
1919 Margaret Wintringham elected for the Liberals in a by-election
1923 election - 8 women MPs elected
1929 Margaret Bondfield appointed Minister of Labour in the Labour government - the first woman cabinet minister.
See Centre for Advancement of Women in Politics http://www.qub.ac.uk/cawp/UK%20bios/UK_bios_20s.htm and
QuotationsBy people involved
'Women, your country needs you. As long as there was any hope for peace, most members of the National Union probably sought for peace, and endeavoured to support those who were trying to maintain it. But we have another duty now....Let us show ourselves worthy of citizenship, whether our claim to it be recognized or not', Millicent Fawcett of the NUWSS writing in The Common Cause August 1914.
'Yet the memory of the old militancy, and the certainty of its recurrence if the claims of women were set aside, was a much stronger factor in overcoming the reluctance of those who would again have postponed the settlement', Sylvia Pankhurst on the 1918 Suffrage Act.
'The Women’s Party has been formed to unite the women to fight for victory and national security, and afterwards to wage a campaign of social reform to secure better housing, better education, greater security for mothers and infants, and a system of industrial organization which will give good conditions of work, short hours, good wages, and at the same time greater efficiency and increased national wealth', Emmeline Pankhurst (1918) 'War until the Victory', Britannia, 5 April, p. 405.
'The subjection of women, if there be such a thing, will not now depend on any creation of the law, not can it be remedied by any action of the law. It will never again be possible to blame the soveriegn state for any position of inequality. Women will have, with us, the fullest rights. The ground and justification for the old agitation is gone, and gone for ever', Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister, Hansard 29 March 1928, cited in Strachey (1928).
Task for students
By later writers
'The mass appeal of the suffrage campaign which had spread the conviction of women's rights and women's wrongs to all sections of society, would not survive the victory, and was not to destined to reappear until the new movement of the 1960s', Olive Banks (1981) Faces of Feminism, p. 149.
'The first women's liberation movement failed because the impulse towards female autonomy from male control over women's lives was submerged by the impulse towards equality with men in their world', E. Sarah in S. Friedman & E. Sarah (1982) On the Problem of Men, London: The Women's Press.
Task for students
Online ResourcesOnline quiz on citizenship http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/citizenship/quiz/suffragette/suffragette.htm
From Kitchen Table to Conference Table, exhibition produced by National Co-operative Archive and other organisations http://www.co-op.ac.uk/politicalwomen/cs4_3.html
Leaflet produced for the 1922 general election by the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship, http://www.unionhistory.info/equalpay/display.php?irn=772&QueryPage=/equalpay/links.php
UK Parliament archives http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/parliamentary-archives/archives-highlights/archives-the-suffragettes/archives-the-first-women-in-parliament-1919-1945/
Vellacott, J. (1987) 'Feminist Consciousness and the First World War', History Workshop Journal, 23(1): 81-101, http://hwj.oxfordjournals.org/content/23/1/81.full.pdf
Mayhall, L. (n/d) 'Suffrage and Political Activity', http://gdc.gale.com/assets/files/wws/GML40207_Suffrage.pdf
Smith, Angela K.(2003) 'The Pankhursts and the war: suffrage magazines and first world war propaganda', Women's History Review, 12(1): 103 — 118, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09612020300200349
Kingsley Kent, S. (1998) 'The Politics of Sexual Difference: World War I and the Demise of British Feminism', The Journal of British Studies, 27(3): 232-253 http://www.jstor.org/stable/175664
Kramarae, C. and Spender, D. (2000) Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women, London: Routledge (some pages accessible via Google books)
Davis, Mary (2007) An Historical Introduction to the Campaign for Equal Pay, http://www.unionhistory.info/equalpay/roaddisplay.php?irn=820 (accessed 28 February 2011).
Rake, Katherine (2008) 'The long fight for equality', New Statesman, 3 July http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2008/07/women-equal-girls-rights (accessed 27 February 2011).
The Fawcett Society http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=605
Printed Sources UsedLaw, C. (1998) 'The old faith living and the old power there: the movement to extend women's suffrage', in Joannou, M. & Purvis, J. The Women's Suffrage Movement: new feminist perspectives, Manchester: Manchester University Press 324.6230941/WOM
Strachey, Ray (1978)  The Cause: a Short History of the Women's Movment in Great Britain, London: Virago.
Wiltsher, A. (1985) Most Dangerous Women: feminist peace campaigners of the Great War, London: Pandora.