English 19


In early twentieth-century England, the Suffragettes fought to give women the right to vote. The move for women to have the vote really starts1 in 1897 when Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage. “Suffrage” means the right to vote and that is what women wanted – hence its inclusion2 in Fawcett’s title.

Millicent Fawcett believed in peaceful protest. She felt that any violence or trouble would persuade men that women could not be trusted to have the right to vote. Her strategy consisted of patience, and logical argumentation.3 Fawcett argued that since women could hold and occupy4 important roles in society such as sitting on school boards, it made no sense to deny them the right to vote. She argued that if Parliament made laws and if women had to obey those laws, then women should be part of the process, of making5 those laws. She argued that since women had to pay taxes like men, they should have the same rights as men and one of her most powerful6 arguments was that wealthy mistresses of large manors employed gardeners and workmen who could vote, but the women could not regardless of their wealth. [7]

Fawcett’s progress however,was very slow. She converted some of the members of the Labour Representation Committee, which later became the Labour Party9, but most men in Parliament believed that women simply would not understand how Parliament worked and therefore10 should not take part in the electoral process. This left many women angry, and in 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Union was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters. They wanted women to have the right to vote, and they were not prepared to wait. The Union became better known as the Suffragettes, and over the next decade, its protests became increasing extreme11. [12]

In August 1914, however, Britain and Europe was plunged13 into World War One. In a display of patriotism, Emmeline Pankhurst instructed the Suffragettes to stop their revolt and support in every way14 the government and its war effort. The work done by women in the First World War was to be vital for Britain’s war effort. In 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed by Parliament, granting women the right to vote. [15]