I’m going to look at women’s rights between 1800 and 1900 to see why women did not get the vote before 1914, and if the suffragettes affected this.In the 1800’s women’s rights were not good. Until 1870 married women could not keep their earnings to possessions, even their children, they all belonged to her husband.
Women were also considered their husband’s possession, until 1884. Also during this time, men could divorce their wife for adultery, but women couldn’t divorce their husbands’ tor any reason, he had complete control over her.Demands for the emancipations of women from masculine control started after the developments of girls’ education in the second half of the nineteenth century (1800’s). The increased of public schools and university colleges for ‘young ladies’ and the start of state elementary schools led to important social changes.
Women from wealthy families became dissatisfied with their way of like, while before they had been content with having a small education of general knowledge, music and a few house-keeping skills, they were fed up of remaining idle. Middle-class women, who ran the house while their husbands worked, and whose own wishes and ambitions came second to her husband’s and families needs, also wanted some education like the upper-class which required them being able to vote. Both classes were less independent than the working class women, who went out to work, but they still also had to raise a family put their wage into the house and also got paid less than men. There were women in all of these classes who wanted the vote.
But also others who didn’t care for the vote.Most men were against women’s suffrage, such as the prime minister at the time, Asquith and the liberal leader William Gladstone, who fought against the 1857 matrimonial causes act and continued to oppose extensions for women’s rights. Even some women were opposed to women’s suffrage, such as the Queen and Florence Nightingale. Some men did agree with women’s suffrage, though, such as John Stuart Mill, who suggested female suffrage in 1867 but was confronted with a range of arguments, including, ‘women were too emotional and impulsive to be trusted with the vote’.
, ‘the mental strain of making the decision would be too great for some women’, and ‘women should be protected from the harsh and sometimes grubby world of politics.’Women also wanted more professions open to them, as they could only work in teaching, domestic work/service, and some went in nursing, although it was not seen as a respectable female profession. They could not enter professions such as doctors or lawyers; they weren’t able to enter certain trades either. For the lower end of the social scale, new female professions opened – with the introduction of telephone operators and typewriters.
Florence Nightingale also made the nursing profession respectable, despite being against women’s rights; she thought there were more important issues. She thought middle-class women should have the choice of an alternative future to marriage, as without employment there were condemned to poverty or being dependent on others.Emily Davies and others were trying to improve women’s education opportunities. As women were becoming more independent, they wanted equal legal and political rights, especially over property owning.
Eventually parliament took action, in 1870 to allow women to keep their earnings and in 1882 they gave women the right to own and dispose of property.In 1897, local groups working towards women’s suffrage joined together to form the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). They used peaceful, patient methods of petitioning for their rights. Some women were losing confidence in the effectiveness of the suffragist’s peaceful methods.
They thought men were tricking them, because if the ‘….
..are as good as they ask us to be then we don’t cause them any trouble and there is no reason for them to take any notice of us.’Four members of the Independent Labour Party (who believed that women shouldn’t have equal voting rights until all men could vote), disagreed with their party, Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, Christabel, Sylvia and Adela.
They founded the Women’s’ Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903, they planned to win publicity by militant action, Christabel started this at a public meeting where the Foreign Secretary was speaking, A cotton-mill hand, Annie Kenney, went with her, together they shouted suffrage slogans, they spat at the police officers that tried to remove them. They both spent a few days in prison after that. The other WSPU women took turns at disrupting public meetings and going to jail. The Daily Mail named them the ‘suffragettes’.
The Pankhurst’s and Annie Kenney moved to London, where they were helped by Mrs Pethick – Lawrence and her husband, they looked after the funds and the Pankhurst’s organised meetings and marched outside 10 Downing Street. The public became sympathetic for these women who were willing to be arrested and suffer.In 1909 the suffragettes took a step further by damaging government office windows, and then when in jail, they sent on hunger-strike. Eventually they became so weak they were released.
The government ordered future hunger-strikers to be force fed, however this only resulted in stories of forced feedings winning more support for the women.In 1910 and 1911, the suffragettes called a truce when the government promised to consider suffrage law and a parliamentary committee was formed to settle the matter, they put forward the conciliation Bill, which went through various stages, only to be defeated when Liberal Prime Minister Asquith put up another reform bill in 1911, which would give all men the vote, which many MP’s thought more important. As the government also did not keep their promise, the suffragettes stopped the truce and over the next couple of years broke hundreds of shop window, slashed art gallery paintings, set fire to schools and railway stations, even pouring ink and acid in letter boxes.As hunger-striking continued, the government came up with a new law, known as the cat and mouse Act, this involved releasing the dangerously ill hunger-strikers and re-arresting them when they got better, Many suffragette ‘mice’ were able to hide from the police ‘cats’ and WSPU ‘safe houses’.
Apart from the fact that men may have been generally against giving the vote to women the biggest problem the suffragists or suffragettes had was getting either of the two major parties to support them The Conservative leadership believed that they could do something for the women and that as only wealthy ladies would probably obtain the vote, these would vote conservative – like their husbands. But with the party generally against radical change their supporters were against. The Liberals were the women’s best hope but despite much liberal support women had as little success there because the Liberal leadership – like Asquith was dead against them.In conclusion, men generally were against women’s suffrage, with a few exceptions.
Likewise women were mostly for suffrage, with some exceptions. However many factors were involved in women failing to get the vote before 1914, such as what political party was in power, and if the MP’s who were for women getting the vote were backbench MP’s or leaders, and if the suffragettes violent methods hindered women’s efforts, In my opinion they may have helped publicise women wanting the vote, but may have made people doubtful that they should have the vote.