ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE

The Bill

This Tuesday, 6th February, marks 100 years since the 1918 Representation of the People Act that for the first time allowed women to vote. There were many conditions to the bill, only women who were over 30 years old and either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner, or a graduate voting in a University constituency were included, and it was not until 1928 in the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act that all women were given the same voting rights as men - anyone over the age of 21 regardless of property ownership could now vote. 

The Women's Social and Political Union

Suffragette groups such as the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), headed by Emmeline Pankhurst were at the forefront of the fight towards the 1918 bill. The movement had slowly being gaining momentum since the Victorian era but it was not until 1905 when the issue of women’s suffrage was raised - and talked out of parliament that the WSPU was flung into mainstream political debate.

By 1907 a newspaper - Votes for Women - had been established and in 1908 the WSPU took to Hyde Park in London to hold a 300,000-strong "Women's Sunday" rally. But what they were most famous for were demonstrations outside parliament, hunger strikes, brawls with police and destructive protests.

When war broke out in 1914 campaigns were suspended in order to support the government during the war, which led to the WSPU eventual dissolving in 1917.

How is the centenary being marked?

A new 50 pence coin

A new 50 pence coin has been struck by Dr Helen Pankhurst. The coin depicts a queue of people, including two women lining up to vote. The phrase “1918 Representation of the People Act” is printed on the coin. At the Royal Mint, Dr Pankhurst said: "My great-grandmother Emmeline Pankhurst was a key suffragette, campaigning for women's suffrage. I think she would have been happy that the coin is here to mark the struggle. Suffragettes actually used to deface coins and mark them with 'Votes for Women' so there is an element of justice in having an official coin. It's creation is also very timely given that gender equality is so in the news."

Television

Many films on the suffragette movement are being shown on tv, alongside side documentaries such as “How Women Won the Vote With Lucy Worsley” which will explore forgotten stories of those who fought for the right to vote by looking at letters, diary entries and newspaper articles from the period.

Her Campus

We will be sharing articles on the topic of women’s suffrage throughout the month! Starting with a selection of interviews from our members on what it means to be a woman in 2018, 100 years after the Representation of the People Act. We will explore equality, empowerment, feminism, sexism and everything in between.