Campaign for Women's Suffrage
A campaign for women’s suffrage developed in the years after 1870 due
to socio-economic and political reasons. The transformation of
Britain into an industrialised nation prompted a change in the way
gender roles were perceived; separate gender spheres in business,
politics and the home were accentuated. Although a woman’s role was
still thought to be in the home, they had complete control over all
domestic affairs, and began to acknowledge the need to exert more
power in the outside world.
Religious missionaries, active in the humanitarian movement, were
among the first feminists. It was from this feminine public sphere
that demands for improvements in the position of women began to be
made. By 1900 women’s moral mission had also become a political
The Married Women’s Property Act, passed in 1870, was a key turning
point. This allowed women to keep upto £200 of their own money. Until
this time their husbands owned all their property, even clothes. I870
also saw an overwhelming public response in favour of letting woman
stand for local elections. In 1884 married woman ceased to be chattel
of their husbands.
In 1871 the first woman was admitted to Cambridge. Although women were
not permitted to sit for degrees until 1949, this was still a huge
step forward which enabled women to begin joining the medical and
teaching professions in the 1890s.
In 1893 New Zealand became the first country to allow women the vote,
thereby setting an example to the rest of the world that this goal was
achievable. Australia followed in 1902, Finland in 1906 and Norway in
1913. A petition in Britai...
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...enerally appeased. However by
then the shift of women’s roles and power within society was so
evident that the campaign for women’s suffrage was advanced.
International forces also played a part in procuring women’s suffrage.
Denmark, Norway, New Zealand had already given women the vote; as a
superpower England did not want to lose respect and credibility by
appearing backward in matters of domestic policy.
Women’s contribution to the war effort undeniably shifted their
perceived roles in the public sphere and sped up the recognition of
women as equals. Although these factors perhaps brought forward the
date at which women gained suffrage, the fifty year long campaign
carried out so passionately by Suffragists cannot be overlooked, and
is in my opinion the main reason for women over 30 gaining the vote in