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The Development of Women's Campaign for Suffrage

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The Development of Women's Campaign for Suffrage

Before 1870 a majority of women in Britain were reliant on their nearest male relative for their means of livelihood. Women on the whole were thought of as second class citizens. Women had a poor education and they could not aspire to professional jobs such as doctors or lawyers which as a result only menial and low jobs were available to them; thousands of women were exploited for example seamstresses, servants, governesses and prostitutes. Legally if women were married their earnings or any personal property belonged to their husbands. Women once married could not get a divorce even if their husband beat and raped them.

The nineteenth century saw gradual change in many areas of life, this had an impact on women and it gave them the confidence to fight to revolutionise their stereotypical role in society. After 1832 only half of the more wealthy middle class men could vote too, it was not just women with out the vote. In 1839 women were given their first significant Act which gave them legal recognition and were allowed to have custody of their own children under the age of seven if her husband had been adulterous and divorced her. This gave women a little more respect, which even though it was not much, it was the start of change for how women were treated. Some time later in 1857 it was made easier to file for a divorce, before now it was almost impossible even for the upper classes but it was still hard for women to get a divorce. In 1867 the electorate changed again. Leaving only agricultural day-labourers and women whom could not vote. Women had a success in 1870 when finally they were allowed to keep their pay and any property they received. Women were beginning to become less like second class citizens and new changes were to come.

In less than forty years, the changes in laws all in favour of women, gave them huge confidence and hope that their role was soon to change. Women received more freedom as the years went on. Women were gaining much more freedom. They now sat on local council and education boards and used their votes responsibly.
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