iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for Votes for Victorian Women

Listen now 28 mins

Listen in pop-out player

Votes for Victorian Women

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 18 March 2013

Popular history tells us that women did not get the vote until 1918.

Though they could technically vote in local elections before that, many historians have argued that in practice they had no vote until the 1860s at the earliest. And evidence that they ever did vote has proved almost impossible to find.

But now a poll book, discovered in a box of papers in a local record office, clearly shows 25 women voting in elections for important local posts in Lichfield in 1843.

In this week's Document, the historian Sarah Richardson follows the trail of these women, to reveal a picture of Victorian women's involvement in politics which challenges many of our assumptions.

She discovers that they represented a surprising cross-section of society - old and young, poor and prosperous - and attempts to trace their descendants today.

She finds out how, when even universal manhood suffrage was seen as a radical, dangerous idea, these women may have been just a few of many more who could vote at a local level.

And she explores how, decades later, campaigners for Votes for Women at the Westminster level had to contend with this complex legacy.

Producer: Phil Tinline.

Broadcasts

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss