The Industrial Revolution brought many women into full-time employment. This meant they had opportunities to meet in large organised groups to discuss political and social issues.
In Britain, Acts of Parliament had been passed in 1832, 1867 and 1884 to establish universal male suffrage. However, at the outbreak of World War One, all British females continued to be excluded from the national political process:
The traditional view of a woman’s place in society had kept them out of the political sphere since democracy was established in Britain:
Many women themselves, including Queen Victoria, agreed that women should not take part in politics
The profoundly educated women rarely make good wives or mothers.Sarah Sewell, Women and the times we live in, 1868
Women did not just lack political equality. Women had few legal rights, especially once married: all possessions became her husband's, while she had no rights over her children. Domestic abuse was commonplace, legal and widely seen as acceptable.
A number of laws were passed to improve female standing in society. All of these laws paved the way for further reform in favour of women:
Women increasingly become involved in work that was seen as traditionally male, such as teaching. Other white-collar jobs such as nursing also improved the standing of women.
From 1888 women could vote in many local council elections.
The social and economic changes to the lives of women helped to reduce male prejudices.
The more females became successful in the ‘male’ world, the more it became acceptable. Many men began to see the stereotypical view of women as outdated. This, in turn led many to question women’s exclusion from politics.