A summary of the campaign for women's suffrage

Women protesting for votes at Westminster.

Although there had been some advances in women's rights, women were not equal to men in the 19th century. In particular, they did not have the vote in Parliamentary elections.

Campaign groups

  • In 1897, Millicent Fawcett organised the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS – the Suffragists) to campaign peacefully for the vote.
  • In 1903, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU – the Suffragettes) was formed, led by Emmeline Pankhurst. The Suffragettes used violent protest, famously breaking windows and chaining themselves to railings.
  • Another group campaigning for the vote was the East London Federation of Suffragettes (1913), under Sylvia Pankhurst.

Despite all the campaign efforts, women had not won the vote by 1914:

  • Parliament rejected every bill to give women the vote. Male members held strong views about the weakness of women.
  • The Women's National Anti-Suffrage League (1908) campaigned against votes for women.
  • When the First World War broke out, the Suffragettes and Suffragists stopped most of their campaign.

However all this started to change after the First World War. During the war women contributed greatly to the war effort and kept the country going while the men were away. In 1918, the government passed the Representation of the People Act giving the vote to all men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 who were householders or married to a householder.

The campaign for women's suffrage finally succeeded in 1928, when women were granted exactly the same voting rights as men.