History GCSE / National 5: How suffragettes won women the vote and changed politics

Gemma Cairney finds out about the suffragettes and the impact on female representation in politics today.

Before the Representation of the People Act in 1918 no woman could vote.

Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst campaigned to win the vote.

Emily Davison was a militant suffragette campaigner who went on hunger strike in Holloway Prison and later died after running out in front of the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913.

Nancy Astor became Britain’s first woman Member of Parliament in 1919.

Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister in 1979, but today there are still far fewer women MPs compared to men.

MPs Yvette Cooper and Maria Miller explain why there should be more women in British politics.

Please note, this series was originally broadcast in 2013 and all information was correct at the time of recording. However, you will need to update your class with the latest facts. For example, there are now more female MPs than in 2013.

Teacher Notes

  • Students could be asked to identify the main arguments used by the presenter to explain why women gained increasing representation in politics and in Parliament.
  • Students could be asked to recall and share the evidence with a partner.
  • Reference to previous learning might allow students to consider what other factors could be considered to explain the 'big picture' of developing representation.
  • This overview could be interrogated by students and they could create their own two-minute documentary to assess how far the suffragettes changed politics.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching secondary history. This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, Eduqas, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

More from 100 years of the women's movement

How women fought for access to birth control in Britain
How women in Britain fought for equality in the workplace
How women fought for sexual and social equality in the 20th century