Women & WWI
Women's suffrage & WWI
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February 1914, Sylvia Pankhurst had fallen out with her mother and sister,
and formed her own East London Federation of Suffragettes.
Unlike the WSPU, it was working class, and wanted the vote as just
one way to improve the condition of poor women.
On 20 June, she took a deputation of East London working-class
women to see Asquith:
the First World War, women worked alongside men to defeated the enemy. They joined the armed forces as cook, carpenters and
drivers. They served as
nurses on the Western Front. At
home, they worked in arms factories, and as firemen, bus drivers and
including Asquith, lined up to praise them (Source J).
was a year of crisis for the government.
The battle of Passchendaele was going badly, and the French
soldiers mutinied, threatening to take the French out of the war
altogether. People – particularly those men soldiers who did
not have the vote because they were not ratepayers – were asking what
was in the war for them.
The government had to look to maintaining morale, and began to
speak about making ‘a land fit for heroes’ when the war was over.
In 1917, the government decided to give the soldiers the vote. The women suffragist societies demanded that they, too, be included. In May 1917 the Representation of the People Bill was debated in the Commons and passed by a large majority, and in 1918 it became law, giving the vote to women over the age of 30. Historians debate whether the war was instrumental in gaining women the vote.