Deeds and Words
Woman suffrage - the right of women by law to vote in
national and local elections.
Started in Yorkshire
The first women’s suffrage petition to be presented to
Parliament was 3rd August 1832 by Mary Smith, from
Yorkshire she petitioned Henry Hunt MP that she and other
‘Have a voice in the election of Members of Parliament’
Noting further for over 30 years
John Stuart Mill MP presents the first mass women’s
suffrage petition to the House of Commons, in 7th June 1866
It contains over 1500 signatures and failed.
The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) is formed in 1897,
uniting 17 societies. Lead by Millicent Fawcett, The organisation was democratic, aiming
to achieve women's suffrage through peaceful and legal means, in particular by
introducing Parliamentary Bills and holding meetings to explain and promote their aims.
Newspaper - Votes for Women.
‘Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied’ Millicent Fawcett
Mud March - 1907 The NUWSS organises their first large procession, where 40
suffragist societies and over 3000 women marched from Hyde Park to Exeter Hall in the
rain and mud.
The Labour Party in 1912 become the first political party to include female suffrage in
their manifesto. This was partly in reaction to the NUWSS’s ‘Election Fighting Fund’,
which was set up to help organise the Labour campaign.
‘Pilgrimage for Women’s Suffrage’ throughout June - July 1912.
50,000 people from around the UK take part in local and national rally’s and concluded
with a rally in Hyde Park.
The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) broke away from NUWSS in
1903 lead by Emmeline Pankhurst, and was a women only origination.
Embracing militant methods, they aimed to break the law, by breaking windows
and committed acts of arson, getting arrested and imprisoned, where they went
on hunger strike as political prisoners and were often force fed.
‘Deeds Not Words’ was their adopted the slogan along with the colours purple,
green and white
Two newspapers - ‘Votes for Women 'that then became ‘The Suffragette.’
‘Women’s Sunday’ June 1908 demonstration is at Hyde Park, London.
Attended by 250,000 people from around Britain, it is the largest-ever political
rally in London. Ignored by Government, suffragettes turn to smashing windows
in Downing Street, using stones with written pleas tied to them, and tie
themselves to railings.
Women's Freedom League (WFL).
In 1907 some leading members of the Women's Social and Political Union
(WSPU) began to question the leadership of Emmeline’s Pankhurst. These
women objected to the way that the she was making decisions without consulting
members. They also felt that a small group of wealthy women had too much
influence over the organisation.
In the autumn of 1907, over seventy members left to form the Women's
Like the WSPU, the Women's Freedom League was a militant organisation that
was willing the break the law. However, they were a completely non-violent
organisation and grew rapidly, soon having sixty branches throughout Britain
with an overall membership of about 4,000 people.
Over 100 of their members were sent to prison after being arrested on
demonstrations, refusing to pay taxes and to fill in the 1911 Census forms.
Newspaper ‘The Vote’
Marion Coates Hansen an early member
of the militant Women's Social and
Political Union (WSPU) and a founder
member of the Women's Freedom League
(WFL) in 1907.
She is generally credited with having
influenced George Lansbury, the Labour
politician and future party leader, to take
up the cause of votes for women when
she acted as his agent in the general
election campaign of 1906.
Hansen spent her almost her whole life in
Middlesbrough, and was an active
member of the local Independent Labour
After the First World War she took up local
politics in Middlesbrough, became a local
councillor in Nunthorpe , and was involved
in housing reform and slum clearance.
Her contributions to the cause of women's
rights has largely been overlooked by
historians, who have tended to
concentrate on higher profile figures.
Born near Manchester, Alice
Schofield Coates trained as a
She moved to Middlesbrough and in
1909 became an organiser for the
local branch of the Women’s
At one of her first meetings in
Guisborough she was pelted with
rotten eggs and tomatoes.
She spent a month in jail after being
arrested during a march with
members of the suffragette
movement on Downing Street.
Joining the Labour Party she
campaigned for improved public
health and better homes.
She represented the Ayresome
Ward on Middlesbrough Council
from 1919 to 1922 and up to 1926
she was a Grove Hill Ward
The first hunger strike was undertaken by Marion Wallace-Dunlop in 1909 as a protest
when she was not given political prisoner status in prison. She had been arrested for
damaging a wall in St. Stephen's Hall in the Houses of Parliament.
When imprisoned, suffragettes would go on hunger strike, leading to the authorities
force-feeding women in prison, a dangerous and humiliating treatment which provided
the suffragettes with powerful propaganda.
'Cat and Mouse Act'
The Prisoners' Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health Act, also known as 'The Cat and Mouse
Act' was passed in 1913. This permitted the early release of women who had become so
ill as a result of their hunger strike that they were at risk of death but required that they
return to prison when their health was better to continue their sentence.
In 1910, a Conciliation Bill was read in Parliament. The bill was written to extend voting
rights to women but failed to become law. Following its failure there were violent clashes
outside Parliament. There were further Conciliation Bills proposed in subsequent years but
they failed to resolve the situation.
Emily Davison is killed June 1913 after she steps out in front of the King’s horse at a Derby. She
intended to disrupt the Derby for the suffrage cause, though her exact motives are unknown.
Thousands attend her funeral.
World War One
sStarts 1914 and brings a suspension to the WSPU’s and NUWSS’s campaigns. Women are urged to
support the war effort, and they do, as during this period nearly 5 million women remain or enter into
employment. However most members of WFL were pacifists, and refused to become involved in the
British Army's recruitment campaign.
The war meant women had to take on a number of traditionally male roles. Their ability to do this led to
a change in attitudes.
Traditional family structure was completely changed many married women were forced into the
workplace by the death of their husbands.
Other women were drafted into industries that had been depleted by men going off to fight.
Over the course of the war:
▪ 200,000 women took up jobs in governmental departments.
▪ 500,000 took up clerical positions in private offices.
▪ 250,000 worked on in agricultural positions.
▪ 700,000 women took up posts in the munitions industry,
▪ Many more women did hard heavy work, including ship building and furnace stoking. These types
of jobs had excluded women prior to the war.
In July 1914, before the war broke out there were 3.2 million women in employment. This had risen to
5 million by January 1918.
Acts of Parliament
The Representation Act 1918
Returning soldiers from the first world war were
not entitled to the vote because of property and
This Act abolished almost all property
qualifications for men.
For the first time it gave women over 30 who met
minimum property qualifications, the right to vote
in a general election.
The Act also instituted system of holding general
elections on one day, and brought in the annual
These changes saw the size of the electorate
triple from 7.7 million to 21.4 million. Women now
accounted for about 43% of the electorate.
However, women were still not politically equal to
men, as men could vote from the age of 21.
Qualification of Women Act 1918
Parliament passed a Act which allowed women
to become MPs for the first time.
It was a very short Act, only one page long,
stating simply that women were not disqualified
by sex or marriage from sitting or voting as
members of the House of Commons.
At this time women could only vote if they were
over the age of 30 and met certain property
qualifications. However there were no such
restrictions about women being MPs, meaning
they could be elected from the age of 21, the
same as for men.
Seventeen women stood in the December 1918 general election. One was
The Equal Franchise Act of 1928
Granted equal voting rights to women and men
could vote at the age of 21.
• 1919 Nancy Astor takes her seat in the Houses of Commons, as the first
female MP for Britain. In 1918 Constance Markiewicz stands for Sinn Fein
and becomes the first woman elected to Westminster, but in line with Sinn
Fein politics declines to take the seat.
• 1929 - Women over the age of 21 vote in their first general election. There
is no majority, but Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour party take over from the
Conservatives. 14 out of 69 female candidates that stood across the
political party’s were elected. Including Middlesbroughs ‘Red Ellen’ Ellen
• 208 female MPs were elected during the 2017 General Election – a record
high and 32% of all MPs.
• Since 1918, 489 women have been elected as MP’s
• However the total number of women to have been elected to the House
since 1918 has only now surpassed the current number of men sitting in the
House of Commons, 442.
Many of the women involved continued after
they gained the vote, lots becomes local
councillors or MP’s and begin to focus on
other needs of women, to ensure equality.
The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading
charity campaigning for gender equality and
women’s rights, fighting sexism and gender
inequality through hard-hitting campaigns
and impactful research.
The Fawcett Society campaigns to:
Close the gender pay gap. At current
rates of progress, it will take 62 years to
Secure equal power. Just 30% of MPs and
33% of councillors are women.
Challenge attitudes and change minds.
20% of men aged 25-34 say women’s
equality has ‘gone too far’.
Defend women’s rights post-Brexit.
There must be no turning the clock back.
A Feminist is becoming a term both
men and women use to identify
My Niece Lyra