Key Words

Suffrage: the vote.

Franchise: the body of people entitled to vote

Enfranchise: give the vote.

Conciliation: compromise

Legislation: laws

Constitution: the way the country is governed.


   Votes for Women!



Nineteenth Century changes


Victorian women had few civil or political rights.   A wife had to do as she was told by her husband, who was her protector and adviser.   Until 1884 a wife was officially listed as one of her husband’s possessions.   In addition, Victorian women were expected to live up to an image of ‘the perfect being’ – beautiful, demure, loving and intelligent.   Many women actively agreed with this attitude (Source A).


As the 19th century progressed, women were given a number of civil rights, including the right to vote in local elections (Source B).   But by 1900 they had still not been given the right to vote in Parliamentary elections.



Source A

A woman should make a man’s home delightful.   Their sex should ever teach them to be subordinate.   Women are like children; the more they show they need looking after, the more attractive they are.

Mrs John Sandford, Woman in her Social and Domestic Character (1837).  

Notice that Elizabeth Poole Sandford, as she was, writes under her married name of Mrs John Sandford.


Source B

Women’s Rights in the 19th century

1857: Matrimonial Causes Act – a woman can divorce her husband if he beats her or commits adultery.

1882: Married Woman’s Property Act – married women allowed to own property and to keep their own earnings.

1907: women ratepayers were allowed to vote in local elections.





History Learning

Spartacus site

Latifa School Site


Victorian women 

Were Victorian men and women equal?  

A Haselden cartoon from 1907 imagining the 'perfect' wife  

How women were expected to behave - a very difficult essay by an expert in women's history   


An old GCSE sourcework question.




Read the information on this web page.   Can you see any reasons why women were not given the vote before 1914.




NUWSS campaigners



Spidergram overview

Story of Women's Suffrage  

Early 1900s Women's Suffrage



History learning

Spartacus site 


- Scott Allsop's podcast on the Suffragettes



Sister Suffragette (song from Mary Poppins)

Iron-Jawed Angels (American suffragettes - includes graphic scene of force-feeding)

Emily Davison


Detailed narrative - dull


Why did the Suffragettes turn to violence?

What did the Suffragettes do? - a list of actions

What did the Suffragettes do? - a passage from Constance Rover.

Welsh Suffragettes

Dartford Suffragettes

Thanet Suffragettes: 1906-9, 1910-14

Suffragettes in prison - extracts from a (v difficult) article by Jane Purvis


Spy pictures!


Emmeline Pankhurst

BBC site

Hero file

Spartacus site

Time100 heroes (hard)


The Campaign for the Vote

In 1866, a number of women took a petition, signed by 1,500 women and asking for the vote, to Parliament, where two of the handful of pro-vote MPs presented it.   In 1897, the various women’s societies joined together into the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).   These ‘Suffragists’ as they were called, campaigned peacefully for the vote.   Although the number of pro-suffrage MPs in the House of Commons grew, the Suffragists got nowhere.  


In 1903, therefore, Emmeline Pankhurst formed the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU - see Source a.).   The ‘Suffragettes’, as they came to be called, were much more militant.   They held mass-meetings, sent deputation to 10 Downing Street, interrupted from the Ladies Gallery during debates in the House of Commons and - eventually - burned, bombed and smashed to try to get the vote.  



Source a

The importance of the vote.

It is important that women should have the vote so that, in the government of the country, the woman’s point of view can be put forward.   Very little has been done for women by legislation for many years.

      You cannot read a newspaper or go to a conference without hearing details for social reform.   You hear about legislation to decide what kind of homes people are to live in.   That surely is a question for women.

      No woman who joins this campaign need give up a single duty she has in the home.   It is just the opposite, for a woman will learn to give a larger meaning to her traditional duties.

From a speech made by Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst in March 1908.


Source b

An argument in favour of votes for women