Votes for Women in Plymouth - Introduction

Votes for Women in Plymouth - Introduction

Today in the UK, everybody is allowed to vote as long as they’ve been living in the country long enough and they’re old enough. But this wasn’t always the case.

In 1918 women won the right to vote and before this they weren’t allowed to.

The Act of Parliament that allowed women to vote didn’t apply to all women though. Only women over 30, and those who owned property were allowed to vote. Nevertheless, 1918 was a significant milestone in gaining voting rights for women.

In the UK, when we talk about the campaign to gain this vote we tend to talk about two groups that sound the same,

Before 1918, when people were fighting for votes for women, there were lots of different groups who tried to get the same thing. The two main groups who campaigned to gain votes for women sound similar, but who are very different – the 'suffragists' and the 'suffragettes'. Both of these groups were made up of mainly women, but there were men involved in both groups too. The groups disagreed on the best ways of doing things.

The suffragists used peaceful methods of campaigning for what they wanted. They believed the best way to get their voices heard was to show that women were responsible enough to have the vote. They protested by going on marches, writing letters to politicians and winning the hearts and minds of the public.

The suffragettes used more violent methods and “direct action”, and coined the saying ‘deed, not words’. They thought the best way to get their voices heard was to smash windows, vandalise landmarks and even more extreme acts such as blowing things up, setting fire to houses and even trying to kill the prime minister, Lord Asquith.

But which method of activism and fighting for what you want is more effective?

Use the sources of evidence on each of the following pages and complete the Activities and Big Questions for each one to find out more about the fight for the vote for women. Each source of evidence provides a window onto how people in Plymouth were involved in this history. Use this example as a way to think about protest and activism more widely – what are the most effective methods and why?

Use the sources of evidence on each of the following pages and complete the Activities and Big Questions for each one to find out more about the fight for the vote for women. Each source of evidence provides a window onto how people in Plymouth were involved in this history. Use this example as a way to think about protest and activism more widely – what are the most effective methods and why?

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