In the Victorian era it was generally accepted that a woman’s place was in the home, women were supposed to be protected by men from the real world. A woman was constantly being ‘protected’ by a man from the moment that they were born, up until the age of marriage the young women would be looked after by their father and once they were married they had their husbands to protect them. Women, when married, had no rights to what they earned. However, what they did earn was almost insignificant due to its unfairness. On average, women earned half to two-thirds less than men for doing exactly the same jobs.
This was the same throughout all areas of employment. As well as this, women were not allowed to become doctors, lawyers, have apprenticeships or gain technical knowledge of any job. Many disagreed with this inferiority that they had compared to men, the majority of women who found it hard to accept this state of forced subordination were often respectable middle class women. Women who had jobs, money of their own, or an education were often the main ones leading these protests against women’s position in society. The main struggle for the women was for them to get the right to vote.
In the 1850’s and 60’s there were many protests made by women in order to get this right, however, there was a noticeable development in this campaign in the years after 1870, but why was this? In the beginning of the Victorian era women were considered to be inferior to men as they had very few legal rights and the most notable one was the fact that women were not allowed the right to vote. Many men were refused the right to vote in the 1800’s because they did not match the voting criteria (this criteria was mainly based upon the property and wealth of the electorate).
One major argument against women’s suffrage was the fact that millions of men were refused the right to vote for some reason or another, however, what annoyed the women was the fact that they were not allowed to vote just because they were women. Throughout the 19th Century the social boundaries between men and women had been constantly diminishing, women were beginning to explore more freedom than they had previously. More and more women were becoming educated an in 1859 Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman doctor in Britain; this was followed by Elizabeth Anderson becoming the first doctor trained in Britain in 1865.
Soon many women realised that they were in equal social positions to men but were still being treated unfairly. Women now wanted to be seen as equals to men, the main dividing line for this was the right to vote. The assumption that women wanted the vote just to be seen as equals to men is backed up by the fact that the protestors did not support the universal suffrage campaign that wanted all people to have the right to vote. Women only wanted to have the same voting rights as men, no more, no less, but equal.
The reason that many women had for wanting the vote was that it would remove the social boundaries between men and women so that they could now be seen as equals. Many other women wanted the vote so that they could actually do something with it. They wanted to make a woman’s position in life better. Women realised that in an elective democracy to have a voice in the law-making organisation of parliament they would need to be able to influence their elected representatives.
By having the right to vote then the politicians would have to listen to their point of view as if the women disagreed with what the politicians thought then they could vote them out of office. This would give the women a lot more power than before; they would be able to argue for certain rights and their member of parliament would have to campaign for them. Throughout the 19th Century there were many attempts for women’s suffrage, however, the women’s suffrage campaign developed distinctively in the years after 1870.
The development of the suffrage campaign in the 1870’s was because of these factors. By this time the first women who had been allowed to go to university in 1848 had been educated and had a fuller understanding of politics. This meant that they were able to apply that knowledge to the cause and begin to lead others in a way that would make a difference. These were all middle class women who were only after the right to vote and be seen as equal to men not to look out for the workingwomen who needed to be helped in order to have a decent life.
These working women could not help themselves because between working and looking after the family they had no time or energy, whereas middle class women had a lot of time to do as they pleased and they had their husband’s support. In 1867 suffragist committees were set up in London and Manchester, within a year they were also founded in other major cities, this added to the development after 1870 because these groups had been given the time to grow and branch out expanding in members and ideas.
In the 1840’s women did not have equal rights with men when working in factories, a major example of this was that women received up to two-thirds less than men for doing the same jobs. The reason why this became more of an issue in the years after 1870 was because of the Married Women’s Property Act. This meant that the money earned was going to the individual women rather than contributing to the overall ‘family’ income. The Second Reform Act in 1867 would of angered women in high society again because it meant that men socially and economically below them that they employed could vote yet they still could not.
This would seem unfair to many women and encouraged them to change it. At this time it was a new generation that had been brought up around the idea that maybe women were not inferior to men, this would of led them to try to change things in their favour. Once the movement had been started it kept picking up speed, this came in to play after 1870 with such policies as the Married Woman’s Property Act came along which allowed more people to be used to the idea and to see that there was something that could be done.
They joined the movement allowing more campaigning to reach a wider audience and have greater political weight behind it when talking to Government. Women now began to look at what they had achieved by 1870 and this spurred them on to try and campaign for women’s suffrage more as they felt reassured by the progress made so far.. In 1869 women were given the right to vote in local elections, this was a massive boost for women as they could now get involved in local politics and was seen as a massive step towards achieving the vote in general elections.
In 1870 there was also the establishment of the Married Women’s Property Act, this meant that married women now had the right to keep their earnings. This act seemed to give the women a lot more independence as they were now trusted with their earnings. These two events were massive landmarks for the Women’s Rights Movement and these accomplishments made them push harder for the vote as they realised that they could now get things done. Throughout the 19th Century women had been pushing back the sexist wall that separated them from the men. More women were working and a substantially increased number of women were beginning to be educated.
This gave women a better political understanding and this newfound freedom spurred them on to campaign for the right to vote. They wanted the right to vote because they wish to be seen as equals to men but the right to vote was the most distinctable division. Many women wanted the vote so that they could get things done with it. With the power of the vote they could force their representatives to listen to them and to acknowledge their wishes. The reason that the campaign for women’s suffrage increased in the years after 1870 was because of the attitudes held by women to how much they had achieved by that time.
The right to vote in local elections and the Married Woman’s Act were two major accomplishments for women in their attempt to be equal to men. They realised how much they had achieved and saw what they could get done, this spurred them on to push harder. Other women believed that they had not accomplished enough by 1870, they were infuriated by the fact that in the 1867 Reform Act 1 million more men were given the vote but the women’s franchise was overlooked. This also spurred them on as they felt that they had to in order to be noticed and for their views to be accounted for.