Without the First World War British Women would have not gained the right to vote in 1918

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Last updated: November 8, 2019

There are many reasons why women eventually gained the vote such as the subject of natural change, the violent and persistent demonstrating of the Suffragettes and also the quieter yet consistent campaigning from the Suffragists. The First World War, I think, played a key role in the winning of the vote. It gave women the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of the responsibility. Women wanted the vote because the believed that life was unfair and it needed change and the only way the alterations could be made was for Parliament to pass laws.Therefore they would need the vote. In the war women worked as nurses near the front line and also back in Britain making ammunitions. They also courteously took over jobs that the men left behind. A lot of women worked in munitions factories which was incredibly dangerous labour.

Most often than not they got cancer from the chemicals they had to work with everyday. These, additionally, turned their skin a yellow colour and prevented many from having children later on. On many occasions fires broke out and immense explosions followed these; killing many workers.The Silvertown explosion is one example of those flammable accidents. To be honest they had already proved themselves responsible, hardworking and extremely patriotic. Perhaps this is why they stopped all the confrontations to aid the war effort. Source H is a cover of “The War Worker” magazine; this particular issue published in June 1917. It supports the idea that women worked extremely hard for their country however the source is evidently one-sided.

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The cover shows a women and a man united in one cause, the war.For women involved in the Suffrage movement this was the bigger problem at the time and this needed to be corrected first, maybe even worked to their advantage. I think it shows the importance of a team effort; it is quite evident that without the women providing weapons and ammunitions the men would have not been able to fight.

Although the magazine illustrates a lot of flattering positives about women assisting the men, it’s obvious the writer is producing this for a particular audience; women workers. The magazine’s contents gives this away.It appears to contain real life stories, recipes, short stories written by women and even some poetry. In a way it is rather like any odd women’s monthly nowadays. The source is unreliable because it is written to a specific audience consequently making it useless in finding out if the war really did gain women the vote. Conversely Source I, which is a piece of writing taken from the book written by Rex Pope an historian, is entirely against the fact that women were any help in the war. The book titled “War and Society in Britain 1899 – 1948” possibly even suggests that women workers were a hindrance to the effort.It exhibits the male attitudes towards women working in the WW1 and uses strong negativity towards them.

Attitudes towards women workers supposedly “remained, in many instances, negative”. It is almost as if men refused to accept the fact that times were changing, they may have thought that women would snatch the vote altogether. I feel this shows immaturity on the man’s part because after years and years of having it their own way they couldn’t accept the fact that the females would bring another level to politics. Some men hated the women altogether.

Males were vulnerable to conscription” suggests that the women worked so hard, and in some cases better than the men, that men would be pushed out of the job when war was over. Where they really putting the males out of the job? Personally I don’t think so. Some male employees, who did not fight in the war but remained at home to help stabilise the country, fully co-operated with the women doing skilled work. If the women had not stepped in, the men would have had to work double time to replace the vacant jobs and provide enough equipment for the conflict.Perhaps they could see, over time, the effort the women put in was immense and that they really did care about what they were doing. Furthermore, maybe the male workers saw that the women were really quite skilled and more apt for particular jobs currently male operated. For me, source I is a useful source because, although it has its limitation such as the actual book being written almost 50 years after, it shows how most of the men felt. By knowing how the high class men felt means that we can tell what the Government is almost certainly thinking too.

Yet by the end of the long war most opinions had changed suggesting men came to their senses and released without the women the victory would not have been clenched for Great Britain. “How can we have carried on the war without women? ” is how Source J starts. This sentence, in a way, sums up how the men came to the conclusion that winning the war would not have been possible without women. It’s as if they have finally realised the value of women to the country. For me this source is all about timing and motive. Herbert Asquith, who had been Prime Minster between 1908 and 1915, timed this speech perfectly.Previously he had been against women having the vote or anything to do with politics.

To suddenly turn around and support the idea suggest his motives were to get on the good sides of the women involved in the Suffrage campaign. His purpose of saying things like, “There has hardly been a service in which women have not been at least as active as men” is to be thanked for saying it and no longer would he be picked on. He is wining their favour because he knows when they finally get the vote they will vote for him because he supported the movement.

He will then be voted back on and will gain power for his party.This source supports the idea that the war gained women the vote. It shows how opinions changed rather quickly after the war to back the Suffragettes and Suffragists. If even high class males who are actually involved with what the women are working for start to agree then its evident that after all the campaigning the vote will be clasped. For the reason that opinions on women having more political rights changed so fast after their effort to aid the war is why I think this source is in favour of it.

The reconstruction of the country after the war has to involve both women and men.The Suffragettes were the more violently persuasive group of the two which formed, all together, the Suffrages. This group of women formed when many Suffragists got frustrated with the lack of success. 1908 saw the birth of the new aggressive campaigners determined to show they meant business.

Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst founded the new movement and became leader of the “Mail” named “Radicals”. Their operations where uncompromising and militant like; they disrupted political meetings and harassed ministers. Asquith, as mentioned before, became a particular target to the abuse.Nonetheless they never harmed people but only property. The violence escalated and they smashed windows, set fire to post boxes and bombed peaceful churches. It even went as far as destroying cricket pitches and also poured grass-damaging acid on to golf courses knowing full well this was an upper-class man’s game.

To be simple they basically ruined any pastimes and places where the men went to go to have fun. Bombs were also placed in warehouses and a lot of telephone wires were cut. They even went as far as slashing valuable paintings consequently shutting most galleries or museums for short periods of time.The Government had had enough at this point and started to put them in jail. In my opinion this was the wrong thing to do as it only gave the women new ways of agitating males. In prison they held hunger strikes until force feeding was issued to any prisoned protestors.

The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) made posters of this to warn women involved in the Suffrage movement at what was happening. Men and Women where disgusted at the brutality of this action. It was extremely degrading for the women and there was a great deal of public sympathy.

The Government caught on quick to the public opinions and in 1913 they passed a new act which allowed hunger strikers to leave prison, recover a little and then return. It was named the “Cat and Mouse Act”. All the things they did got attention alright and it definitely added to obtaining the vote.

Partly, I reckon, the government in the end had had enough of having to deal with them where bigger issues could be sorted out without this vicious attack preying on the sidelines. The campaigning showed the passion the women had for this right and the will of them.It proved to men in general that the women were determined to get the vote for themselves. Source D is an article from a British newspaper called the Daily Sketch.

This particular section of writing is named “Disgraceful Scenes” which suggests that the writer believes the Suffragists are an embarrassment to not only themselves but the public too. However a limitation is we cannot be sure that the writer of this article knows who the campaigners really are. At this particular time there was great confusion whether it was the Suffragists or Suffragettes.People tended to put them together as one big group; not two separate ones whose ideas on gaining the vote differed completely. The article starts with the words “True to their word”, this may be reliable because the Suffragettes were known to cause violence and ad underlined before the difference between Suffragettes and Suffragists was not clear.

Perhaps they threatened they would do this and then proved the statement after. This could suggest that the readers and writers of this newspaper all agree to the same thing; that all women campaigner for the vote are all the same.Violent and bad.

Nether-the-less the writer also says “… even more violent scenes than before” which is quite reliable because the whole summed up group of Suffragists and Suffragettes have been known to have rallied before and normally would, each time, take violence onto a new level. The journalist continues with describing the whole affair as “…

shameful recklessness” which creates an image to the agreeing readers of out of control women. Furthermore he says “… never before have otherwise sensible women gone so far”.

Apparently they went even more extreme than ever; it may be they did this to make even more of an impact. A limitation of the source is that it talks about “… decent men” which obviously means the men that read the paper.

These are probably all one type of upper-class or political men. The Daily Sketch is likely to be a right wing conservative paper meaning the writer of this article has written it for this particular audience. The conservatives did not like change so this source is likely to be one-sided. This makes the source unreliable. Next the paper says “… few of the more of the desperate women pushed at the police in rugby style”, this makes the women sound masculine and suggests they are acting like men.

Possibly the writer is trying to conceive that the women are performing out of place and are trying to gain a role higher than they really are allowed to. This could be reliable as many women did take it to far however the limitation is that the newspaper is written to a particular audience. In addition the article says “Arrests were made in extreme cases” but it then goes on to say “.

.. even so 120 people were taken into custody”.

Are these the extreme cases?Is so I think the point has been put across, the journalist has visibly not thought about how this sounds or the order he has written the article in. Thos establishes my suggestion of a non-research, quickly wrote article. Lastly, for source D, the writer says “…

a frantic assembly of excited women” which suggest that the women are keen to put what they believe in, into practise. This may be reliable because women were determined to get the vote and some even gave their lives for the cause. This source gives me the impression that Suffragettes where the reason why they eventually got the vote.

Their persuasion definitely added to the success of gaining the vote however I think that this was only one of the few reasons why they gained the right. Source A is a photograph taken on 21st June 1908, it shows Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst leading a demonstration. The provenance informs us that 200,000 people attended; this is useful as it suggests that the Suffragettes had a lot of support and people were prepared to show their attitudes towards the matter. The photo also exhibits men in the background. There are several reasons why they could be there and that is a limitation of the source.

We cannot really see them and it’s only a split a second of time we are shown here. They could be there because they supported the movement and agreed that women should have the vote. Some men did think society would benefit from women voting and admired the ladies for their readiness to go to prison. On-the-other-hand, the men might be present because the women needed them there. Women had very little power and having a man at the demonstration improved the opportunities the people had.

It provided the females with respect. Yet another reason why the men are in attendance is they are out to protest too!A lot of men did not like the suffragette demonstrators and wanted to express their feelings about the situation. The reaction on the men was mixed and most of the public were either scornful or worried over what may come of the violence and protestation. At this time it was hard to have your opinion heard in government without a bill, so an easy way for the ideas of the community to be seen was to rally. A policeman is shown to the right of the source. This is another limitation to the source because we can not really see his facial expression or the wider picture. We can not really see what he is leaving or going to do.

The fact he is there gives you an idea about what the government thinks of the suffragettes. They think the attended people are going to be violent and cause havoc, which is why he has been sent there. Perhaps they even assume a riot may break out and the policemen’s job is to control it. He is moving out of the picture which could mean he has spotted a fight breaking out elsewhere. However it could mean he is not needed because they whole situation is pretty calm. The fact that the women are holding flowers suggests they are trying to prove their innocence and gentleness.

The campaigners do not want trouble at this demonstration still the point must be put across. This shows us an additional limitation as the picture is only at one demonstration, for all we are shown this could have been one of the calmest ones out of all of them. To get the whole picture we need to be revealed to a number of pictures from lots of different protests. The photograph could have been taken by a Suffragette photographer which means the depiction is actually biased. Possibly the policeman is moving out of the photo because it has been staged.This way the portrayed image of the Suffragette group is exactly how they want it to be, calm, nice and innocent and not what they are known to be; violent vandals. This is definitely a limitation because again we do not see a 360 angle, for all that’s visible to us the most humongous fight could be breaking out behind the camera.

This proposal that the photo is staged suggests they were either aiming to get more women to join or to confirm that women should be given the right to vote. I find this source un-useful because to be able to see the attitude of the suffragettes we will need to see a bigger representation of them.This source added with other photos would unquestionably give us the true attitude of the suffragettes. Source A shows mainly negative points towards the demonstrational group. Source A supports the statement that the women worked incredibly hard for the vote and it also proves that at times they were incredibly sensible. This must have added to the women gaining the vote because they showed two sides. They proved they can be trusted with tasks and that if there was an issue in the Government, the passion they would put into to fix it would be vast.

Source B is a section from a speech made to Suffragettes by Christabel Pankhurst in 1911. She is Emmeline Pankhurst’s, the leader of the Suffragette movement, daughter and she to supported the movement strongly. We know this because she uses personal pronouns such as “we” to talk to her audience, the Suffragettes. The speech tells the women, who are there for a purpose, that the “orderly protest” methods are not effecting the Government and to acquire the vote they cannot possibly use the non violent methods.

She says “We cannot make any orderly protest” because no one listens and it would be a waste of time to put effort into something that would get not response what so ever. “So long as we do not have the vote we must be disorderly” describes the point she is trying to make, it justifies her actions. The Government is not influenced at all by a discrete and rather gentle demonstration; by encouraging the women to completely let go and use such force must be the only way to get noticed.To be honest I think she is right because the more violent campaigns were observed and the Government had to respond to the attack with methods such as “Cat and Mouse”.

Source B suggests that the vote was pushed forward by the Suffragette revolutionary protests. I would say that strong willed Suffragettes such as the Pankhurst’s did get the issue talked about, that is for sure, yet the Government reacted by not giving them the vote but trying to protect the country instead.All the violence pushed the matter into recognition and then by showing they were mature enough to stop the hostility to aid the men in the war made it clear that women were going to, eventually, gain the vote.

Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst made a very famous speech in March 1908 about the importance of the vote and joining to gain it. Source C is a section from the speech which starts “It is important” meaning it must happen. If women did not gain the vote surely times would never move on? The “Women’s point of view” may be different to the men’s but Emmeline describes how it is still significant.Her next words attack the Government making them sound bad. “Very little has been done for women” is how she states that the Government clearly can’t be very good if they ignore one half of the country they have control over. She goes on about how, at that moment, they were discussing “what kind of homes people are to love in”. This is a women’s expertise as this is what they have practically been chained to for many years.

But for some reason the Government think the men should decide this.Her audience, the Suffragettes and women who could possibly unite and join the act, needed to be persuaded to use violence to get what they wanted. Women did want the vote but some did not want the way they achieved it to be aggressive. When reading this source we have to remember that before 1908 the Suffrage movement was not aggressive at all. It was a very sudden change of tactics for all involved with the association.

Somehow she manages to aim her speech at men too; when saying “for a woman will learn to give a larger meaning to her traditional duties” she really means that the men have no need to worry.The women will still have their tea on the table for their return but also that after gaining the vote women will still be women. That can never be changed. These two sources don’t really help me decide whether the Suffragettes had any influence on the gaining the vote. The Suffragettes did indeed push it forward because they got a reaction from the Government meaning they had the case noticed. Every single thing they did edged it further and further on to the priority list.

The idea of women being able to vote originated with the Suffragists.The Suffragettes formed when no results were being achieved for the hard-working women. They relentlessly petitioned the Government and were impossible to ignore. Their violent tactics drew attention to the inequality between male and females.

I agree with the interpretation that the First World War tipped the balance and was the final weight in the argument to give women the vote. All the above are factors that resulted in women gaining the right to vote in 1918. It was not, separately, the war alone.

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