The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928

By Elizabeth Crawford | Go to book overview

Introduction

The women’s suffrage campaign was a single-issue political campaign. Its first petition to parliament, presented by John Stuart Mill on 7 June 1866, was only one, passing virtually unnoticed, amongst that day’s muster. Throughout the course of the next 62 years, until women achieved full enfranchisement in 1928, the women’s suffrage campaign competed for attention in the lives of successive parliaments and, indeed, in the lives of the campaigners themselves. Using the Personal Rights Journal, the advocate of radical causes, as a lens through which to view the world of political lobbying in the 1880s, it is clear that, 20 years after it was launched, the aim and activity of the women’s suffrage campaign was not expected to be of any greater interest, nor was it considered of intrinsically greater merit, to political activists of the day than any of the other issues of concern, such as land reform, Ireland, anti-vaccination (which if anything had greater exposure), compulsory education and early closing. Doubtless reference works similar to this one could be compiled for any of these issues and, indeed, would contain many of the same names. It is to us, looking back over the past 150 years, that the campaign for women’s enfranchisement has a particular resonance. By tracing, from its faltering beginnings, the process in its various strands, constitutional and militant, we map women’s journey not only into citizenship but also into a society which that citizenship has progressively feminized. The journey’s winding path has been obscured by the knowledge that the goal was, eventually, attained. The byways and wayside dallyings of the campaign are of intrinsic interest as stages in its development, fuelling spurts of growth or new lines of attack. The women making this journey had the company of friends and relations to sustain them, and to guide them the compass of principle - that women were as equal in value to society as were men. It soon became clear, as parliament ignored the argument, that principle was not enough. Although other feminist campaigns, such as that to give married women control over their own property, that to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts, that to give widows joint guardianship of their children, and that to give suitably qualified women local government enfranchisement, were successfully manoeuvred through parliament, the machinery of government was engineered to exclude women from its workings and again and again was activated to do so. When it very quickly became clear that the argument would not be won on principle, it moved to one of mechanics. It was the use to which a vote might be put that became the rationale given to answer those defending the status quo- that the interests of women would never be protected until they were in charge of their own destiny. It is clear, however, when reading the biographies of the campaigners, how strong a motivation was the feeling that the vote was a symbolic proof of self-worth and, conversely, that without the talisman of full citizenship, women were unprotected from shame in all its social and economic manifestations. The campaign reveals in so many ways the tension between the expectations of individual women and the position to which evolving society had assigned them. It was no coincidence that as the industrial, educational and social status of women “improved” (that is, became closer to that enjoyed by men) so the struggle for the vote became more determined. A study of the women’s suffrage campaign highlights the tension between the “masculinity” of the political goal and the efforts to achieve it, both the “feminine” (spectacle and fund-raising, which employed a wide range of womanly skills), and the “masculine” (from speaking from platforms in public in the nineteenth century to terrorism in the twentieth).

Parliament was a machine that had evolved to run a patriarchal society. Women’s interests were deemed to be subsumed in those of men. There is benefit to be gained in studying how women, peculiarly at a disadvantage as a parliamentary pressure group, employed a variety of strategies in order to influence the body from which they were barred. The image conjured up is of watching a game of chess in which one participant stands at a considerable distance from the board and, with concentration and dexterity that improves with practice, operates her pieces by nudging them into position with a length of shaky cane. The other player has little need to pay much attention to the board, other than to slam down a winning piece when the occasion arises. Successive governments had no difficulty in using parliamentary procedure to obstruct the introduction of any measure of full enfranchisement. Modern biographies of Gladstone, Asquith and Lloyd George, by omission, highlight how little, despite women’s best efforts, the campaign impinged on the workings of government. Indeed, the goal was only achieved in 1918 when, as Martin Pugh has pointed out in Electoral Reform in War and Peace (1978), “it mattered very much less who had a vote than it had in 1832 because it was becoming less important to sit in Parliament whose Members were increasingly spectators in the drama of politics”.

-ix-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vi
  • Introduction ix
  • A 1
  • B 24
  • C 90
  • D 156
  • E 182
  • F 212
  • G 235
  • H 256
  • I 299
  • J 303
  • K 313
  • L 331
  • M 363
  • N 434
  • O 472
  • P 485
  • Q 585
  • R 586
  • S 613
  • T 671
  • U 693
  • V 697
  • W 699
  • Y 763
  • Z 766
  • Appendix - The Radical Liberal Family Networks 767
  • Acknowledgements 769
  • Archival Sources 771
  • Select Bibliography 774
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 786

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.