Women's suffrage


Great Reform Act


Second Reform Act


National Society for Women's Suffrage


First national group in the UK to campaign for women’s right to vote. It helped lay the foundations of women’s suffrage movement.

Third Reform Act


Local Government Act


Women who owned property could vote in local elections, become Poor Law Guardians, act on School Boards

NUWSS creation


Its leader is Millicent Garrett Fawcett. Followed a policy of civil disobedience, refusing to pay rates while lobbying for their cause.

Conservatives won the General Elections



WSPU creation


Its leader is the Pankhurst family. It demanded a government reform bill and used aggressive tactics, opposing all Liberal candidates for parliament as representatives of an obdurate government, whatever their individual inclination.
At first, the organization was in relation with the Labour Party.

Campbell-Bannerman as a PM

1905 - 1908

Too ill to continue
Favours women's suffrage (not opposed but he doesn't want to take the responsibility of it, favorable to postpone it) Women need patience and determination.
Influenced by New Liberalism: established a sort of 1st Welfare State, increased the role of the State regarding social problems and inequalities.

Militant campaign begins


Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney are arrested and imprisoned. “Deeds, not words” and “Votes for women” are adopted as campaign slogans.

Debates on the second reading of an Adult Suffrage Bill


The Adult Suffrage Society was one of several organisations formed in the United Kingdom during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, with the objective of campaigning for the extension of voting rights to women. Unlike bodies such as the WSPU, the Adult Suffrage Society did not find acceptable the extension of the franchise to women on the same restricted terms that it was then given to men—that is, on the basis of a property qualification that excluded the majority of the working class. It wanted full adult suffrage, the unrestricted right to vote, for all adults aged 21 or over.
The bill, which proposed full adult suffrage, and the right of women to become MPs, was strongly opposed by the WSPU, as a distraction from its feminist agenda. The bill was "talked out" in the House of Commons. In 1907, in the course of a public debate with Teresa Billington-Greig of the Women's Freedom League, Bondfield argued that the only way forward was a bill that enfranchised all men and all women, without qualification". She wished good luck to those fighting for a "same terms as men" suffrage bill, but "don't let them come and tell me that they are working for my class".
The Adult Suffrage Society was relaunched in 1909 as the People's Suffrage Federation (PSF), under the leadership of Margaret Llewelyn Davies.

Liberals won the General Elections


Very comfortable position : 400 seats. But the question of women emancipation may divide the Party and make it weaker

Men's League for Women's Suffrage


Formed by a group of largely middle class, left wing radicals. This was followed by the Men’s Political Union – a male wing of the WSPU that carried out militant tactics and acted as WSPU bodyguards.

Mud March


The NUWSS organises a London march and more than 3,000 women take part. The weather is so bad that it is dubbed the Mud March.

Women's Freedom League


The Women’s Freedom League (WFL) arises from the WSPU, rejecting the dominance of the Pankhursts. Founded by members of the WSPU. They disagreed with Pankhurst’s announcement that the WSPU’s annual conference was cancelled and that future decisions would be taken by a committee which she would appoint. They opposed violence in favour of non-violent forms of protest.

Asquith as a PM

1908 - 1916

Not favorable to giving women the vote. Radical point of view. Misogynistic.
Influenced by New Liberalism: established a sort of 1st Welfare State, increased the role of the State regarding social problems and inequalities.

Connection between the Labour Party and WSPU suppressed


The Labour party was rather favourable for the women emancipation but it wanted to make it part of a bigger issue, which was universal suffrage (men remained unrepresented). The WSPU’s main aim was the vote for women not universal suffrage. In 1906, the connection with the labour party were suppressed. Pankhurst didn’t want to be the frill of any political party. She believed that the organization should rally women from all three parties (Labour, Liberal, Conservatives).



From 1908 the NUWSS clearly defined itself as non-militant to distinguish itself from the WSPU. They used pamphlets, debates, meetings, petitions, they lobbied MPs and members of Parliaments.

First case of Hunger Strike


The Scottish WSPU member Marion Wallace Dunlop becomes the first hunger striker. An increasing number of more militant WSPU members are imprisoned.

Force feeding introduced to hunger strikers in prisons

September 1909

Churchill as Home Secretary

1910 - 1911

Feels anxious about the question of women's enfranchisement

Liberals won the General Elections

January 1910

Asquith. Won with only 2 extra seats compared to the Conservatives. They were dependent on other parties. They had to rely on the support of the Labour Party and the Irish Nationalists.

First Conciliation Bill

July 12, 1910

Three Conciliation Bills were put before the House of Commons in 1910, 1911 and 1912 which would extend the right of women to vote in the UK. While the Liberal government of Asquith supported this, a number of backbenchers, both Conservative and Liberal, did not support the bill for fear that it would damage their parties’ success in general elections. Some pro-suffrage groups rejected the Bills because they only gave the vote to some women; some Members of Parliament rejected them because they did not want any women to have the right to vote. Liberals also opposed the Bill because they believed that the women whom the bill would enfranchise were more likely vote Conservative than Liberal.
The solution was based on a narrow compromise and was seen as a temporary means of opening the way to fuller enfranchisement.

Introduced by a Labour MP, passed its second reading by 299 votes to 189. The Cabinet, after debating the matter in three meetings, had decided not to allow further time for the bill that session.

Black Friday

November 18, 1910

Women's suffrage event in response to parliamentary proceedings regarding the Conciliation Bill, which would have extended the right of women to vote to around 1,000,000 wealthy, property-owning women. The bill made it to a second reading, but Asquith indicated that there would be no more Parliamentary time for the reading in the current session.
In response, the WSPU sent a delegation of around 300 women to protest, and 200 were assaulted when they attempted to run past the police. Many of the arrested suffragettes reported being assaulted and manhandled by the police. It was the first documented use of police force against suffragettes. In the aftermath, Asquith's car was vandalized, and the event caused some embarrassment to Winston Churchill who was Home Secretary at the time.

The events of Black Friday were a public relations disaster for the government; the press took the side of the Suffragettes, printing pictures of police assaulting unarmed female protesters. The actions of the police were greatly criticised. After Black Friday, Asquith stated that if the Liberals were elected at the next general election, they would include a Suffrage Bill that could be amended to allow women to vote. The WSPU rejected this, believing that it was an attempt to delay reform; the events of Black Friday were damaging to the suffrage campaign as well, as they caused MPs to distance themselves from the issue.
One woman who had been badly treated by the police and was arrested for stone throwing a few days earlier, later died after being released from prison on Christmas Day 1910 - she was Emmeline Pankhurst’s sister, Mary Clarke.

Liberals won the General Elections

December 1910

Asquith / David Lloyd George
Clear rivalry between the two. Division of the Liberal Party.

Second Conciliation Bill

May 5, 1911

A second and revised Conciliation Bill, introduced by a Liberal MP, passed the second reading by 255 to 89. However, on 29th May, Lloyd George announced that the government had decided that further time would not be allowed for the bill that session, as other government measures would be jeopardised.

Asquith statement

November 1911

Asquith stated that the government would introduce a suffrage bill next session providing for manhood suffrage and would permit amendments to be moved that would extend the bill to include women’s suffrage on the same basis as manhood suffrage.

Election Fighting Fund


Set up by the NUWSS to raise money for the early Labour Party during the early 1910s.

Third Conciliation Bill


The Parliamentary Franchise (Women) Bill is introduced and defeated by 208 votes to 222. The reason for the defeat was that the Irish Parliamentary Party believed that a debate over votes for women would be used to prevent Irish Home Rule. However, the WSPU blamed Asquith, as the eight members of the government who had voted against the Bill would have overturned the result had they voted the other way. There is a mass window-smashing campaign in protest.

George Lansbury (Labour MP) resigned his seat in support of women's suffrage

October 1912

Cat and Mouse Act


Allowing hunger-striking prisoners to be released when their health was threatened and then re-arrested when they had recovered

Lloyd George's house burned down by WSPU

February 1913

Despite his support for women's suffrage

Emily Wilding Davison's death

June 4, 1913

Suffragette who was known for extreme tactics that resulted in her arrest on nine occasions. In her most famous moment of protest, Davison stepped in front of King George V's horse Anmer at the Epsom Derby on June the 4th, 1913 and suffered injuries that proved fatal four days later. Her funeral on 14 June 1913 was organised by the WSPU. Thousands of suffragettes accompanied the coffin and tens of thousands of people lined the streets of London.


1914 - 1918

East London Federation


Founded by Sylvia Pankhurst, and differed from its parent organisation in being democratic and including men. She wanted an explicitly socialist organisation tackling wider issues than women's suffrage, aligned with the Independent Labour Party, based among working classpeople in the East End of London. She also wanted to focus on collective workers' action, not individual attacks on property.

WWI declared in Britain

August 4, 1914

WSPU activity immediately ceased and urge women to join the war effort. NUWSS activity continued peacefully to represent women and to campaign for recognition of their work.
Suffrage prisoners are set free.

Lloyd George as a PM

1916 - 1922

Not unsympathetic to women's suffrage but was above all concerned with its electoral consequences. Only two options: no franchise at all or franchise for all women.
Influenced by New Liberalism: established a sort of 1st Welfare State, increased the role of the State regarding social problems and inequalities.
Wanted to tax the rich to provide for the poor. Social issues were clearly the priority not women's suffrage.

People's Representation Act


Women over 30 years old received the vote if they were either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner, or a graduate voting in a University constituency.
About 8.4 million women gained the vote

Parliament Act of 1918

November 1918

Allowing women to be elected into Parliament.

People's Representation Act


It gave the vote to all women over 21 years old, regardless of property ownership.