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The Changing Role And Status Of Women In Britain

2466 words - 10 pages

The Changing Role and Status of Women in Britain

1. Explain why women failed to gain the right to vote between 1900
and 1914.

In the twentieth century women’s role in society was hugely different
to what it is today. Women were regarded as being inferior to men and
were treated as such. Although girls were given a compulsory state
education 1870, few went to university and those who did were not
awarded a degree. Women had very few rights under marriage, when a
woman married; she and all her possessions became the property of her
husband. Furthermore the criminal acts today of wife-battering and
marital rape were legal. Even with this occurring in many marriages it
was extremely difficult for a woman to get a divorce, as it was too

During this period there was also a strong sexual double standard.
Sexual purity was crucial for a woman of good standing. Men of the
middle and upper classes spread and produced pornographic material and
prostitution. This was hypocritical as men of these classes would have
never considered their own daughters to be involved in pornography or

Women who did work in this period were working class doing low paid
menial jobs. Middle and upper class women were expected to stay at
home, and if a women working the same job as a man she would be paid
less for it. Considering women were viewed as domesticated property,
exploited for sex and used to work for low wages it is understandable
women failed to gain the vote between 1900 and 1914 with these
anti-feminist views.

Furthermore in the early 1900’s getting women suffrage depended on the
government’s support and at this time all the members of government
and parliament were male. In 1906 the Liberal Party were in office
with Asquith as Prime minister. However he was hostile towards the
suffrage cause, in 1908 he declared that there would be no government
bill on women’s suffrage. By 1910 the Liberal Party had lost many of
its seats in parliament and was dependent on votes from the Irish
Nationalists and the Labour Party to survive. This meant that the
Liberal Party were not keen to risk their term of government for votes
for women as the Irish Nationalists did not support women’s suffrage,
and wanted to split from Great Britain. Moreover the Liberal
government had bigger problems to deal with, and women’s suffrage was
at the bottom of its agenda with the insurrection of Ireland,
rebellion by the House of Lords and the widespread action of trade

The Liberal government had made promises to women’s suffrage groups to
help them get closer to being enfranchised, however the government
consistently failed to deliver. In 1909 the Second Reading of Women’s
Suffrage Bill was being carried but at the crucial moment Asquith
failed to give his support....

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