The Development Of A Campaign For Women's Suffrage In Early 1870's

3184 words - 13 pages

The Development of a Campaign for Women's Suffrage in Early 1870's

The campaign for women's suffrage gathered support after 1870, mainly
because of a growing number of women who, through education, realised
society was extremely unequal and recognised a need for change through
action. The Forster act of 1870 which gave compulsory primary
education to girls, was a landmark event that meant the women of the
future would have the ability to question the inequalities of a
chauvinistic society.

Other important factors were an increased awareness of women's
suppression throughout society, the general public's changing view of
a women's place, not just in the home but at work and the growing
economic power that women had inevitably gained through an increasing
presence in the workplace. These reasons meant that by 1897 an
organised, nationwide movement, the 'National Union of Women's
Suffrage Societies' (NUWSS), had been formed to fight for the rights
of women.

The NUWSS were campaigning for these rights because they saw that the
laws of the land were hugely sexist. Not only were a woman's legal
rights owned her husband but her body was also his legal property.
When it came to divorce a man only had to prove one of the three
grounds of divorce (adultery, cruelty and desertion) in order to
divorce his wife, where as a woman had to prove 2 of the 3 and often
had added difficulty in arguing their case in a court. It was these
types of injustices that inspired many women to campaign for change.

In 1866 only the most privileged of men had the ability to vote on the
government that would run the country but a parliamentary reform bill
passed in 1867 almost doubled the electorate by allowing a less elite
class of men, such as skilled labourers, to vote. The vote was no
longer just for the aristocracy. This was the beginning of the mindset
"If most men can vote, why can't women".

Society's opinion of women was had gradually been shifting towards
more liberal ideals and this was reflected by a number of
parliamentary reforms throughout the later part of the 19th century to
acts such as the Divorce Law of 1857 and the Married Women's Property
Act of 1858 (later mentioned), that were both hugely unfair. Although
the law was still bias towards men, these sorts of acts gave women
more independence and the inspiration to challenge the other
inequalities in Victorian society.

Women's groups fought hard during the late 19th century for female
privileges and women such as Emmeline Pankhurst pushed for the reform
of acts such as the Women's Property Act that was originally billed in
1858. After pressure from the women's rights movement, several minor
reforms and many failed attempts at the passing of freer bills led to
the eventually reform of 1882 which led to women had the same rights

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