Women's Right to Vote Due to Their Contribution to the War Effort
In August 1914 Britaindeclared war on Germany. Both the suffragettes
and suffragists suspended their campaigns. Shortly after the outbreak
of World War I, the government ordered the unconditional release of
all suffrage prisoners. On August 13, Emmeline Pankhurst called a
temporary suspension to militancy and asked her followers to support
her in the war effort.
The suffragette movement was now effectively over although some ex-
WSPU members formed and joined other groupings that continued to
campaign for women enfranchisement, such as the suffragettes of the
WSPU, the independent WSPU, the Women's Freedom League, and the United
Suffragists. Some leaders of the WSPU such as Emmeline Pankhurst and
her daughter. Christabel played an important role as speakers at
meetings to recruit young men into the army. Others like Sylvia
Pankhurst were opposed to the war and refused to carry out this role.
Some members of the WSPU disagreed with the decision to call of
militant activities, for example, Kitty Marion was so angry she went
to USA to help American women in their fight for the vote.
So many men had gone away to fight that women were needed to do their
jobs. As a result, the number of women working in the industry
increased enormously. The war gave women the opportunity to prove
their worth in the war effort. As more and more men were required to
fight, there were huge numbers of jobs in industry and other essential
areas. Women volunteered to help fill the shortages. Many joined the
Women's Land Army or Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD's). Women worked
in many areas such as munitions factories, in engineering, banks,
buses, and railways, in gas works, as nurses near the battle front and
Also the work women did during the war convinced many people that they
should have the vote after the war.
As men left jobs to fight overseas, they were replaced by women such
as Octavia Wilberforce and Louisa Martindale who worked as doctors
treating wounded British soldiers.
Women filled many jobs brought into existence by wartime needs. As a
result the number of women employed increased from 3,224,600 in July
1914 to 4,814,600 in January 1918. Nearly 200,00 women were employed
in government departments. Half a million became clerical workers in
private offices. The greatest increase of women workers was in
engineering, which over 700,00 of these women worked in the highly
dangerous munitions industry.
Also in 1925 the government realised it had a problem. The old voting
system demanded that voters live in the same place for the twelve
months before an election. So if there were to be an election during
the war, most soldiers would not be able to vote. The government
decided to change the law and make sure...