Suffrage movements were old history in the 1920s. Movements and demonstrations for women’s right to vote had started as far back as the beginning of the 1800s. It was in that century that the fight had been fiercer.
The suffrage movements were particularly strong in all English speaking countries, but it was in the US and the United Kingdom that the fight became even violent.
Still, it was only after WWI that the first results came.Suffrage movements were old history in the 1920s, when the women of a few nations finally won their right to wote. But the fight had started in the 1800s #women #history Click To Tweet
Victorian Age Suffragettes
At the beginning of the 1800s, the role of women in Western society was that of child raisers and house manager. Nobody thought – not even women themselves – that women were ‘political beings’, therefore the idea that they could vote – let alone being voted for – was inconceivable.
The French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution changed things considerably. The French Revolution verbalised for the first time that all citizen are equal and have the same rights and duties. This meant that women had the same duties toward the republic as men, and therefore were entitled to aspire to the same rights.
The Industrial Revolution was the first real shock to the role of women. Working outside the house became more common, especially for lower-class women. But while previously they had found work mostly in the domestic service, now they entered the factories as the industry became hungry for workers. In these factories, women did jobs that didn’t differentiate much from those of men. It was in this environment that different movements for workers’ right arose and among these workers were also women.
In these new conditions, there was no reason why women should fight for the rights of every worker and not for their own right to take part in political life.
Suffrage movements started to appear in the US and the UK, where the Industrial Revolution first hit.
Suffragettes met great social resistance. A society accustomed to having their women relegated to the house wasn’t prepared to see them getting involved in the political sphere, where decisions were made.
Many thought that women were unstable and uncontrollable, therefore unreliable, inherently incapable of sustaining the stress of political life. Not just men thought so.
Opposition to this way of thinking required particular passion and devotion, which was what suffragettes were often prepared to give.
It was a harsh clash. It resulted in derision and offence on the part of the Antis. In assault on properties and fierce demonstration on the part of the Suffragettes.
Arrests of Suffragettes weren’t uncommon. Many of these arrested women chose to keep protesting from prison going on hunger strikes which sometimes resulted in their death or on forced feeding.
Things still stood like this when WWI broke out.
WWI, a turning point
WWI changed the cards for everyone, though in different ways depending on the country. But once again, the common cause was that women entered new spaces because of the war. With many men off at war (most of the male population in Europe) women took up their jobs, whatever they were, and during the war, they conducted them just as well as men.
Many women also joined the war effort. Sometimes they worked from home, producing items and materials for the men and for the war. Many worked in the munitions factories, which was previously considered a most unwomanly job. Sometimes they operated on the very war fields across Europe, mostly as nurses and ambulance drivers, exposed to the same dangers as soldiers.
When the Great War was over, it was very difficult to convince these women that there was nothing for them but to go back to the house and family life. Although many lost their jobs and part of the independence they had achieved during the war years, nobody could take from them the knowledge that life could be different.
After the war, many countries granted women the right to vote. In the United Kingdom in 1918. In Germany in 1919. In the US in 1920.
The 1920s would show the early limitation of this achievement. The number of women who chose to exercise their right to vote was often discouragingly law for the women who had fought for it. But it was the first step—the most important one.
My thanks to Abanel Marsh who assisted me in writing this post. Anabel’s blog is about her walks and her travels, but she’s a guide in Glasgow and is particularly knowledgable about the Suffrage Movement in Scotland.
The Guardian – Women vote in a UK general election for the first time – December 1918
Historic UK – Vote for Women
Parliament UK – Women and the Vote
Oxford Human Rights Hub – Women’s Suffrage in Germany
Tweede Kamer – Hundred years of universal suffrage, a celebration
Kyvig, David E., Daily Life in the United States 1920-1940. How Americans Lived Through the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and the Great Depression. Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, 2002
Perrish, Michael E., Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, 1920-1941. W.W. Norton & Co. Inc., New York, 1992
Kudos to those suffragists for improving life for women all around! It’s sad that despite their struggle, few people turn up to vote. I loved reading this post.
It always pisses me off to think about how hard women had to fight to be acknowledged as human being equal to men… And the fight is still far from done.
The Multicolored Diary
A great victory, but still, so much more to do… Women and men are still not equals
Such a great post!
It’s saddening to see that in most countries even today simple tasks like even driving a car isn’t allowed by women.
V is for Valuable
Some countries, Australia and New Zealand, had the vote before World War I. My great grandmother’s first cousin Vida Goldstein was a noted suffragist who stood for Australian Parliament (unsuccessfully) and campaigned for women’s suffrage in the UK and US. I wrote about her several times includingat https://ayfamilyhistory.com/2013/09/20/sepia-saturday-195-international-day-of-peace/ and in a previous A to Z https://ayfamilyhistory.com/2016/04/26/v-is-for-vivacious-vida-on-the-vamp/ and also at
The more I read here, the more reminded of how important these times were in creating the world we live in today. The suffragette’s movement surely provided brought about one of the biggest life-changing achievements of the last century.
New Zealand was the first, all the way back in 1893. And here we are in the USA still apparently convinced that a woman couldn’t be president. So much work still to be done.
(Click the Blog link on the second row) : V is for Victuals
It’s so hard to imagine a world where many people seriously thought women shouldn’t be allowed to vote, and openly mocked or attacked women and girls who wanted that basic right. In the modern era, it’s really sad to read about all these people, particularly women, who think nothing of staying home on voting days. People fought and died for that right, and people in many countries still haven’t universal suffrage!
Ronel Janse van Vuuren
It reminds me of a scene in “Mary Poppins” where the children’s mother does this whole song about “Votes for Women!”. Many thanks to the brave, smart women who made it possible for us all to vote 🙂
An A-Z of Faerie: Valkyries