How Close Had British Women Come to Getting the Vote by August 1914?

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It can be argued that British women had come a long way by August 1914 in terms of women’s suffrage and something that had been unimaginable to men and women alike only a few decades before had become a distinct possibility by August 1914.

By the end of the 19th century, some progress had already been made towards women getting the vote. As early as 1865, John Stuart Mill, a man who was known to support women’s suffrage, was elected into the House of Commons as an MP. He continued to support the cause as an MP; presenting a petition that had been put together by Barbara Bodichon and accompanying it with a speech in support of female suffrage. It was him that also suggested that the 1867 Reform Act be amended so that it would allow suitably qualified women to vote on equal terms to men. Though this amendment was outvoted in the end, for the first time, female suffrage was on the parliamentary agenda and had been discussed seriously. In 1870, Richard Pankhurst introduced the first Women’s Suffrage Bill into the House of Commons in the form of a Private Members Bill. This passed its first two readings and was only defeated when the Liberal Prime Minister, William Gladstone, made it clear that the Government would not support the Bill, let alone take action on it. More bills were introduced into The House of Commons throughout the 1870s and succeeded in gaining a majority on a few occasions but the government prevented them from passing into law each time.

Real progress was made in the form of the 1894 Local Government Act. This Act gave married women the right to vote in local elections alongside single women and widowers as well as men, and also allowed women to stand for election as municipal councillors. This led to many women getting themselves into positions of responsibility in their local areas, for example Eleanor Rathbone, who involved herself in…...

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