To what extent was the granting of the right to vote to women, in Britain, due to their role in the First World War?

Essay by darrylboydHigh School, 12th gradeB, February 2006

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The Representation of the Peoples Act was passed in 1918 it was legislation introduced to give woman the right to vote for the first time since the Reform Act of 1832, but there were very few women allowed to vote under the rules before this. The impact of women who filled roles during the First World War has been thought of as the most important factor in the gaining of the right to vote for woman. However there were other reasons that contributed to the enfranchisement of women, like the general need for a review in the franchise, the effect of a coalition government making it easier for more radical changes and that other countries had begun to allow women the vote so Britain was to follow suit.

Prior to the war there was growing demands for the enfranchisement of women and the action of groups like the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) starting to influence government thought, yet they had not been able to achieve the right for women to vote yet.

The NUWSS was a peaceful movement and intended to get parliament to allow women the vote. They used activities like public meetings, petitions and lobbied MP's to help further their cause. Whereas the WSPU, which was born out of frustration at the slow moving tactics of the NUWSS, adopted much more radical and violent methods of campaigning, they smashed shop windows, conducted arson campaigns and went on hunger strike when arrested to help gain publicity in an attempt to sway public opinion. The efforts of groups such as these were creating a growing atmosphere that there was need to extend the franchise to include women.

These efforts had an effect on the eventual gaining of women the...