I believe that it’s important to vote. But women in the UK didn’t always have the opportunity to. Women got the vote because of other women, shouting for universal rights and changing the political system.
The Suffragette story is long and complex, but I’ve tried to summarise what happened and to explain why women like me (and you) can now legally exercise our right to vote.
Who is Emmeline Pankhirst?
Emmeline Pankhurst is probably the most famous Suffragette. She was born in Moss Side, in Manchester. Pankhirst was born into a very wealthy and politically outspoken family.
In 1903, Emeline founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), alongside her daughters, Sylvia and Cristabel. The group fought to get women the right to vote.
WSPU members were the first group to be referred to as suffragettes.
The WSPU’s aim was to get equal voting rights for women. The group gave speeches, which encouraged other women to take action and put pressure on the government to change the law.
The group was known as a radical party, because they used extreme, sometimes violent actions to get their voices heard.
Many women were arrested for their actions and some were treated cruelly in prison. However, when the first world war began, Emmeline Pankhurst encouraged women within the movement to stop and support the wartime efforts. As a result, many were released from prison.
The right to vote
In 1918, when the war ended, the Representation of the People Act was introduced. This gave women over the age of 30, who owned property, the right to vote.
Britain got universal suffrage in 1928. The Equal Franchise Act was then passed. This gave women equal voting rights to men. It meant that all women aged over 21 could vote in elections. In total, fifteen million women were eligible. Emmeline Pankhurst died in June 1928, a few months before this law was passed.