Herbert Asquith became an MP in the General Election of 1886. Before becoming Prime Minister in 1908, he was both Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Liberal Party.
While several leading parliamentary figures supported women's enfranchisement, Asquith strongly objected to it. This made him unpopular with both the NUWSS and the WSPU. Suffrage campaigners objected to the fact that as Chancellor, he was able to decide how much tax women should pay while still denying them political representation.
However, during his campaign for the 1910 General Election, Asquith promised that, if he returned to power, he would grant women who owned property the vote. Asquith subsequently changed his mind and announced legislation granting only all men the vote in 1911. This change of heart sparked resentment amongst the suffrage movement and the WSPU began a window-breaking campaign, including an attack on Asquith's home.
This source, a leaflet published by the NUWSS in 1913, outlines the NUWSS'S more peaceful reaction to Asquith's attitude towards the suffrage question. In response to his protestations against accusations of negligence towards women's issues, the NUWSS publication points out the biased laws affecting wives and mothers in Britain.
- Looking closely at this material, what other issues of equality do you think were important to women at the time?
- Why do you think getting the vote was the principal focus in the greater campaign for women's rights?