Source 6 - Right to work

During the years of the suffrage campaign, a variety of arguments were put forward against granting women the vote. Many argued that women neither needed nor deserved the vote. There were also those who suggested that the majority of women did not even want it. Others believed that a woman's place was in the home rather than in public life.

Mary Humphrey Ward, leader of the Anti-Suffrage League (founded in 1908), did acknowledge that women could take a role outside the home and in public life but argued that this role was on school boards and other public bodies rather than in government.

Many of the most prominent anti-suffrage figures were male politicians. This source, a newspaper article, reports the attitudes of Thomas Macnamara, the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty. Here, he makes an economic argument in favour of women staying at home instead of going out to work; pointing out that this would create more vacancies for men to fill. He also states that the human race benefits and develops when mothers stay at home with their children.

  • Looking closely at this material, what other issues of equality (apart from gaining the vote) do you think were important to women at the time?
  • What is your reaction to Dr. Macnamara's views on women working? What would your response to him be? This was written around 100 years ago - do you think opinions like this still exist?

Taken from: The Daily Chronicle
Date: 1908
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: c.121.g.1, Vol 5