Campaign for Women's Suffrage (Summary)

This page provides a summary of the campaign for women's suffrage by breaking it into seven stages or 'steps to success'. These stages are a useful tool for analysing the tactics and also the success of the campaign. Underneath each 'step to success' is information about the campaign as well as links to historical source material. This summary page can also be downloaded as a grid in PDF format.

What was the campaign about?

Women were not entitled to the vote on an equal status with men, despite the fact that, like men, they often worked for a living and paid taxes.

'Why I want the vote' by Maud Arncliffe Sennett Fourteen Reasons for Supporting Women's Suffrage
'Why I want the vote' by Maud Arncliffe Sennett Fourteen Reasons for Supporting Women's Suffrage

What was the goal of the campaign?

Granting women the vote was the first step towards women achieving equal rights with men in the home, the workplace and in government.

Fourteen Reasons for Supporting Women's Suffrage
What does women's suffrage mean? Fourteen Reasons for Supporting Women's Suffrage

How did the campaigners become experts on the issue?

By exposing examples of inequality in British Law as it then stood, suffrage campaigners were able to demonstrate its injustice and bias against women.

Parliament and Wives and Mothers
What does women's suffrage mean? Parliament and Wives and Mothers

Was there a resource pool? Who were their allies?

The campaign for women's suffrage was highly organised and campaigned with dedication. Groups including the NUWSS, the WSPU and the WFL all had large memberships and regularly collected donations from their members. Sources demonstrate the large network of contacts that were built up and the dedication of those involved.

NUWSS Letter to Maud Arncliffe Sennett from the Women's Freedom League
NUWSS Letter to Maud Arncliffe Sennett from the Women's Freedom League

Who were their opponents and what stood in their way?

A variety of arguments were put forward against granting women the vote. Some argued that women neither needed nor deserved the vote. Others said it was not even wanted by the majority of women.

The Opponent's View Right to Work
The Opponent's View Right to Work

How did they plan for success?

The campaign for women's suffrage was extremely well organised. Various groups, including the NUWSS and the WSPU organised rallies, public meetings and protests as well as publishing magazine, pamphlets and books. Members of these groups were also prepared to take extreme personal risks, to break the law and to go to prison. The groups also had well-respected and talented leaders in Millicent Fawcett and the Pankhursts.

Public Meeting NUWSS
Public Meeting NUWSS
An account of force feeding Christabel Pankhurst's speech (1908)
An account of force feeding Christabel Pankhurst's speech (1908)

What campaign tactics and media did they use to get their message across?

The campaigners for women's suffrage, particularly the WSPU, were notorious for the publicity grabbing militant action they took. Suffragettes were more than willing to break the law to raise awareness for the cause and, if imprisoned. sometimes went on hunger strike. This granted them the attention of the media. The movement also published a number of its own publications and leaflets.

Emily Davison in the Daily Sketch An account of force feeding
Emily Davison in the Daily Sketch An account of force feeding
'Why I want the vote' by Maud Arncliffe Sennett  
'Why I want the vote' by Maud Arncliffe Sennett