Explore a new resource that looks at the campaigning techniques of the suffragists and suffragettes.
In 1866, a group of women organised a petition that demanded that women should have the same political rights as men. The women took their petition to Henry Fawcett and John Stuart Mill, two MPs who supported universal suffrage. Mill added an amendment to the Reform Act that would give women the same political rights as men. The amendment was defeated by 196 votes to 73.
In the wake of this defeat the London Society for Women's Suffrage was formed. Similar Women's Suffrage groups were formed all over Britain. In 1897, seventeen of these individual groups joined together to form the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).
The NUWSS adopted a peaceful and non-confrontational approach. Members believed that success could be gained by argument and education. The organisation tried to raise its profile peacefully with posters, leaflets, calendars and public meetings.
Steps towards equal rights came with the Married Woman's Property Acts of 1870, 1882, and 1884 (amended again in 1925). These enabled women to keep their property and money after marriage, where previously it was the automatic property of their husbands.
The denial of equal voting rights for women was supported by Queen Victoria who, in 1870 wrote, 'Let women be what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations'.