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Online exhibits: Right to Vote

Voting lies at the root of democracy. But democracy in the United Kingdom is a recent development. Universal male franchise was only won 90 years ago, and for all women ten years later. It is less than 40 years since the voting age was lowered to 18.

In this section, we explore how protest was always a vigorous part of the struggle for democracy. Campaigning for the vote has sometimes cost people their freedom, even their lives.

Do people today attach too little value to this hard-won right? At the 2001 General Election, voter turnout dropped below 60% for the first time. Have people become apathetic, or have some lost faith in the parliamentary process?

Some significant stops along the route of the Right to Vote

1792 London Corresponding Society formed by radical artisans
1819 Peterloo Massacre in Manchester kills 11
1832 Great Reform Act changes parliamentary representation
1838 People's Charter published
1884 Third Reform Act
1897 Millicent Fawcett founds National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS)
1903 Campaign for women's suffrage gets militant: Women's Social and Political Union founded by Emmeline Pankhurst
1918 Representation of the People Act gives vote to women over 30 and all men over 21
1919 Lady Astor becomes first woman to take up seat in Parliament
1928 All women over 21 get the vote
1969 Voting age for men and women lowered to 18

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