'Why I want the vote', by Maud Arncliffe Sennett in The Vote


This opinion piece was written by Maud Arncliffe Sennett in 1910 for The Vote, journal of the Women’s Freedom League.

Who was Maud Arncliffe Sennett and what did she believe?

Maud Arncliffe Sennett was a suffrage activist who employed over a hundred workers in her family ornamental confectionary and cracker manufacturing business, G. Sparagnapane & Company.

A champion of the rights of working women, she argues in the article, ‘I do not see why the women I employ – skilled workers, the chief or sole supporters of their humble homes – should not, the same as men, protect their labour and their other interests at the polls’.

She was equally angry that her male employees over the age of 21 were able to vote while she, a middle-aged woman on whom they depend for their livelihoods, was shut out from the democratic process. Indignant that her taxes pay to educate her employees’ children, while her non-tax paying male employees ‘are marching to the ballot-box’, she decries the double-standard by which, ‘the Government, which impudently robs me of my hard-earned money, would send me to prison as a third-class criminal were I to walk to St Stephen’s [the Houses of Parliament] and importune for a hearing to redress my grievances’.

Murders of poor women and the case of Daisy Lord

In line with other suffragettes, Arncliffe Sennett believed that social and moral reform depended on women getting the vote. As long as only men’s interests were represented in the Houses of Parliament, women’s livelihoods – as well as their liberty, personal safety and access to justice – would not be protected in law. To bring her point home, she refers to the ‘ever-increasing numbers of poor women who are annually murdered’ and the heart-rending case of young destitute mother, Daisy Lord, who murdered her child and was ‘detained for the term of her natural life’.

Arncliffe Sennett documented her part in the women’s suffrage movement, as well as monitoring its progress, in a series of scrapbooks in which she pasted press cuttings, letters, leaflets, pamphlets and other ephemera. The 37 volume collection was donated by her husband to the British Museum on her death in 1936 and is now held at the British Library.

Full title:
The Vote
26th February 1910, London
Women's Freedom League
Photograph / Image / Periodical
Maud Arncliffe Sennett
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LOU.LON 243 [1910]

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