Today marks the anniversary of the passing of the 1918 Representation of the People Act.
The act was a fundamental piece of legislation that allowed many women to vote for the first time, and was viewed by the Suffragettes and Suffragists as a major hurdle in the ‘Votes for Women’ cause.
The act allowed women over the age of 30 who owned property to lawfully vote. This affected around 8.5 million women, but on a larger scale, it still only represented 40 per cent of the population of women in the UK.
The 1918 legislation marked a milestone for campaigns of women’s suffrage, though many argue about what truly caused the turn-around in political and public opinion.
The valuable female contribution to the war effort during the First World War, in which women undertook jobs in munitions factories, farms and as vehicle drivers, amongst other roles, was only part of the effort in gaining votes for women.
The role of the Suffragettes and their militant campaign also helped garner attention towards the cause. Many members were involved acts of arson, vandalism, hunger strikes and even attacks on politicians – in the hope of raising awareness and media attention.
However, it was not until the Equal Franchise Act was passed 10 years later that women received the same voting rights as men. The 1928 Act expanded on the Representation of the People’s Act and allowed all women over the age of 21 to vote in parliamentary and local elections.