"I thought I had been a suffragist before I became a Poor Law Guardian, but now I began to think about the vote in women's hands not only as a right but as a desperate necessity." -Emmeline Pankhurst
The right to vote was not always granted to all types of people. Working-class men, women, and minorities had to fight for their rights and earn the privilege to vote.
An important movement that changed many people's views about various things occurred in distinct parts of the world such as the UK, the US, and other European countries is known as the suffrage era.
In today's article, we will examine some essential information about the women's suffrage movement and how it shaped modern-day society.
Background Information About the Suffrage Era
Many political developments have shaped the world and made it a better place, the women's suffrage movement is no different.
The suffrage movement was pioneered by women who rightly believed that women should have the right to vote, participate in public office, and have the same equal rights as men.
When did the suffrage movement officially begin?
Some moments in history are somewhat difficult to pinpoint; nevertheless, many scholars and researchers claim that the suffrage movement began in 1848.
In Seneca Falls, New York, USA, the first women's rights convention was held. While the Seneca Falls meeting was not the first-ever reunion to talk about women's rights, it is credited as being the moment that officially launched the suffragist movement.
During the next few decades, women in distinct countries, but mostly in the UK and the United States, worked hard to educate and inform all those around them about the validity of woman suffrage. Many women's groups and organisations joined forces during the last few years of the 19th century to have more power against government entities to finally gain voting rights.
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Notable women's suffrage organisations include the International Women's Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) founded in Berlin, Germany and the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) founded in Manchester, England.
The women's suffrage movement united women all over the globe and has been described as the "most significant achievement of women in the progressive era."
What is the progressive era?
The progressive era was a period of widespread social activism and reform in the United States of America from the 1890s to the 1920s.
All in all the suffrage movement introduced strong, powerful, and feminist women such as the suffragists and the suffragettes that sparked change and made the world a more comfortable place for women.
Why Was the Suffrage Movement Necessary?
The right to vote is the hallmark of democracy, equality, and fairness. It is a right given to all humans no matter their gender, class, occupation, or income.
There are many reasons, such as the following, that explain why people deserve and value the right to vote:
- A directly voted government is one chosen by the people of the distinct country, the newly formed government has representatives that the people approve of explicitly.
- Many historians and politicians claim that if the current government was chosen by the people and not put in its place by another superior power, there would be less cooperation and acceptance of laws or policies.
- The equal right to vote improves overall civic consciousness since it encourages all to participate in politics and to remember the terms promised by the current leader in office.
The right to vote cannot be refuted, it is a fundamental privilege owed to every single individual, who is not a minor, in each country around the world.
Nevertheless, has the right to vote always been available to everyone?
The short answer to the previously posed question is no. In many developed countries around the world, the right to vote was primarily given to wealthy men who were prominent in society. Even in the United Kingdom, before the Second Reform Act of 1867, the right to vote was reserved for only one million of the seven million men residing in England and Wales.
After the Second Reform Bill passed and became law, all male heads of the urban working class could vote publicly without any issues.
But what about women?
A group of women in the UK, known as the suffragists, petitioned for the right to vote and got over 1500 signatures to be included in the Second Reform Bill and earn the right to vote alongside the urban working males. Nevertheless, even with certain men of power helping the suffragists earn the privilege to participate in office and vote, parliament voted against women voting.
The lack of consideration from parliament sparked the suffragists into action and caused them to become more adamant about earning the right to vote.
The suffragists were women's groups based mainly in the UK yet there were many other movements in other countries such as Germany, Finland, and the United States that fought for their rights and were part of the suffrage movement. The suffragists would not stop campaigning until their right to vote was earned.
It is important to state that the suffragists and later, more aggressively, the suffragettes, were not fighting because they were bored with household duties and were looking for a new hobby to occupy their time, they were campaigning to earn a privilege that was deserved to them.
"I believe that the influence of woman will save the country before every other power."
The suffragists and suffragettes rightly fought for the right to vote and earn women a voice at a very turbulent time in human history. The suffrage movement was very pressing since previously laws were not allowing women to be viewed as they rightly should be: equal to men.
What Did the Suffrage Movement Achieve?
The child labour reform act made it possible for minimum wage and hours of work to be regulated, the civil rights movement was turbulent and heartbreaking but eventually allowed minorities to be recognised as equals, and, last but not least, the women's suffrage era helped women earn the right to vote.
Major movements changed the world and made it possible for important aspects of civil rights to be achieved.
What did the suffrage movement achieve for women?
It is important to mention that the women's suffrage era opened the door for women and allowed them to have a greater role in modern society. The following are some important social, economic, and political changes that the women's suffragette movement achieved:
- At the start of the 20th century, when the suffrage movement was in full swing, women began to attend further education courses to become professionals in male-dominated fields such as medicine, law, and business. Also, women began to start working in distinct sectors where they could achieve relative power and occupy roles that were equal to men.
- Also, during the early 1900s, women in areas such as the UK or the United States who were working in professional sectors saw major pay increases. It is important to state that they were not nearly as much as what men were making but it increased drastically compared to years before.
- The most important achievement of the women's suffrage movement was the granting of the right to vote. Although it took more time than the early suffragists would've liked, by the 1930s, many countries around the world had created legislations to allow women the complete right to vote.
Learning more about the suffrage movement builds hope in humanity's ability to achieve greatness if effort and passion are put worth accordingly.
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Women's Suffrage Around the World
It is important to state that while the women's suffrage movement predominantly occurred in specific areas, it is was a worldwide change that involved various passionate women in many of the world's major cities.
"Full suffrage" which is the ability for women to vote and stand for office, was often achieved at distinct times in countries all over the world.
The following are some significant moments for women's suffrage around the world:
- New Zealand becomes the first independent country in 1893 to grant equal voting rights to women,
- In 1901, Australia gets the right to vote with some restrictions,
- Finland grants women complete suffrage in 1906,
- In 1913 Norway gets full suffrage for women,
- Canada gives women the right to vote by federal law in all provinces except Quebec. Native women are exempt from voting,
- Germany grants women the vote in 1918 after the First World War,
- 1920 was a very special year for women in the United States since after a constitutional amendment is adopted and ratified in Tennessee, full women suffrage is granted in all states of the United States of America.
While change does take time, when it is achieved there is overwhelming happiness for parties that were directly affected. The women's suffrage movement should be studied by all individuals who want to learn about great people doing fantastic things.