100 Years Ago by Bill Storie
On the 6th of February 1918 The Representation of the People Act 1918 received Royal Assent in Great Britain.
For the very first time this gave women (although not all women) the right to vote in a General Election.
But even then, it was not universally accepted by mankind (although as Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister insists on calling it these days – “personkind” – I kid you not). I guess that means the Province of “Manitoba” should be called “Personitoba”. I don’t think is what Emily Pankhurst had in mind.
Anyhoo, back to the vote. Back then the complexities of land ownership, property ownership, women being nothing more than “kitchen maids” (my paternal grandmother was one and she turned out just fine actually, but the place of the woman was in the home. So, for the men of Britain it was a sea-shift.
I’m not saying they were right, or that we should afford them any sympathy, I’m just saying it was difficult for them to accept it – right or wrong in their minds.
But those brave women who went through immense hardship both physically and mentally to achieve their goal cannot be under-estimated. Roughly 1,000 Suffragettes as they were known were imprisoned. They had hunger strikes all across the country. Mind you some of those ladies knew how to terrorize mankind (oops, there I go again – sorry Justin). The reality was that getting the vote was a nationwide time of unrest and upheaval.
Makes you wonder what those women would think of today’s tactics of feminism. Thankfully they didn’t have Facebook back then.
Keep in mind that the First World War appeared at that time as well (1914-1918) and in fairness, those ladies who fought so hard to vote, fought equally as hard to support the war effort. That was really the start of women moving out of the kitchen and into the factory, while the men were being needlessly slaughtered in the trenches of Normandy.
If we think we have it bad these days with civil unrest and unfairness, spare a moment for those men and women. Then reflect on their plight and check if today’s voices have any real need to complain to the extent they seem to insist on doing. No boundaries of decency or common sense seem to exist these days.
After the General Election of 1918, the first woman to become a Member of Parliament in a subsequent by-election was Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor in November 1919.
Interestingly, from Wikipedia:
She was an American citizen who moved to England at age 26. She made a second marriage to Waldorf Astor as a young woman in England. After he succeeded to the peerage and entered the House of Lords, she entered politics, in 1919 winning his former seat in Plymouth and becoming the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons.
And what was happening across the Atlantic?
Pretty much the same process of struggle culminating in
The Nineteenth Amendment (Amendment XIX) to the United States Constitution prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. It was adopted on August 18, 1920.
So finally, after years of denial, the women of both nations were able to take their rightful place in society. It really makes you wonder where we would be today had not those women fought so hard back then.
Two quotes from American Suffragettes”
Susan B. Anthony:
"The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world. I am like a snowball – the further I am rolled the more I gain."
Julia Ward Howe
"When I see the elaborate study and ingenuity displayed by women in the pursuit of trifles, I feel no doubt of their capacity for the most herculean undertakings."
Thank you ladies, for your comments and as a mere man I can only say “Me Too”
By Bill Storie