Women’s History Month: Fighting for the Right to Vote

In honor of Women’s History month, it’s important that we recognize the feminists who have made major changes for women throughout the years in Britain and the United States.  Feminism is a range of social and political movements that aim to define and establish the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the sexes. Many feminist’s and activist groups fought for women’s rights and equality throughout the decades, all in hopes of improving the way women were viewed and treated. One of the biggest battles that feminists had to fight for was the right to vote. It wasn’t until the year 1920 were women in the United States given the right to vote. It is truly a sad fact that there have been so many restrictions placed on who’s allowed to vote, based on things like age, gender, race, education, wealth, and social status. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many women began to campaign for women’s rights.

The main focus of their attention was the right to vote. This became known as the suffragist movement, which started in the United States. During this time, two political groups also formed in Britain,  the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies and the Women’s Social and Political Union. These groups came to be known by two different nicknames, the Suffragists and the Suffragettes. The suffragists were common in the States, meanwhile, the Suffragettes were common in Britain. The suffragist group included many famous people throughout history, such as Jane Addams and Susan B. Anthony. The Suffragists protested for votes for middle-class, property-owning women and believed in peaceful protest.

However, the Suffragettes in Britain became frustrated with the Suffragists’ approach, as they felt like their approach was too nice and peaceful. They broke off and formed their own society, the Women’s Social and Political Union. This society was more inclusive and welcomed women from all different walks of life. However, their approach became more violent. Their motto was “Deeds Not Words” and they began using more aggressive tactics to get people to listen, such as breaking windows, handcuffing themselves to railings, and going on hunger strikes.

With this approach, many of the members subjected themselves to getting in trouble with the law and going to prison. They believed that women’s rights were a cause so important, that it was worth fighting and risking their freedom for. In 1918, the women’s suffrage movement finally had a breakthrough in Britain. A bill was passed through Parliament and this granted only some women the right to vote. Women had to be over the age of 30 and own property, or be married to someone who owned property. However, despite these restrictions, it was still a big victory to the suffragettes and for many women, as it gave 8.4 million women the vote in Britain!

There are plenty of mixed opinions over the violent tactics the Suffragettes used to spread their message. But, there’s no doubt that they are remembered as an incredibly courageous and forward-thinking feminist group who stood up for what they believed in, and continuously laying their lives on the line in the process! They paved the way for many future generations of women and feminists in Britain. Whereas the Suffragists helped improve women’s rights in the U.S.  Without the help of these courageous groups, your grandmothers, moms, aunties, friends and sisters, and even you, might have had considerably fewer rights today. Even though the fight for women’s rights isn’t over, women do have more freedom and rights now compared to the past. However, there are many countries today where women still lack basic rights that we take for granted. So we should make sure the future looks even brighter for women’s rights!