6 February 2018 marks 100 years since the Representation of the People Act 1918 – the act which allowed some women in the UK the right to vote.
This was a major landmark in the history of our democracy.
Votes for women was part of a gradual improvement in women’s rights that had been going on throughout the 19th century. The movement also campaigned for the right to divorce a husband, the right to education, and the right to have a job such as a doctor. Many women, however, saw the vote as the vital achievement that would give them a say in the laws affecting their lives.
The change allowed women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification to vote. Although 8.5 million women met this criteria, it only represented 40 per cent of the total population of women in the UK.
The same act abolished property and other restrictions for men, and extended the vote to all men over the age of 21. Additionally, men in the armed forces could vote from the age of 19. The electorate increased from eight to 21 million, but there was still huge inequality between women and men and there was still a long way to go to get to where we are today.
It was not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women over 21 were able to vote and women finally achieved the same voting rights as men. This act increased the number of women eligible to vote to 15 million.
To mark this important centenary of votes for women and to celebrate International Women’s Day, I am writing a series of posts dedicated to the famous and influential women of Lewisham, past and present.
I’m kicking off this series of posts with famous music hall artiste Marie Lloyd.