Women had not yet gained the vote by the outbreak of the First World War despite the Suffragette activity for a number of reasons. These include Suffragette activities being too violent, prejudice, the government having to deal with other, more important issues, no political party totally supported women’s plea, women weren’t united and there was also a fear that women voters would outnumber men.
Source D suggests that men just didn’t want to give them the vote – plain and simple – prejudice. Emmeline Pankhurst argues that “We called upon the government to give us the vote but they didn’t” even though “there was a very large section of the public who were in favour of women’s suffrage”. This alludes to the fact that women were denied the right to vote by discriminative, but powerful men that held influential positions in the government. Similarly, source E also supports the comments made in this source.
Source E implies the same sort of reason as to why women weren’t given the vote by the outbreak of the First World War. The extract from a speech reads that he (the Member of Parliament giving the speech) would never have any hesitation in not giving the vote to women basically for the fact that he would be handing over the control of the government “into female hands”. This prejudice comment supports the message of source D, as the Member of Parliament is in a powerful position and doesn’t want to give women the vote, or control. However, the comments made in sources D & E are not necessarily true, the Suffragette activity is also said to have put many men off giving them the vote.
From my own knowledge, I can say there were many other reasons as to why women had not been given the vote by World War I apart from those elaborated in sources D & E – prejudice. Violent suffragette activity was a huge factor, as many men and even a lot of women were totally against it. Men felt that they shouldn’t give in to violence and they should stand their ground. Some women also felt similarly – that the suffragettes portrayed them as unreasonable and too expressive. All these characteristics are something that men would definitely not have agreed with for giving them the vote. It also put others off giving them the right to vote. This wasn’t helped by the lack of support from the government either.
Another important reason was the fact that no political party fully backed the plan for women to get the vote. This meant that women had no support from men who could potentially persuade other men or the government in to giving them the vote. The government also had other problems of their own to deal with e.g. Ireland, which led to the women’s request for the vote being pushed right to the back of the political agenda. It was reasons like this that led to the fall-out of women between themselves.
One huge aspect of women not receiving the vote before the First World War was that they were not united themselves. There was obviously the massive division between the suffragettes (WSPU) and the suffragists (NUWSS), but there were also a number of women that didn’t even want the vote. In fact there was an anti-suffrage league that was created by women who denied wanting the chance to vote. This meant that men felt if ‘women don’t want the vote, why should we give it to them?’
One final reason why women didn’t get the vote earlier is the suffragettes wanted to get women the vote on the same basis as men – this would create more Tory voters, and the Liberal Democrat government had opposed the Tories and therefore didn’t support the suffrage. My own knowledge does support the two sources D and E, as I also know that prejudice was the main reason why women hadn’t achieved the vote prior to the First World War starting.
To conclude, the most important reason why women didn’t get the vote was the amount of prejudice they suffered, especially from highly authoritative figures that were in the government. This meant that it was extremely tough for them to persuade many men to support giving them the vote, as the men would have usually just trusted what the influential figures had told them