Parliament and Votes for Women

London Historians' Blog

A guest post by LH Member Anne Carwardine.

Source: Parliamentary Archives. Source: Parliamentary Archives.

As a woman, if I had wanted to observe proceedings in Parliament two hundred years ago I would have had to crane my neck and peer down through a ventilation shaft. One hundred years ago I would have been in the Ladies Gallery, high above the Speaker’s Chair, with a heavy metal grille blocking much of my view and making it difficult to focus. (Campaigner Millicent Fawcett described this as like looking through a gigantic pair of spectacles which did not fit).

On a recent tour of Parliament, which focussed on connections with the Votes for Women campaign, the group I was in (mostly women) stood on the floor of the House of Commons looking up at the Ladies’ Gallery and wondering what it would have been like to be confined there.

In October 1908 Muriel Matters and…

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The Civil War and Women’s Rights


The English Civil War was hard on women. In addition to the usual strains of helping run businesses and constant childbirth and childrearing, they had to cope with absent men – 1/4 of them fought in the war. Many of them built barricades and gave money to the battle, but they were treated as they were in law – with no rights, so their petitions to parliament for payment, for food for the poor were ignored. Only the Levellers supported women’s rights, which is why so many women were supporters of them.

Traditionally, power belonged to those with land, and there were women who inherited land, so were allowed to vote in local and national elections, though of course they held no high offices but were active on parish councils. Single women and widows were treaded as independent.  But the Civil War changed this. This is from Stevie Davies’ Unbridled…

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Happy International Women’s Day! | Saints, Sisters, and Sluts

Today, March 8, is celebrated as International Women’s Day across the world. As with many other holidays, it has evolved over time in its meaning and means of celebration. Initially, the day had a political purpose promoting the rights of women, particularly working women, demanding suffrage, and celebrating accomplishments. This is still true in many countries, although in some places the focus is simply an occasion to express love and appreciation of the women in our lives.

Maasai women rally for International Women’s Day in Tanzania in 2013, by Thomson Safaris (source)

Maasai women rally for International Women’s Day in Tanzania in 2013, by Thomson Safaris (source)

The earliest observance was in the United States on 28 February 1909 in remembrance of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union strike of 1908. The next year, at a women’s conference in Denmark, a proposal for an International Woman’s Day was put forth and agreed upon. Although no official date was decided at the time, on 19 March 1911 over a million people demonstrated across Europe promoting equal rights and suffrage for women.

The date for International Women’s Day wasn’t uniformly fixed as March 8 until…

via Happy International Women’s Day! | Saints, Sisters, and Sluts.