Celebrating votes for women
One hundred years ago, some women won the right to vote in UK general elections. This was a monumental step towards universal suffrage.
Not all women, and not all men.
Today's anniversary celebrations are an apt moment to recognise women who do not have the right to vote and are affected by laws and policies created in Westminster. Quakers say this government has created a hostile environment, for instance annually locking up 4,000 asylum-seeking and migrant women in detention centres. Quakers, led by faith to recognise the value of every person, support the women in their rights to safety, dignity and liberty. Quaker Sanctuary Meetings are creating a culture of compassion and welcoming hospitality.
The history of the electoral franchise in the UK is a history of discrimination, on the grounds of wealth, education, and sex.- Jessica Metheringham, Quakers in Britain
The Representation of the People Act 1918 granted the vote to women over the age of 30 and only if they were on the Local Government Register, married to someone who was on the register, or a graduate voting in a university constituency. The same Act gave the vote to men over the age of 21.
The Act excluded men who were conscientious objectors from the right to vote for the duration of the war and for five years after it ended. There were approximately 16,000 conscientious objectors during World War I, Quakers amongst them.
Many Quakers were involved in long-standing universal suffrage movements including Anne Knight, Alice Clark, Emily Ford, Hilda Clark, Helen Sturge and Edith Pye.
Reflecting on the anniversary, Jessica Metheringham, Parliamentary Engagement Officer for Quakers in Britain says, “The history of the electoral franchise in the UK is a history of discrimination, on the grounds of wealth, education, and sex. While our electoral system has come a long way since 1832, it is still poorly understood and in need of care. The centenary of the Representation of the People Act is a time to speak up for the political system we want to see, one which allows all voices to be heard, which is transparent and fair, and works for the common good."