One Hundred Years Ago Today, May 24, 1917

British Women Marching for the Vote

Votes for British Women

The New York Times reported that on May 24, 1917 the Franchise Reform bill passed the House of Commons, “but was not by any means a complete equal suffrage measure. Under it now woman cannot vote until she is 30 years of age, and such voters are limited to university electors, (those belonging to a university), local government electors, and wives of voters,” a class of about six million women. Many British suffragettes railed at the limitations; they had been campaigning for years for full suffrage for all women.

But the limits were imposed because of fear that the “because of the destruction of male voters now going on at the front the women would vastly preponderate at the polls if they, like the men, were allowed to vote at the age of 21.” In other words, with so many young men dying in World War I it was feared a fully enfranchised female population would be in the majority. Heavens! Who know what havoc they would have wrought!

Representatives of the government assured British women that full suffrage was coming, and “the extension of suffrage to women in general is just a matter of time.” In fact, it was not until 1928 that the Conservative government passed the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act, giving the vote to all women over the age of 21 on equal terms with men.


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