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Female Emancipation - Why Did a Campaign for Women's Suffrage Develop in the 19th Century?

Autor:   •  March 17, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,532 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,317 Views

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Female Emancipation

Why did a campaign for women's suffrage develop in the 19th century?

Throughout history men have mainly dominated society, but it was through the Suffrage Movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that Britain began to see a shift in the balance of power. The shift of power was made possible by pressure groups that gradually changed their tactics to convince the government that women deserved power. But before 1870, a large-scale movement had not happened. Women suffered from a number of restrictions: both laws which were made to restrict their freedom and what the contemporary society thought a woman's role and qualities should be. John Ruskin wrote in Sesame and Lilies 1865, ‘The qualities a nineteenth century ideal wife should have are that she should accept that she has a lower status than man (especially her husband) as she is less intelligent, and weaker.' Bbc website (accessed 12 Dec 2010)

There were some advances made before 1869: in 1857 the Matrimonial Court Act set up a cheaper and simpler system of getting divorced. However, in other areas there appears to be little containing any important benefit for women in general, particularly middle- class women, who were still barred from many occupations. Before 1870, the government did not seem to be taking any action in order to give women more rights.

By 1861, women outnumbered men in textile factories and in domestic service. Women's higher representation in the work force meant that a growing number of single women had to strive to be economically independent. Women's contribution to the workforce continued to rise, but was virtually non- existent amongst the middle- classes. Though not impossible, it was difficult for these women to work as it was not really acceptable for them to do so, married women's income was the property of their husbands, and many jobs were not open to women at all. Factors that caused women's employment to rise after 1870 included the development of chain stores and the growth of clerical work, which, particularly in jobs involving typing, became a largely female preserve. E.S Pankhurst (1935)

Women rarely had professional jobs due as they were considered to be suitable only for men, however some did enter the professions, as in the case of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Sophia Jex-Blake, who both graduated as doctors in 1866. Though only a tiny minority of women became professional, it made it clear that women had enough intelligence and dedication to do so providing that they were given the opportunity to. Suffrage therefore becomes more relevant as when women are representing a growing proportion of the workforce there seems to be a greater need for their representation in politics.

In 1870 the government made school compulsory for boys and girls under

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