Why women shouldn’t vote.
It will tend by the divisions which it will introduce to break up the harmony of the home.
Women have not, as a sex, or a class, the calmness of temperament or the balance of mind, nor have they the training, necessary to qualify them to exercise a weighty judgment in political affairs.
If the vote is granted, it is probable that a large number of women would not use it at all. But in emergencies or on occasions of emotional excitement.
The presence of a large female factor in the constituencies returning a British Government to power would tend to weaken Great Britain in the estimation of foreign powers.
In the early 20th Century the campaign for women to be granted the right to vote gained momentum, with pro-suffrage groups using both peaceful and militant means to push for voting reform (learn more).
While there were many women (and men) during this time who fought and showed support for women’s right to vote in Britain, there were a number of individuals and groups, such as the Anti-Suffrage Campaign or the Men’s League for Opposing Woman Suffrage, who opposed the suffrage movement and sought to stop women from gaining political enfranchisement.
Literature produced by such groups attempted to persuade the public and politicians that women should not be given the right to vote.
A lot of the opposition towards women getting the vote focused on the role of women in society. There was a view that women operated in the ‘domestic’ or ‘private’ sphere – looking after the home and domestic affairs, and therefore there was no need for them to be involved in the country’s political activity when their husbands’ or fathers’ votes could represent the family.
Satirical postcards and caricatures were also produced to mock women involved in the suffrage movement in an attempt to make them look unfit to engage in political discourse, or a threat to male power.
Those opposed to female enfranchisement weren’t just concerned about women’s ability to vote in elections, they feared it was a slippery slope to women forming a majority of the electorate following WW1, or even one day running the country! Debates in Parliament in the run up to the Representation of the People Act in 1918, presented an opportunity for members to raise these concerns.
Despite opposition, the Representation of the People Act passed into law in 1918, granting women over 30 (who met certain qualifications), and all men over 21, the right to vote. Following the passage of the Act, the anti-suffrage movement began to disband and eventually ceased to exist.
Reviewing their literature over 100 years on helps us to appreciate the arguments and debates that suffrage campaigners had to engage with in order to win the fundamental right to vote. The points made by these leaflets also play into a wider debate about women’s role in society during the 20th century, as well as assisting today’s voters in recognising the value of their vote.