|British Women's Suffrage 1865-1906|
|Historical perspective: continuing the entry on "women" from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.|
Note that this entry is a product of its time, and should be read in that context. Footnotes have been omitted to make the text easier to follow. Also note that scanning and editing may have introduced a few errors into the transcription. Because of these errors, if you need to use this information in an academic paper, please consult the original, available at many libraries.
This continues the entry under "Women" in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Previous page > Woman Suffrage
A new era began with the election in 1865, as member for Westminster, of John Stuart Mill, who placed women's suffrage in his election address. From that time the subject became more or less prominent in each successive parliament. Mill presented the first petition in May 1867. In 1868 the case of Chorlton v. Lings was decided against women applicants for the vote by the Court of Common Pleas, and a similar decision was given by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Scotland. From this time the efforts of the various local committees (in London, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh and Birmingham) were directed to promoting a bill in parliament, and to forwarding petitions (an average of 200,000 signatures a year was maintained from 1870 to 1880). The Women's Suffrage Journal was founded in 1870, and in the same year Jacob Bright moved the second reading of the Women's Disabilities Bill which was carried by a majority of 33 votes. Mr Gladstone then threw his opposition into the scale, and the bill was rejected in committee by 220 to 94. In 1871 the same bill was again lost by 220 to 151, in spite of a memorial headed by Florence Nightingale, Mary Carpenter, Augusta Webster, Harriet Martineau, Frances Power Cobbe and Anna Louisa Chisholm (Mrs H. W. Chisholm). G. O. Trevelyan's Household Franchise Bill in 1873 raised the hopes of the women's suffragist, and Mr Joseph Chamberlain at a great Liberal meeting in Birmingham carried a resolution in favour of the proposed change. From 1874 to 1876 the bill was in charge of a conservative, Mr Forsyth, and, despite the opposition of John Bright and the efforts of a parliamentary committee for " maintaining the integrity of the franchise," the number of supporters was well maintained. The work proceeded uneventfully from 1876 to 1884, huge meetings being held in all the chief towns. In 1880 the franchise was conferred upon women owners in the Isle of Man, subsequently upon women occupiers also. In 1883 a great Liberal conference at Leeds voted in favour of women's suffrage under the leadership of Dr Crosskey and Walter S. B. M'Laren. The next notable event in the movement was the defeat of W. Woodall's amendment to the Reform Bill (1884), providing that words importing the masculine gender should include women, by 271 votes to 135, Mr Gladstone again making a powerful appeal to his party to withdraw the support which they had given in the past. 104 Liberal members crossed over in answer to this appeal. Numerous bills and resolutions followed year by year in the names of W. Woodall, L. H. Courtney (Lord Courtney, whose bill was read a second time without a division, 1886), W. S. B. M'Laren, Baron Dimsdale, Caleb Wright, Sir Albert K. Rollit, F. Faithfull Begg (1897; second reading majority 71). Up to 1906 all those attempts had failed, in most cases owing to time being taken for government business.
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Part of a collection of etexts on women's history produced by Jone Johnson Lewis. Editing and formatting © 1999-2003 Jone Johnson Lewis.