On This Day: Women get the vote

Rebecca Lewis
On This Day: Women get the vote

February 6: Women over 30 were granted the vote in 1918 after decades of campaigning for universal suffrage.

'Cleaning was traditionally a woman's chore'. So says the narrator on a British Pathé reel that looks back at the great strides made for women's rights between the years 1890-1930.

It was World War I which did much to alter the notion of a woman's place in society. As more and more men enlisted for the Great War, women found themselves taking on more responsible positions.

Women found employment as bus conductors and factory workers, roles which before the war "would have been considered degrading even perhaps impossible for a woman to handle", says the narrator.

"But new jobs meant more money, new freedoms, greater confidence; in short - a new emancipation."

By 1915 there was a food shortage in Britain. A land army, composed entirely of women, increased in number as the war progressed. More than 20,000 women were assigned to work on farms.

A Ministry of Information film called "A New Version" is included in the Pathé reel and shows women 'from all social classes' mucking in. The final title slide in the film bluntly declares: "Women are no longer afraid of cows".

It was political recognition of the efforts of women during the war that led to the passing of the The Representation of the People Act in 1918, which gave 8.3million women over 30 the right to vote.

It took another decade for all women to be granted the right to vote.