To what extent was the use of peaceful tactics the most important factor in the achievement of the vote for women between 1880 and 1918?

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The closure of WW1 marked a significant period in women’s history. The franchise was extended to women over 30 in 1918, enabling them to vote in national elections. However, this was less than the ‘universal adult suffrage’ they had sought, and even by 1918, it would take a further decade to achieve this. The key debate over this achievement, however, is over the contribution of peaceful tactics. Even before the creation of a specific national suffrage movement, certain rights had already been gained by women. Women could stand as members of Boards of Poor Law Guardians and also on local School Boards under the (Forster) Education Act of 1870. This gave women a chance to prove their ability in areas of political decision making – involving a female presence in the ‘public sphere’ for the first time - diminishing the anti arguments that women were not intellectually fit to do so. Moreover, the Municipal Franchise Act of 1869 was extended female rate payers, initiating a female presence in the democratic process. Women were able, furthermore, to stand as candidates in local elections by 1888, enabling women to challenge opposition views that had always denied them their rights, and the increasing roles of women in society indicated greater social acceptance. However, limitations persisted in that these responsibilities were seen as ‘domestic’ and women were still openly denied the parliamentary franchise. In addition, these crucial changes remained restricted to only middle class women, thus losing crucial support from working class women who had already established highly developed unions. Hence, the Radical Suffragist Party focused on working class women thus ‘radical’ for these views. These contributed to social reform through peaceful means and set up successful women’s trade unions which created equal rights for women in payment and working hours. Evidently,

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