How Extensively Did the Political Status of Women Change During the Period 1868-1997?

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How extensively did the political status of women change during the period 1868-1997? By defining ‘political status’ as women’s involvement in pressure groups, their Parliamentary representation and their ability to directly involve themselves with politics, it is evident that women have made substantial headway. From as early as 1870, women gained some voting power, until complete enfranchisement in 1928; from the conspicuous absence of women within Parliament to Thatcher’s premiership, women have, legally at least, gained a degree of gender equality. However, the political status of women had plateaued by the end of the period, ergo the change in women’s political status has been quite limited. In regards to the franchise, women’s political status has changed the most - women have been granted the vote on an equal footing with men, making this the most extensive and indisputable change. In 1868, whilst the skilled working classes could vote, women were excluded until 1918 and gained political equality in 1928. Forster’s education Act of 1870 emancipated women by allowing them to vote in school board elections, allowing them an opportunity to quell rumors of their emotional states rendering them unable to vote rational, giving them a stimulus for pressure group campaigns. By 1918, women were partially involved in the franchise - an extremely significant change as it made Parliament more representative of the population and increased the proportion of society that politicians were accountable too. Ergo this reform led to women being a focal point in policy, providing legislation as early as 1919 - a Sex Disqualification act and later the 1970 Equal Pay act. Further to this it allowed women to be added to the political system without radical consequence, leading to the 1928 and 1969 Representation of the People

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