HISTORY OF DEMOCRACY

     
A democratic Constitution: 1788

The Constitution of the United States of America, adopted in 1788, provides the world's first formal blueprint for a modern democracy. In the first flush of the new nation's enthusiasm, the compromises inherent in normal democracy are not required. George Washington is elected unopposed as president in 1789, and again for a second term in 1792.

But by 1796 political parties are in the field. The result of that year's election is a Federalist president (John Adams) and a Democratic-Republican vice-president (Thomas Jefferson). In 1800 Jefferson and Federalist candidate Aaron Burr tie in the presidential election. Congress declares Jefferson to be the winner, begnning a long spell of Democratic-Republican rule.

×

The easy transfer of presidential power between the political parties on Jefferson's election proves conclusively that the American republic has pioneered a successful working democracy, very different from the violent upheavals of French politics or the corruption of the unreformed British model.

This democracy is still based on a restricted franchise, and the leading politicians are all from a small leisured and landed class (the most distinguished among them, Washington and Jefferson, being southern slave owners). But more than anywhere else in the world at this time, the new American system points the way towards a fully democratic future.

×
     
The Reform Bill: 1831-1832

There has been no such prolonged period of intense political excitement in Britain as the fifteen months, from March 1831 to June 1832, during which repeated attempts are made to achieve a measure of parliamentary reform.

The need for reform, widely agreed around the country, is evident both in the laughable nature of much of tbe system inherited from the past, and in the inadequacy of the existing arrangements to cope with the present.

×

The anomalies from the past are famously evident in the so-called pocket and rotten boroughs. Pocket boroughs (or those where the nomination of the candidate is in the pocket of a single individual) have no electors at all; the owner's nominee automatically becomes a member of parliament, and ownership of the borough can even be put up for auction. By 1831 one such borough is entirely notional. Coastal erosion means that it has vanished under the sea, but it still returns a member to Westminster.

Rotten boroughs are those with very few electors. Old Sarum becomes the most notorious. Its seven voters have the right to elect two members, though in 1831 the constituency's rolling fields contain not a single habitable building.

×

These relics of the past give maximum opportunity for corruption in a system where there is not yet a secret ballot. Votes are bought for openly stated prices and the election campaigns become gross orgies of competitive hospitality. Even worse, landowners sometimes victimize tenants who fail to vote for their nominees.

If these traces of the past are a bad joke, the failure to address present realities is even more serious. The rapidly growing new industrial cities are for the most part unrepresented in parliament. A significant step in the crescendo of demand for reform comes in 1830 when the Tory majority in the house of commons rejects a bill to extend the franchise to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.

×

By the end of 1830 Wellington's Tory government has fallen. A new Whig ministry, headed by Earl Grey, is committed to parliamentary reform. By March 1831 a bill is ready.

Presented to the house of commons by Lord John Russell, the bill causes astonished delight in the country, and outrage on the Tory benches, by the bold sweep of its proposals. Most of the pocket and rotten boroughs are abolished, with their seats in the house transferred to the industrial cities; the property qualification for electors, previously different all over the country, is rationalized. Debate rages for seven nights, and when the time comes for a vote the result could hardly be more dramatic. The bill passes by a majority of one.

×

Grey and his cabinet persuade the king (by now William IV) to dissolve parliament for an election to be held, effectively on this one issue. During the campaign there are passionate meetings and rallies around the country - mainly attended by people unable to vote, since the election is still on unreformed lines.

The Whigs sweep in with a majority of more than 100, and immediately carry in the house of commons a second Reform Bill. It is rejected in the lords in October 1831 by a majority of forty-one. A third and modified bill is carried in the commons in March 1832, and then in the lords by a small majority of nine. But crisis strikes when this bill too is rejected by the peers at the committee stage in May.

×

The Whig cabinet resigns and Wellington attempts to form a government committed to more moderate reform. In the mood of the country few members of parliament will support him, and within a few days he recommends that the king recall Grey. The Whigs return, with the king's reluctant agreement to create sufficient new peers to carry the bill if necessary. But Wellington now exerts himself to ensure acceptance by the lords.

On 7 June 1832 the bill receives the royal assent and becomes the Reform Act.

×
     
Representation of the people: 1833-1918

In the election for the first reformed parliament, which assembles in January 1833, the Tories do predictably badly - winning only 172 seats compared to 486 for the Whigs. Yet the new members are less different in kind than those fearing reform had predicted (though the duke of Wellington claims to be unimpressed by the standard of dress, commenting sourly that he has never seen 'so many shocking bad hats').

The reason is that the property qualification to become an elector is still high. Even under the new system only 813,000 people qualify to register as voters in 1832. But this is now a middle-classs electorate, in place of one representing mainly the landed gentry.

×

The immediate change may not be great, but the shift in direction is immense. As yet only a few radicals are arguing that everyone should have a vote (and even these few have in mind only an electorate including all adult males). To everyone else it seems obvious that those with a material stake in the economy should be the only people with power to influence political decisions.

Once it is accepted that the level of this stake can be changed, anything becomes possible. The reform of 1832 in Britain, together with similar movements in other countries, makes possible the progression towards the universal suffrage now taken for granted in 20th-century democracies.

×

In Britain the successive stages are four measures, each known as a Representation of the People Act. That of 1867 reduces the property qualification to the point where the urban working class wins the vote. The act of 1885 effectively does the same for workers in the countryside. (Between these two the Ballot Act of 1872 introduces the secret ballot, a measure which provokes a great deal of parliamentary opposition.)

The act of 1885 still contains a financial threshold, albeit a low one. This is done away with in the act of 1918 which makes proof of residence the only qualification. This act also finally achieves universal suffrage in Britain, since it introduces votes for women.

×
     
Votes for women: 1848-1928

Until the mid-19th-century the idea that women might vote in elections had occurred to very few men and probably not many more women. But from that period the campaign for female suffrage becomes an increasingly passionate one, particularly in the United States and Britain.

In the United States many women are actively involved in the campaign to end slavery in America, and the notion of women's rights first creeps on to the agenda in tandem with the rights of African-American slaves. The issue surfaces first in one of the more unusual revolutionary gatherings of 1848, the great year of revolutions.

×

In July 1848 two anti-slavery campaigners, Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott, invite colleagues to a two-day convention on women's rights in Mrs Stanton's home in New York state (at Seneca Falls). It is the first of many such gatherings which lead, in 1869, to the formation of the National Woman Suffrage Association.

This same year sees the movement's first triumph. The newly established territory of Wyoming, in its first charter, gives women in 1869 the right to vote in all elections. But the good citizens of Wyoming are ahead of their time.

×

In the next year, 1870, normality is restored with a decisive thump. In the aftermath of the Civil War and the emancipation of the southern slaves, the 16th amendment to the Constitution glaringly omits any mention of women. It states that the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied 'on account of race, colour or previous condition of servitude'.

Over the following decades steady progress is made in persuading individual states to give women equal franchise with men, but it is not until the levelling experience of World War I that the aim is achieved at a federal level. The 19th amendment, in 1920, finally states that the right to vote shall not be denied 'on account of sex'.

×

The campaign in Britain is slightly shorter and much more violent. The first women's suffrage committee is formed in Manchester in 1865, soon to be followed by many others around the country. Manchester is also the origin of a much more militant group founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903 as the Women's Social and Political Union.

Under Mrs Pankhurst's leadership the campaign escalates in its level of confrontation, particularly after her daughter Christabel is violently ejected from a Liberal meeting in Manchester in 1905 for asking a question about votes for women - after which she is arrested and imprisoned for assaulting the police.

×

After this event the tactics of the suffragettes become increasingly provocative - chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows, and in the case of Emily Davison even throwing herself in front of the horses in the 1913 Derby and losing her life. The government's reaction is correspondingly repressive. When the suffragettes in prison use the tactic of the hunger strike, the home secretary responds with the 1913 measure known popularly as the Cat and Mouse Act - letting the women out of prison just long enough for their health to recover, and then recalling them.

As in the USA, it is World War I which defuses the issue.

×

Women who have served at the front as nurses, or in factories making munitions, can hardly be denied the vote. The Representation of the People Act (passed nine months before the end of the war, in February 1918) gives the vote to women over the age of thirty. An act of 1928 finally gives complete parity with men.

The dramatic stories of women's suffrage in the USA and Britain always win most of the attention. But, almost unnoticed, women elsewhere have achieved their aim earlier. The Tynwald, the legislative body of the Isle of Man, is the first parliament to give women the vote, in 1881. New Zealand heads the list of independent modern states which have taken the step, in 1893, followed by Australia (1902), Finland (1906) and Norway (1913).

×

This History is as yet incomplete.

×




< Prev.  Page 3 of 3  

Greece

Medieval democracy

Modern democracy
To be completed





HISTORY OF DEMOCRACY

     
A democratic Constitution: 1788

The Constitution of the United States of America, adopted in 1788, provides the world's first formal blueprint for a modern democracy. In the first flush of the new nation's enthusiasm, the compromises inherent in normal democracy are not required. George Washington is elected unopposed as president in 1789, and again for a second term in 1792.

But by 1796 political parties are in the field. The result of that year's election is a Federalist president (John Adams) and a Democratic-Republican vice-president (Thomas Jefferson). In 1800 Jefferson and Federalist candidate Aaron Burr tie in the presidential election. Congress declares Jefferson to be the winner, begnning a long spell of Democratic-Republican rule.

×

The easy transfer of presidential power between the political parties on Jefferson's election proves conclusively that the American republic has pioneered a successful working democracy, very different from the violent upheavals of French politics or the corruption of the unreformed British model.

This democracy is still based on a restricted franchise, and the leading politicians are all from a small leisured and landed class (the most distinguished among them, Washington and Jefferson, being southern slave owners). But more than anywhere else in the world at this time, the new American system points the way towards a fully democratic future.

×
     
The Reform Bill: 1831-1832

There has been no such prolonged period of intense political excitement in Britain as the fifteen months, from March 1831 to June 1832, during which repeated attempts are made to achieve a measure of parliamentary reform.

The need for reform, widely agreed around the country, is evident both in the laughable nature of much of tbe system inherited from the past, and in the inadequacy of the existing arrangements to cope with the present.

×

The anomalies from the past are famously evident in the so-called pocket and rotten boroughs. Pocket boroughs (or those where the nomination of the candidate is in the pocket of a single individual) have no electors at all; the owner's nominee automatically becomes a member of parliament, and ownership of the borough can even be put up for auction. By 1831 one such borough is entirely notional. Coastal erosion means that it has vanished under the sea, but it still returns a member to Westminster.

Rotten boroughs are those with very few electors. Old Sarum becomes the most notorious. Its seven voters have the right to elect two members, though in 1831 the constituency's rolling fields contain not a single habitable building.

×

These relics of the past give maximum opportunity for corruption in a system where there is not yet a secret ballot. Votes are bought for openly stated prices and the election campaigns become gross orgies of competitive hospitality. Even worse, landowners sometimes victimize tenants who fail to vote for their nominees.

If these traces of the past are a bad joke, the failure to address present realities is even more serious. The rapidly growing new industrial cities are for the most part unrepresented in parliament. A significant step in the crescendo of demand for reform comes in 1830 when the Tory majority in the house of commons rejects a bill to extend the franchise to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.

×

By the end of 1830 Wellington's Tory government has fallen. A new Whig ministry, headed by Earl Grey, is committed to parliamentary reform. By March 1831 a bill is ready.

Presented to the house of commons by Lord John Russell, the bill causes astonished delight in the country, and outrage on the Tory benches, by the bold sweep of its proposals. Most of the pocket and rotten boroughs are abolished, with their seats in the house transferred to the industrial cities; the property qualification for electors, previously different all over the country, is rationalized. Debate rages for seven nights, and when the time comes for a vote the result could hardly be more dramatic. The bill passes by a majority of one.

×

Grey and his cabinet persuade the king (by now William IV) to dissolve parliament for an election to be held, effectively on this one issue. During the campaign there are passionate meetings and rallies around the country - mainly attended by people unable to vote, since the election is still on unreformed lines.

The Whigs sweep in with a majority of more than 100, and immediately carry in the house of commons a second Reform Bill. It is rejected in the lords in October 1831 by a majority of forty-one. A third and modified bill is carried in the commons in March 1832, and then in the lords by a small majority of nine. But crisis strikes when this bill too is rejected by the peers at the committee stage in May.

×

The Whig cabinet resigns and Wellington attempts to form a government committed to more moderate reform. In the mood of the country few members of parliament will support him, and within a few days he recommends that the king recall Grey. The Whigs return, with the king's reluctant agreement to create sufficient new peers to carry the bill if necessary. But Wellington now exerts himself to ensure acceptance by the lords.

On 7 June 1832 the bill receives the royal assent and becomes the Reform Act.

×
     
Representation of the people: 1833-1918

In the election for the first reformed parliament, which assembles in January 1833, the Tories do predictably badly - winning only 172 seats compared to 486 for the Whigs. Yet the new members are less different in kind than those fearing reform had predicted (though the duke of Wellington claims to be unimpressed by the standard of dress, commenting sourly that he has never seen 'so many shocking bad hats').

The reason is that the property qualification to become an elector is still high. Even under the new system only 813,000 people qualify to register as voters in 1832. But this is now a middle-classs electorate, in place of one representing mainly the landed gentry.

×

The immediate change may not be great, but the shift in direction is immense. As yet only a few radicals are arguing that everyone should have a vote (and even these few have in mind only an electorate including all adult males). To everyone else it seems obvious that those with a material stake in the economy should be the only people with power to influence political decisions.

Once it is accepted that the level of this stake can be changed, anything becomes possible. The reform of 1832 in Britain, together with similar movements in other countries, makes possible the progression towards the universal suffrage now taken for granted in 20th-century democracies.

×

In Britain the successive stages are four measures, each known as a Representation of the People Act. That of 1867 reduces the property qualification to the point where the urban working class wins the vote. The act of 1885 effectively does the same for workers in the countryside. (Between these two the Ballot Act of 1872 introduces the secret ballot, a measure which provokes a great deal of parliamentary opposition.)

The act of 1885 still contains a financial threshold, albeit a low one. This is done away with in the act of 1918 which makes proof of residence the only qualification. This act also finally achieves universal suffrage in Britain, since it introduces votes for women.

×
     
Votes for women: 1848-1928

Until the mid-19th-century the idea that women might vote in elections had occurred to very few men and probably not many more women. But from that period the campaign for female suffrage becomes an increasingly passionate one, particularly in the United States and Britain.

In the United States many women are actively involved in the campaign to end slavery in America, and the notion of women's rights first creeps on to the agenda in tandem with the rights of African-American slaves. The issue surfaces first in one of the more unusual revolutionary gatherings of 1848, the great year of revolutions.

×

In July 1848 two anti-slavery campaigners, Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott, invite colleagues to a two-day convention on women's rights in Mrs Stanton's home in New York state (at Seneca Falls). It is the first of many such gatherings which lead, in 1869, to the formation of the National Woman Suffrage Association.

This same year sees the movement's first triumph. The newly established territory of Wyoming, in its first charter, gives women in 1869 the right to vote in all elections. But the good citizens of Wyoming are ahead of their time.

×

In the next year, 1870, normality is restored with a decisive thump. In the aftermath of the Civil War and the emancipation of the southern slaves, the 16th amendment to the Constitution glaringly omits any mention of women. It states that the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied 'on account of race, colour or previous condition of servitude'.

Over the following decades steady progress is made in persuading individual states to give women equal franchise with men, but it is not until the levelling experience of World War I that the aim is achieved at a federal level. The 19th amendment, in 1920, finally states that the right to vote shall not be denied 'on account of sex'.

×

The campaign in Britain is slightly shorter and much more violent. The first women's suffrage committee is formed in Manchester in 1865, soon to be followed by many others around the country. Manchester is also the origin of a much more militant group founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903 as the Women's Social and Political Union.

Under Mrs Pankhurst's leadership the campaign escalates in its level of confrontation, particularly after her daughter Christabel is violently ejected from a Liberal meeting in Manchester in 1905 for asking a question about votes for women - after which she is arrested and imprisoned for assaulting the police.

×

After this event the tactics of the suffragettes become increasingly provocative - chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows, and in the case of Emily Davison even throwing herself in front of the horses in the 1913 Derby and losing her life. The government's reaction is correspondingly repressive. When the suffragettes in prison use the tactic of the hunger strike, the home secretary responds with the 1913 measure known popularly as the Cat and Mouse Act - letting the women out of prison just long enough for their health to recover, and then recalling them.

As in the USA, it is World War I which defuses the issue.

×

Women who have served at the front as nurses, or in factories making munitions, can hardly be denied the vote. The Representation of the People Act (passed nine months before the end of the war, in February 1918) gives the vote to women over the age of thirty. An act of 1928 finally gives complete parity with men.

The dramatic stories of women's suffrage in the USA and Britain always win most of the attention. But, almost unnoticed, women elsewhere have achieved their aim earlier. The Tynwald, the legislative body of the Isle of Man, is the first parliament to give women the vote, in 1881. New Zealand heads the list of independent modern states which have taken the step, in 1893, followed by Australia (1902), Finland (1906) and Norway (1913).

×

This History is as yet incomplete.

×

> HISTORY OF DEMOCRACY

     
A democratic Constitution: 1788

The Constitution of the United States of America, adopted in 1788, provides the world's first formal blueprint for a modern democracy. In the first flush of the new nation's enthusiasm, the compromises inherent in normal democracy are not required. George Washington is elected unopposed as president in 1789, and again for a second term in 1792.

But by 1796 political parties are in the field. The result of that year's election is a Federalist president (John Adams) and a Democratic-Republican vice-president (Thomas Jefferson). In 1800 Jefferson and Federalist candidate Aaron Burr tie in the presidential election. Congress declares Jefferson to be the winner, begnning a long spell of Democratic-Republican rule.

The easy transfer of presidential power between the political parties on Jefferson's election proves conclusively that the American republic has pioneered a successful working democracy, very different from the violent upheavals of French politics or the corruption of the unreformed British model.

This democracy is still based on a restricted franchise, and the leading politicians are all from a small leisured and landed class (the most distinguished among them, Washington and Jefferson, being southern slave owners). But more than anywhere else in the world at this time, the new American system points the way towards a fully democratic future.

     
The Reform Bill: 1831-1832

There has been no such prolonged period of intense political excitement in Britain as the fifteen months, from March 1831 to June 1832, during which repeated attempts are made to achieve a measure of parliamentary reform.

The need for reform, widely agreed around the country, is evident both in the laughable nature of much of tbe system inherited from the past, and in the inadequacy of the existing arrangements to cope with the present.

The anomalies from the past are famously evident in the so-called pocket and rotten boroughs. Pocket boroughs (or those where the nomination of the candidate is in the pocket of a single individual) have no electors at all; the owner's nominee automatically becomes a member of parliament, and ownership of the borough can even be put up for auction. By 1831 one such borough is entirely notional. Coastal erosion means that it has vanished under the sea, but it still returns a member to Westminster.

Rotten boroughs are those with very few electors. Old Sarum becomes the most notorious. Its seven voters have the right to elect two members, though in 1831 the constituency's rolling fields contain not a single habitable building.

These relics of the past give maximum opportunity for corruption in a system where there is not yet a secret ballot. Votes are bought for openly stated prices and the election campaigns become gross orgies of competitive hospitality. Even worse, landowners sometimes victimize tenants who fail to vote for their nominees.

If these traces of the past are a bad joke, the failure to address present realities is even more serious. The rapidly growing new industrial cities are for the most part unrepresented in parliament. A significant step in the crescendo of demand for reform comes in 1830 when the Tory majority in the house of commons rejects a bill to extend the franchise to Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.

By the end of 1830 Wellington's Tory government has fallen. A new Whig ministry, headed by Earl Grey, is committed to parliamentary reform. By March 1831 a bill is ready.

Presented to the house of commons by Lord John Russell, the bill causes astonished delight in the country, and outrage on the Tory benches, by the bold sweep of its proposals. Most of the pocket and rotten boroughs are abolished, with their seats in the house transferred to the industrial cities; the property qualification for electors, previously different all over the country, is rationalized. Debate rages for seven nights, and when the time comes for a vote the result could hardly be more dramatic. The bill passes by a majority of one.

Grey and his cabinet persuade the king (by now William IV) to dissolve parliament for an election to be held, effectively on this one issue. During the campaign there are passionate meetings and rallies around the country - mainly attended by people unable to vote, since the election is still on unreformed lines.

The Whigs sweep in with a majority of more than 100, and immediately carry in the house of commons a second Reform Bill. It is rejected in the lords in October 1831 by a majority of forty-one. A third and modified bill is carried in the commons in March 1832, and then in the lords by a small majority of nine. But crisis strikes when this bill too is rejected by the peers at the committee stage in May.

The Whig cabinet resigns and Wellington attempts to form a government committed to more moderate reform. In the mood of the country few members of parliament will support him, and within a few days he recommends that the king recall Grey. The Whigs return, with the king's reluctant agreement to create sufficient new peers to carry the bill if necessary. But Wellington now exerts himself to ensure acceptance by the lords.

On 7 June 1832 the bill receives the royal assent and becomes the Reform Act.

     
Representation of the people: 1833-1918

In the election for the first reformed parliament, which assembles in January 1833, the Tories do predictably badly - winning only 172 seats compared to 486 for the Whigs. Yet the new members are less different in kind than those fearing reform had predicted (though the duke of Wellington claims to be unimpressed by the standard of dress, commenting sourly that he has never seen 'so many shocking bad hats').

The reason is that the property qualification to become an elector is still high. Even under the new system only 813,000 people qualify to register as voters in 1832. But this is now a middle-classs electorate, in place of one representing mainly the landed gentry.

The immediate change may not be great, but the shift in direction is immense. As yet only a few radicals are arguing that everyone should have a vote (and even these few have in mind only an electorate including all adult males). To everyone else it seems obvious that those with a material stake in the economy should be the only people with power to influence political decisions.

Once it is accepted that the level of this stake can be changed, anything becomes possible. The reform of 1832 in Britain, together with similar movements in other countries, makes possible the progression towards the universal suffrage now taken for granted in 20th-century democracies.

In Britain the successive stages are four measures, each known as a Representation of the People Act. That of 1867 reduces the property qualification to the point where the urban working class wins the vote. The act of 1885 effectively does the same for workers in the countryside. (Between these two the Ballot Act of 1872 introduces the secret ballot, a measure which provokes a great deal of parliamentary opposition.)

The act of 1885 still contains a financial threshold, albeit a low one. This is done away with in the act of 1918 which makes proof of residence the only qualification. This act also finally achieves universal suffrage in Britain, since it introduces votes for women.

     
Votes for women: 1848-1928

Until the mid-19th-century the idea that women might vote in elections had occurred to very few men and probably not many more women. But from that period the campaign for female suffrage becomes an increasingly passionate one, particularly in the United States and Britain.

In the United States many women are actively involved in the campaign to end slavery in America, and the notion of women's rights first creeps on to the agenda in tandem with the rights of African-American slaves. The issue surfaces first in one of the more unusual revolutionary gatherings of 1848, the great year of revolutions.

In July 1848 two anti-slavery campaigners, Elizabeth Stanton and Lucretia Mott, invite colleagues to a two-day convention on women's rights in Mrs Stanton's home in New York state (at Seneca Falls). It is the first of many such gatherings which lead, in 1869, to the formation of the National Woman Suffrage Association.

This same year sees the movement's first triumph. The newly established territory of Wyoming, in its first charter, gives women in 1869 the right to vote in all elections. But the good citizens of Wyoming are ahead of their time.

In the next year, 1870, normality is restored with a decisive thump. In the aftermath of the Civil War and the emancipation of the southern slaves, the 16th amendment to the Constitution glaringly omits any mention of women. It states that the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied 'on account of race, colour or previous condition of servitude'.

Over the following decades steady progress is made in persuading individual states to give women equal franchise with men, but it is not until the levelling experience of World War I that the aim is achieved at a federal level. The 19th amendment, in 1920, finally states that the right to vote shall not be denied 'on account of sex'.

The campaign in Britain is slightly shorter and much more violent. The first women's suffrage committee is formed in Manchester in 1865, soon to be followed by many others around the country. Manchester is also the origin of a much more militant group founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903 as the Women's Social and Political Union.

Under Mrs Pankhurst's leadership the campaign escalates in its level of confrontation, particularly after her daughter Christabel is violently ejected from a Liberal meeting in Manchester in 1905 for asking a question about votes for women - after which she is arrested and imprisoned for assaulting the police.

After this event the tactics of the suffragettes become increasingly provocative - chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows, and in the case of Emily Davison even throwing herself in front of the horses in the 1913 Derby and losing her life. The government's reaction is correspondingly repressive. When the suffragettes in prison use the tactic of the hunger strike, the home secretary responds with the 1913 measure known popularly as the Cat and Mouse Act - letting the women out of prison just long enough for their health to recover, and then recalling them.

As in the USA, it is World War I which defuses the issue.

Women who have served at the front as nurses, or in factories making munitions, can hardly be denied the vote. The Representation of the People Act (passed nine months before the end of the war, in February 1918) gives the vote to women over the age of thirty. An act of 1928 finally gives complete parity with men.

The dramatic stories of women's suffrage in the USA and Britain always win most of the attention. But, almost unnoticed, women elsewhere have achieved their aim earlier. The Tynwald, the legislative body of the Isle of Man, is the first parliament to give women the vote, in 1881. New Zealand heads the list of independent modern states which have taken the step, in 1893, followed by Australia (1902), Finland (1906) and Norway (1913).

This History is as yet incomplete.



< Prev.  Page 3 of 3  



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