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What Do We Owe Women From the Past?

'Lesbian' Couples Who Changed The World

This title of this article is somewhat misleading, in that the word 'Lesbian' is used to denote women who in same sex relationships (platonic or romantic) used their dual power and connections to do amazing things - starting businesses, pursuing activism, revolutionising social services, erecting schools, liberating marginalised groups. Indeed the author states "...the word “lesbian” is used as an adjective to describe a same-sex relationship, not the sexual orientation of the women in the relationship. These women came from every walk of life, but according to the author, shared in common their ability to act more freely and certainly not to have their activism 'held back' by the ‘yoke’ of tradition or gender conformity. The article is written by RIESE and focuses on American women. See the link to her blog below.  Se also REISE's other blog post entitled 

9 Lesbian and Trans Women Activists In the Spotlight Of “When We Rise” at

Mary Wollstonecraft: 'Britain's First Feminist'

Painted into history

In 2013 graffiti was mysteriously daubed on the side of a church in Stoke Newington, London. This was no wanton vandalism. Hands clasped behind her back, staring out from the wall stood an 18th Century writer and radical – Mary Wollstonecraft.

Who was she? And why does she still hold such powerful currency today? Trace the highs and lows of Wollstonecraft’s extraordinary life and discover how she came to be ‘Britain’s first feminist’.

Moderates and Militants

The campaign for women's suffrage - the right to vote in elections - involved both moderates and militants. At first they worked well together to reinforce each other but as suffragette actions became more extreme some observers thought they might derail the campaign.

Dangerous Women

Militant suffragettes forced the public to think about votes for women. But their violent actions were used by opponents to justify withholding votes from women. Click the hand to watch suffragettes explain their actions in remarkable BBC archive.

Imprisoned Suffragettes 1907 - 1917

The women who endured torture and squalor for the right to vote.  by Amanda Uren

The African-American Suffragists History Forgot

“I feel that I have the right to have just as much as a man. There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights and colored women not theirs, the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before,” the abolitionist Sojourner Truth said in 1867.

How WW1 Changed Women's Fortunes

By 1914 it was clear women would eventually get the vote. Years of peaceful protest had convinced an increasing number of MPs to support female suffrage. Other countries including Australia had extended voting rights to women, making Britain look behind the times.

However, World War One had a huge impact on the ongoing struggle. Many suffragettes gave up campaigning to support the war effort. When peace returned, Britain felt like a very different place.

Rethinking British democracy

Millions of British men fought in World War One, but a third of them had no right to vote. Women, who had proved they could do the same jobs as men in factories, offices and on the land, also had no representation. David Lloyd George's coalition government knew it was time for a fundamental rethink of who had access to the ballot box. MPs from different parties who supported female suffrage could now band together to support such a decision.

Women win a partial victory

In 1918 the Representation of the People Act extended the vote to all men over 21, and to some groups of women over 30. However, this was not simply a reward for the vast sacrifice that women had made for the war effort. Some historians have suggested the government intended these women to be a 'moderating' influence on radical younger male voters. It had the added advantage of taking the heat out of the female suffrage movement.

Yet more than half of women still did not have a say in electing their government. Moderate campaigning would continue until 1928 when women were finally granted the vote on equal terms to men.

Why Women Needed The Vote

Women had argued for – and won – new rights in the 19th Century. However, without the vote campaigners thought there was little incentive for politicians to improve the lot of women further. They believed MPs only cared about issues that affected the men who were able to vote for them

How Far Have Women Come?

The Representation of the People Act in 1918 was a partial victory for women. A hundred years on, how well are women represented in our democratic system?

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