TWO articles (“Brave Women who suffered for suffrage”, The Herald, February 6, and “Suffragettes won the fight, they don’t need pity pardons”, The Herald, February 8) are typical of the exaggerated credit given in the media to the Suffragettes for The Representation of the People Act of 1918 which gave votes to women in parliamentary elections for the first time – it is rarely noted that some women had long been able to vote in local elections.

Once again, the contribution of the peaceful Suffragists who made up the great majority of women campaigning for the vote, has been downplayed. Thanks to the work of the Suffragist movement since the 1870s most politicians by the time the Liberals came into power in1906 accepted the principle of votes for women; however, they could not agree on which women to give the vote to. Liberal politicians were concerned that giving the vote on the same terms as men would lead to wealthier female householders voting for the Conservatives. It is also worth pointing out that recent discussion of the 1918 Act has almost completely ignored the fact that pre-1918 42 per cent of (mainly poorer) men did not have the vote. It wasn’t just women who were discriminated against at that time.

Before 1914 Suffragette violence had split the suffrage movement – many Suffragists were concerned it would undo all their work and would alienate support for votes for women. Indeed, the Government showed no sign of giving way to the violence, particularly as it was also faced with violent strikes and, in particular, the threat of civil war in Ireland.

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The role of Suffragette violence certainly played a role in the 1918 Act as the government was keen to avoid the return of violence once the war ended. However, crucially, during the war the Suffragists were prepared to accept the compromise that votes for women should not be on equal terms with men in 1918, believing that votes for all women would follow shortly afterwards, as it did in 1928. The Government was afraid of the consequences of giving all women the vote and there was also a strong belief that men’s sacrifices in the war counted for more than than the war work done by women.

Finally, the effects of the 1918 Act have also been significantly underplayed. For example, The Herald online picture gallery refers to the "legislation that enabled all men and some women over the age of 30 to vote for the first time”. The 1918 Act gave the vote to 8.5 million women thanks to the clause that gave the vote not just to women over 30 who were householders but who were married to householders. It was the latter provision that transformed the number of female voters. The majority of women could now vote – hardly “some women”.

Kelvin Sinclair,

10 King Edward Road, Glasgow.