In 1900, Scottish
women didn't have full voting rights. They could vote in local council elections,
but they couldn't vote for Members of Parliament, and this injustice made some
women very angry.
Women who wanted full voting rights were known as Suffragists
or Suffragettes, and the word suffrage comes from the Latin word for 'vote'.
Scotland's first Suffrage groups appeared in the late 1860s. Suffragists
demanded the vote as a basic human right and as a means of improving women's lives
in the workplace, at home, in courts of law and in education. They demanded justice
and equality for all women, and the Suffragists used peaceful, legal tactics to
try to win support. They sent petitions to Parliament, wrote letters to MPs, distributed
leaflets and organised meetings. They wanted to win equal rights through discussion
However, thirty years of peaceful campaigning produced only
minor change, and so-in the 1900s-- more militant campaigners began to emerge.
Suffragettes and Suffragists wanted the same things, but Suffragettes were prepared
to break the law and go to prison for their beliefs. Scottish Suffragettes poured
acid into pillar boxes, chained themselves to railings, smashed windows and slashed
portraits of the King. They also set fire to important buildings such as Leuchars
Railway Station, Ayr Racecourse and the Whitekirk in East Lothian. When they went
to prison, Suffragettes often refused to eat and the authorities' attempts to
force-feed them provoked a major public outcry.
Many people, including
substantial numbers of women, opposed the Suffragettes and believed that women
should stay at home to look after their husbands and children. They thought that
women should keep out of public life.
In 1914, Britain and Germany went
to war, and many Suffrage groups decided to suspend campaigning until the War
The First World War witnessed a big downturn in women's political
campaigning, but it still had a major impact on their lives. Women started working
in factories, farms and in the emergency services-jobs which had once been regarded
as unsuitable for women-and these women made a vital contribution to Britain's
war effort. As a result, Parliament passed the 1918 Representation of the People
Act which gave full voting rights to all women over the age of thirty. However,
this was less than full democracy and women continued to campaign until 1928 when
full voting rights were finally granted to all women over the age of 21. Democracy
had finally triumphed-- the Suffrage campaigners had won their argument.
This website tells the story of a political movement which inspired and influenced
women all over Scotland. It uses pictures, posters, newspaper accounts and cartoons
to recount the struggle for voting equality between 1867 and 1928. It outlines
the significance of World War One, explains the difference between Suffragist
and Suffragette, and acknowledges the full extent of opposition to women's voting
rights. Each module is accompanied by a full range of learning activities.
The Scottish Women's Suffrage campaign continues to inspire many people,
and this website helps to explain why.