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An introduction to Women's Suffrage in Scotland narrated by Kirsty Wark.


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 and debate.

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 was over.

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.

site designed by Wark Clements