Friday, 14 December 2012

On this Day: 14th of December 1918 : Women Vote in UK General Election for First Time

The United Kingdom general election of 1918 was the first to be held after the Representation of the People Act 1918, which meant it was the first United Kingdom general election in which nearly all adult men and some women could vote. Although polling was held on 14 December 1918, the count did not begin until 28 December. The election was won by a coalition of the Conservatives under Andrew Bonar Law, the pro-coalition Liberals under David Lloyd George, and a few independent and former Labour MPs including the anti-socialist National Democratic and Labour Party. It resulted in a government which retained Lloyd George as Prime Minister.

It is considered the first and the only largely democratic and universal elections on the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in which for the first time the majority of poorer British and Catholic Irish adult people were allowed to vote for Parliament.The Representation of the People Act 1918 widened suffrage by abolishing practically all property qualifications for men and by enfranchising women over 30 who met minimum property qualifications. The enfranchisement of this latter group was accepted as recognition of the contribution made by women defence workers. However, women were still not politically equal to men (who could vote from the age of 21); full electoral equality wouldn't occur until the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928.

The terms of the act were:
1. All adult males gain the vote, as long as they are 21 years old or over and are resident in the constituency
2. Women over 30 years old receive the vote but they have to be either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register

The size of the electorate tripled from the 7.7 million who had been entitled to in 1912 to 21.4 million by the end of 1918. Women now accounted for about 43% of the electorate- had women been enfranchised based upon the same requirements as men, they would have been in the majority because of the loss of men in the war. 

Photo Legacy: Making your memories last forever

Research courtesy of Wikipedia

Images courtesy of Eastman House under The Commons Agreement of Flickr


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