Today marks 100 years since The Representation of the People Act 1918. Everyone is making a very big deal out of it because it’s 100 years since women were granted the vote.
Except it didn’t.
It gave some women the right to vote, women who owned property and were over 30. Middle class women. The ‘right’ sort of women.
This is a picture of my grandad (in the middle), my great aunts and my great grandfather.
The Representation of the People Act 1918, did not allow any of the women in my family to vote, it did allow my great-grandfather, who was married with 2 children in 1918 and had served a full four years in the army during World War I, to vote. The Home Secretary, George Cave (a Conservative) said this during the debate.
War by all classes of our countrymen has brought us nearer together, has opened men’s eyes, and removed misunderstandings on all sides. It has made it, I think, impossible that ever again, at all events in the lifetime of the present generation, there should be a revival of the old class feeling which was responsible for so much, and, among other things, for the exclusion for a period, of so many of our population from the class of electors. I think I need say no more to justify this extension of the franchise.
The Today Programme devoted much of it’s time today on voting and women, it has mentioned that the franchise was extended for all men over 21 but has given no real time to why or to what that meant.
The 1918 Act was not a victory for all women, it was a victory for property owning women. For the record The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928, granted universal franchise in the UK and it happened 10 years after the Act of Parliament that everyone is celebrating today.
I am really tired of the way that achievement for the privileged is celebrated as achievement for everyone. The notable achievement of the 1918 act was that men who couldn’t vote, the poorest (the cannon fodder) were allowed a role in selecting the governments that were happy to send them to the trenches.
Here endeth the rant