What Difference did the War Make? World War One and Votes for Women

Lead Research Organisation: University of Lincoln
Department Name: College of Arts

Abstract

In February 1918 the Representation of the People Act gave the parliamentary vote to (some) British women for the first time. A further change in the law ensured that as well as voting, women were able to stand as candidates at the next general election in December 1918. As we move towards the centenary of these two events, public interest in their origins is growing. Our project will capitalise on this interest through disseminating those findings from two previous AHRB projects (Angela Smith's 'Suffrage Discourse during World War One' 2003) and (Cowman's 'Paid Organisers in the Women's Social and Political Union', 2004) that relate to the work of suffrage organisations during the First World War leading up to the Representation of the People Act 1918 and the first election involving women candidates. Working in partnership with VOTE100, the official parliamentary project to mark these anniversaries, we will organise a series of carefully planned events. Through three workshops/panel discussions with invited speakers and public audiences we will consider the impact of the war on suffrage campaigns, the historical and contemporary gendering of politics and the broader social implications of this. A significant display at Westminster marking the centenaries followed by a contribution towards a major exhibition will enhance the impact and reach of our previous research. The outcomes of the project will be further disseminated through joint pamphlet and booklet publications authored by the project team and stakeholders.

Planned Impact

The upcoming centenaries of women's partial enfranchisement (February 2018) and the first election involving women candidates (December 2018) offer an excellent opportunity to enhance the impact and reach of two earlier research projects. We will do this in partnership with VOTE100, based in Parliament and comprising a four-year programme of activities starting in 2015 and culminating with a major public exhibition in 2018 in Westminster Hall. Our project, 'What Difference did the War Make', links directly to the activities of VOTE100 thus ensuring that our research into the connections between suffrage campaigns, the First World War and the Representation of the People Act and women's entry into Parliament has the widest possible reach and impact across the centenary events.

Previous impact activities by both PI and CI have convinced us of a wider appetite among stakeholders for historical contextualisation of contemporary political concerns connected to what many still see as a 'women's vote.' (Examples include the PI's invitation to discuss historical perspectives on women's participation in general elections on BBC R3's Nightwaves after the 2015 election). Our three events are aimed directly at meeting this appetite through inviting members of contemporary groups concerned with broadening women's engagement in politics as well as stakeholders from media and education whose primary interest will be in the historical findings.

By the end of 2018 our collaboration will have informed and underpinned the commemorative activities of VOTE100 thus shaping public understanding of the connections between wartime suffrage campaigns and women's votes in the light of our earlier research, and linking our research council projects to high profile public commemorations.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Exhibitions (listed on outputs); further presentations; booklet to schools
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Creative Economy,Education
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description 4 workshops in Lincoln, Plymouth and London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Approximately 120 pupils from Plymouth, Lincoln and York attended workshops in Plymouth and Lincoln looking at the gendering of the British parliament with input from campaigning groups including 50-50 Parliament, Ask Her to Stand as well as artists / theatre practitioners. The events sparked questions and discussion afterwards, and schools presented positive feedback on how they had enhanced curriculae.
A further two workshops were held in Portcullis House, Westminster, attended by politicians and members of the public. These focussed on women's contribution to the First World War and its connection to the 1918 Representation of the People Act. The Minister for Equalities commented that she had not considered the importance of ongoing suffrage campaigns during the war prior to this workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Booklet 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 'What Difference did the War Make' is a colour booklet summarising the content of the workshops and display associated with the project. Copies were sent to every secondary school in the UK in the summer of 2018. It received several positive comments with one school noting that it would make a 'valuable addition to the school library' and another requesting extra copies for a fifth form extended project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2018
 
Description Exhibition/Display 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The exhibition 'What Difference did the War Make' opened in Portcullis House in January 2018. There it was accessible to all MPs and pass holders on the Parliamentary estate as well as visitors to e.g. select committees and/or policy groups. In November the exhibition transferred to Westminster Hall where it was accessible to a wider constituency as the Hall is open to the public. The associated booklet is available online.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.parliament.uk/whatdifference
 
Description Keynote 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As a consequence of the project the PI Professor Cowman was invited to give the keynote presentation at a conference held by Parliamentary Archives and the History of Parliament Trust to commemorate the centenary of the Parliament (Qualification of women) Act. Members of the audience commented on the extent to which this extended their knowledge of the first women candidates to stand for election in Britain.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Public lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Due to her involvement with the project PI Professor Krista Cowman was asked to speak at an event hosted by the Co=Operative Party and History of Parliament Trust at Westminster on the topic of women's experiences of voting for the first time. One twitter user noted that it was a 'great event' and 'interesting to hear' of this new research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019