Artefact Background Research

Why did women want the vote?

Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the suffragettes:

‘First of all it is a symbol, secondly a safeguard, and thirdly an instrument.’

votes for women

Handbill given away by NUWSS and WSPU on ‘Why Women Want the Vote’


Why were men and women against women getting the vote?

They believed that politics would have a negative effect on women and that they would become less polite, respectful and ladylike. They thought that by being able to vote, women would lose interest in marriage and children, creating an issue for humanity. Women were seen as much more emotional, unstable and ignorant than men, so to be able to vote would be a big mistake.

Not just men, but many women agreed with these reasons opposing Women’s right to vote. Today these views come across as very absurd, but they were widely believed to be strong arguments against Women’s suffrage.



  • ‘Votes For Women’ by Diane Atkinson (published by Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988)

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