Women's fight for the vote
Although it was almost unheard of before then, it was not until the Reform Act of 1832 that women were specifically denied the vote.
Over the next half century, a minority of women - and some men - demanded that the franchise should be extended not just to all men but to every adult, male or female.
In 1869, women rate-payers won the right to vote in some local elections and serve as poor law guardians. After 1888, women could also vote in county and borough elections.
From 1897, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies sought to unite the many local suffrage groups. But in 1903, the Women's Social and Political Union broke away over its timid approach. Both groups were criticised by trade unionists, including Mary Macarthur, general secretary of the National Federation of Women Workers, for their willingness to accept an extension of the franchise which excluded working class women.
After the first world war, the right to vote in parliamentary elections was extended to women over 30 who were householders or the wives of householders. It would take until 1928 before men and women alike were able to vote at age 21.
The Library holds a wealth of material relating to women's fight for the vote, such as copies of the journal Votes for Women bound in suffragette colours of white, purple and green, and a badge which was presented to women as they came out of prison having been jailed for their suffragette activity. Click here to arrange a visit to the Working Class Movement Library