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A unique collection capturing the stories and struggles of ordinary people's efforts to improve their world
We urgently need your support

Women's fight for the vote

Women's trades council bannerAlthough 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

Explore 200 years of working class movement activism

Timeline slider
  • 1791

    Thomas Paine publishes 'Rights of man'

  • 1798

    Irish Rebellion

  • 1819

    Peterloo

  • 1834

    Tolpuddle

  • 1844

    Rochdale Pioneers

  • 1848

    Chartist banner, 'More pigs and less parsons'Kennington Common Chartist meeting

  • 1867

    'Manchester Martyrs' executed

  • 1868

    TUC
    First meeting of TUC

  • 1871

    Fall of the Paris Commune

  • 1893

    Foundation of the Independent Labour Party

  • 1906

    Creation of the Labour Party

  • 1908

    Formation of the Plebs League

  • 1913

    Cat and Mouse Bill cartoon : Cartoon from Votes for Women, 1913
    Cat and Mouse Act

  • 1924

    Ramsey MacDonald
    First Labour government

  • 1926

    Arthur Cook_1926General Strike

  • 1931


    Red Megaphones first performance

  • 1932

    Kinder Scout mass trespass

  • 1936

    Map of SpainSpanish Civil War

  • 1944

    Education Act

  • 1945

    National Coal Board notice : National Coal Board noticeNationalisation of the coal industry

  • 1948

    Birth of the NHS

  • 1956

    Tanks on Hungarian street, 1956Hungarian uprising

  • 1958

    CND symbolAldermaston marches and birth of CND

  • 1968

    Prague Spring

  • 1971

    Upper Clyde Shipbuilders : Poster depicting demonstration in support of the ship workers

    Upper Clyde Shipbuilders

  • 1976

    Grunwick dispute

  • 1982

    Falklands War : Cover image from pamphlet 'Resist the Falkland madness: a pacifist response'

    Falklands War

  • 1984

    Miners' strike

  • 1990

    Nelson Mandela's  release from prison

  • 1998

      Good Friday agreement

  • 1999

    Minimum wageIntroduction of national minimum wage

  • 2001

    Stop the War logo
    Stop the War campaign

We need your support

To maintain the momentum of the huge increases in usage of the Library over the last few years, we need to raise an extra £86,000 each year.

Can you help? Click here for news of our 'Future Fund' fundraising appeal.

Manchester Histories Festival - a win for Salford!

We're delighted to be able to congratulate Buile HIll Visual Arts College on winning the Best School Histories Award for their work with the Library on the Invisible Histories project. They were presented with their trophy at a ceremony at Manchester Town Hall on Friday 28 March 2014

Photo courtesy of Drew Forsyth/Manchester Histories Festival

Object of the Month

On 28 February 2014 the Library welcomed members of the London Clarion Cycling Club as they presented a unique edition of ‘The Clarion Summer Number 1892'. Inside are signatures from four regular journalists for the Clarion newspaper, including that of its founder, Robert Blatchford.. Find out more here.