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INSIGHTS Revisited: Hearts and Minds: the untold story behind votes for women by Jane Robinson

Jane Robinson, author and social historian

Date/Time: Tuesday 19 May 2020, 17:30 - 18:30

Introduction by Dr Martin Farr, Co-Chair, Public Lectures Committee, Newcastle University

In February 1918, with no end to the First World War in sight, Parliament passed one of the great 'Reform Acts', to go alongside those of 1832, 1867 and 1884.

The Representation of the People Act 1918 presaged profound implications for party politics more broadly, but was most significant for one aspect. A Parliament composed entirely of men had granted women the vote. Or, one should more accurately say, some women the vote.

It came after more than a decade of campaigning and protest, sometimes peaceful, sometimes not, for female enfranchisement. It was a great struggle, which divided those with the same objective in mind.

The war transformed the status of women. One of my favourite political cartoons, by the great Bernard Partridge in Punch, depicts this: Asquith, the Prime Minister deposed and replaced by Lloyd George in December 1916, is helped onto an omnibus by a uniformed conductor who before the war would have been a man, but is now a magnanimous woman. Magnanimous because Asquith had consistently opposed granting the suffrage to women. In 1918 he changed his mind. "Come along Sir", says the 'Conductourette', "Better late than never".

Though they had to wait another ten years before women had the vote on the same terms as men (and had to wait forty years to be allowed to be members of both houses of Parliament), the 1918 Act has acquired totemic significance, and was certainly a landmark in the course of female emancipation in twentieth century Britain, though even in the twenty-first century remained severely under-represented. (It needed the centenary of the Act to occasion the first statue of a woman outside Parliament.)

We could not have hoped for a more engaging public lecture than that provided by Jane Robinson, who showed a packed Curtis Auditorium the human face of historic change. To host her to coincide with Vote100, and to see so many members of the audience – including several school parties – wearing the colours, made it a very special occasion.

Join us on Tuesday 19 May to watch the lecture with fellow audience members and take part in the conversation online.