LETTER : War work on votes for women

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The Independent Online
From Dr Andrew Rosen

Sir: In his article of 8 February, Andrew Marr wrote that "women got the vote because of the violence and courage of the suffragettes".

In granting the vote in 1918, politicians were in no danger of appearing to give in to violence. If suffragette militancy had continued during the war years, it probably would have been politically impossible to grant women the vote in 1918.

During the 1917 suffrage debate, MPs gave various reasons for granting the vote, above all women's war work (701,000 women were by then employed in munitions and shipbuilding alone), and the pressing need to revise electoral registers so that home-coming soldiers and sailors could vote, a step which would emphasise the unfairness of not giving similar recognition to women's enormous war effort.

There may well turn out to be some degree of analogy between early-20th century politicians' response to suffragette violence and present-day politicians' responses to IRA violence in that those who, for excellent reasons, cannot appear to give in to violence today may eventually agree, after violence has ceased, to some form of compromise.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Rosen

Oxford

14 February

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