By Mitzi Auchterlonie
The most major gaps in our wisdom of contemporary British historical past is how the Conservative occasion handled the arguable factor of the women's suffrage flow. whereas such a lot suffrage reports specialize in the actions of Liberal and Labour suffragettes within the struggle for the parliamentary vote, the function of Conservative girls within the suffrage flow is never thought of in any element and the angle of the social gathering in the direction of their actions is usually considered of little curiosity. during this very important reassessment of Conservative women's suffrage, Mitzi Auchterlonie examines new proof allowing readers to appreciate the social, political, fiscal and imperial concerns which so much involved Conservative suffragists. She unearths how Tory girls performed an immense but usually invisible and under-researched half within the suffrage campaigns, whereas the Conservative occasion itself contained an by surprise assorted variety of perspectives in the direction of the assumption of votes for ladies.
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44 For the leader-writer and many others, the local vote was not considered to be on a par with the parliamentary vote, which was consistently given what could be called a ‘masculine’ value – the criteria for exercising it being the possession of physical strength, in order to serve one’s country in time of war, a ‘masculine’ authority which would command respect from the subject peoples of the Empire, and an easy familiarity with a dangerous and crowded public space, which was considered to be a particular threat during general election campaigns.
The structure of the League deliberately looked back to the days of medieval chivalry, which was seen by many as a ‘golden age’ in terms of the relationship between the classes, and the supremacy of a united church, and the terminology reflected this – the most important members were the ‘Knights’ and ‘Dames’, membership fees were called ‘tributes’, individual branches were labelled ‘habitations’, and the ruling body was termed the ‘Grand Council’. In the aftermath of Gladstone’s 1884 Reform Bill, which had added over two million men to the electorate, a new cheap category of Associate membership was established for working class supporters, and within two years Associates constituted 80% of the membership, an achievement which supported the League’s claim to ‘embrace all classes and creeds’, although this aim was always more an attempt to stave off radical influences than to offer the working class the hope of social and economic reform.
85 Davies decided to return to her most cherished project, the founding of a women’s college at Girton which she finally achieved in 1874, while Cobbe continued her work on behalf of the Married Women’s Property Committee; however, both women did rejoin the suffrage campaign some years later. Emily Davies seemed to be, in many respects, the archetypal Conservative suffragist. Her desire to use personal influence rather than SETTING THE SCENE 29 public agitation to promote the arguments for women’s suffrage, her belief that working with men rather than against them was the best way to achieve her goals, her respect for the gradual processes of constitutional change, and her commitment to the need for women to always act within the conventions of society – these were all beliefs which were held by most politically active women with ‘conservative instincts’.
Conservative Suffragists: The Women's Vote and the Tory Party (International Library of Political Studies) by Mitzi Auchterlonie