Women and the Vote in 1919

The Representation of the People Act 1918 extended the franchise in parliamentary elections (right to vote) to men aged 21 and over, whether or not they owned property, and to women aged 30 and over who resided in the constituency or occupied land or premises with a rateable value above £5 (or whose husbands did).

At the same time, it extended the local government franchise to include women aged 21 and over on the same terms as men.

The Act extended the male electorate by 5.2 million to 12.9 million and gave 8.5 million women the right to vote. This meant that 40% of women in Britain had the vote and they made up 40% of the electorate (21.4 million pop. in 1918). The carnage of the First World War resulted in there being over a million more women than men. The age limit was introduced to prevent women from being in a political majority.

Seventeen female candidates

Seventeen female candidates stood in the December 1918 General Election including Christabel Pankhurst and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence from the Women’s Social and Political Union and Charlotte Despard of the Women’s Freedom League. Only one woman was elected and she never took her seat in Westminster – Constance Markievicz, the Sinn Féin candidate for the Dublin St. Patrick’s constituency. At the time of her election she was in Holloway Prison, North London, because of her political involvement in the Sinn Féin cause. Nancy Astor was the first woman to serve in the House of Commons when she was elected as MP for Plymouth Sutton in November 1919.

The Representation of the People Act 1928 gave the vote to women aged 21 regardless of any property qualification. This added another five million women to the electorate.

Important facts

Only male Members of Parliament represented Hornsey/Hornsey & Wood Green Constituency between 1885 and 1992.  Since then only female MPs have been elected: 1992 Barbara Roche (Labour), 2005 Lynne Featherstone (Lib Dem) and since 2015 Catherine West (Labour).

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