This website is part of a project which aims to shine a spotlight on the history of women’s political rights in the UK, spanning the last hundred years, and bring it in to the modern context. The project takes as a starting point the Victorian Feminist Movement, progressing to the Suffragette Movement and then subsequent developments through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The material will be compiled and posted by a team of researchers and journalists, led by Dr Maureen Wright, lecturer on gender and women’s issues and author of a biography of the radical activist Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy. The website will be added to on an ongoing basis from 2015 with material from the project. It will also pull together resources from other areas and illuminate lesser known material.
It will feature guest blogs and highlight multi-media contributions to the area of research as well as collating reflections and commentaries to share the issues with an audience including fellow academics, national women’s groups and those with a general interest in and around this subject, as well as students of history and politics. Thank you to all those who have submitted ideas, research material and offered to write blogs to improve education and understanding of the history and modern day context of women’s political rights.
You can find the project on Twitter @womenspolitics
As we approach the 100th anniversary of women first securing the right to vote in the UK, what have we learnt from their experiences and stories that can help shape and improve understanding about participation? If you have an article or piece of research which could be linked from this site, please let us know.
Before 1918, women could not vote at all in parliamentary elections. In the 2015 election, 66% of women who were entitled to vote exercised their right to do so. Of these, the lowest turnout was in the 18-24 age range (44%) and the highest was in the 55+ range (76%). The Mori Poll breakdown
Research project leaders
Academic and author Dr Maureen Wright and journalist and communications advisor Abha Thakor lead the research projects on Women’s Political Rights and Women’s Suffrage and manage volunteers and other contributors to the works. They are pleased to hear from those who would like to submit material, discuss research ideas or other academics who are interested in exploring research partnerships.
Dr Maureen Wright is a researcher, writer and Associate Lecturer in the Department of History and Politics at the University of Chichester, specialising in teaching women’s and gender history. She has previously worked and taught at the University of Portsmouth.
She is known for her research interests in the area of women’s and gender studies, specialising in the history of women’s emancipation (and men’s response to it) in Britain during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.
Dr Wright is author of the book ‘Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy and the Victorian Feminist Movement: The biography of an insurgent woman‘ (Gender in History MUP), first published in 2011 (paperback in 2014).
The book provides the first full-length biography of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy (1833-1918) – someone referred to among contemporaries as ‘the grey matter in the brain’ of the late-Victorian women’s movement. She was a pacifist, humanitarian ‘free-thinker’ and lauded by Emmeline Pankhurst as ‘first’ among the infamous militant suffragettes of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Wolstenholme Elmy was one of Britain’s great feminist pioneers and, in her own words, an ‘initiator’ of many high-profile campaigns from the nineteenth into the twentieth century. Dr Wright draws on an extensive resource of unpublished correspondence and other sources to produce an enduring portrait that does justice to Wolstenholme Elmy’s momentous achievements.
This biographical study reveals activist Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy as a radical feminist whose contribution to constructing an egalitarian discourse of social, gender and political rights was crucial in securing an increased role for women in the public sphere and who, as a feminist theorist, helped transform the ideals upon which citizenship for women was based.
Dr Wright’s other publications includes articles tracing the development of Wolstenholme Elmy’s theory of citizenship through the texts and deeds of the Women’s Emancipation Union (2010); the theoretical implications of writing historical biography both through the lens of Wolstenholme Elmy’s life (2009) and with June Purvis, that of other ‘militant’ suffragettes, by applying the auto/biographical texts of the Pankhurst family – leaders of the Women’s Social and Political Union (2005).
Dr Wright’s more recent work in 2014 focused on the construction of cultural expressions of gender equality across social classes in Britain during the late-nineteenth century, and the challenges this posed to the role of the state as the legislator of moral values. By analysing the texts of the Vigilance Association for the Defence of Personal Rights (PRA) (founded 1871), she makes assessments of how conflicts and disputes arose among the ‘feminist’ male sympathisers of the House of Commons, and their ‘anti-feminist’ colleagues – who asserted that the work of the PRA was “scarcely needed in a country like England”. The PRA’s texts are almost completely under-researched, and the collaboration between the men within its circle and their ‘First-Wave’ feminist colleagues highlight distinctive discourses of collaboration and respect between the genders which have been hitherto unexplored.
During 2014-15, Dr Wright worked as a Community Historian on the Heritage Lottery-funded Graylingwell Heritage Project. This involved the recruitment and supervision of a team of research volunteers, research into the history of the West Sussex County Asylum (1897-2001) and the delivery and dissemination of research findings to a wide variety of audiences. This collaborative project involved the West Sussex Record Office, the Chichester Community Development Trust, Pallant House Gallery and the University of Chichester. This led to a project book, ‘Beneath the Water Tower’, co-edited by Dr Wright and a series of talks, exhibitions and lectures in West Sussex and nationally.
Dr Wright is also the Research Associate for an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project entitled ‘Chichester and the Great War: Mobilisation, Care and Compassion, and Memorialisation’ – this is linked to the Gateways to the First World War southern region academic grouping.
Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy and the Victorian feminist movement: the Biography of an Insurgent Woman, (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2011, Paperback edition, 2014.
Beneath the Water Tower: The Graylingwell Heritage Project, (Chichester: 2015, Co-Editor)
- ‘The perfect equality of all persons before the law’: the Personal Rights Association and the discourse of civil rights in Britain, 1871–1885’, Women’s History Review, Vol.24, No.1, 2015, pp.72-95.
- A reputation ‘[a]s black as the Devil himself’: the radical life of Benjamin J. Elmy, secularist, anti-eugenicist and ‘First-Wave’ feminist (1838-1906), Gender and History, Vol.26, No.2, 2014, pp.263-86.
- ‘The Women’s Emancipation Union and Radical-feminist politics in Britain, 1891-99’, Gender and History, Vol.22, No.2, 2010, pp.382-406.
- ‘An Impudent Intrusion?’: Assessing the Life of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, First-Wave feminist and social reformer (1833-1918). Women’s History Review, Vol.18, No.2, 2009, pp.243-64.
- June Purvis and Maureen Wright, ‘Writing Suffragette History: the contending autobiographical narratives of the Pankhursts’, Women’s History Review, 14, (3 & 4), 2005, pp; 405-434.
Interviews with Dr Wright include:
Communications and Research Support
Non Stop Business Support, with its Non Stop News UK section, is a communications and research organisation which has been instrumental in developing and advising on this research project.
Communications professional Abha Thakor has written and undertaken research for journals, news media and web publications on political empowerment, citizenship engagement, and women and the vote. She has contributed to books and journals on government, communications and digital media tools including the leading communications resource book PR Stack. She is also a member of book review panels.
As a Chartered professional in the areas of management and communications, she brings this experience to support the work of the projects. She has been involved in a number of research and communications projects including the gender pay gap and women in leadership.
Write for this resource
If you would be interested in writing a blog or article on an area of gender political history or women’s political rights/ women’s suffrage, please contact us.
Copyright and endorsements
The blogs and articles published on this site remain the copyright of the writer(s) unless otherwise stated. Materials are published here in good faith to promote the work and ethos of this education and learning project. Publication on this site does not constitute endorsement of any view or opinion or a particular product/ service. The education resource is made available as part of the support offered and awareness raising for students, academics, researchers and those interested in gender political history.