Andrew Huang
Mr. Hinze
IB History; Period 8
April 22, 2012

A.) Plan of Investigation
To what extent did the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) change the political role of British women in the 1900’s?

With societal roles changing throughout the ages due to the efforts of individuals, or sometimes organizations, it is important to note the process in which this change occurs so that one may understand exactly why these changes occur. This historical investigation analyzes key events regarding female societal expectations in post-World War II Britain. The purpose of this investigation is to analyze the role of women living in post-World War II Britain. This will be done by assessing key events that occurred between 1903 and 1917.

B.) Summary of Evidence
Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded in Manchester in 1903 by Emmeline Prankhurst and her daughter, Christabel Prankhurst. Though the Independent Labor Party (ILP) was advocating for women’s rights, the Prankhurst’s felt that its support was half-hearted. Thus, the Women’s Social and Political Union was formed. [1]

Originally, the WSPU was formed in order to provide pressure on the ILP, therefore pushing for women’s rights. This was easily achieved as many of the women in the WSPU were wed to members of the ILP. [2]

WSPU members lived by its motto: “Deeds, not words”. [3]

In the early 1900’s, the Liberal Party was viewed by the WSPU as parties that would pioneer women’s rights. The Women’s Social and Political Union thought that the Liberal Party by its very nature would carry out political reforms. However, when the Liberal Party failed to install any political change, militancy became the WSPU’s new approach towards gaining political equality. [4]

Social norms in the early 1900’s dictated that ideas would be expressed without interruption. However, when Winston Churchill and Sir Edward Grey were giving a public speech, two female members of the WSPU blatantly shouted out questioning their position on women and politics. This abrupt disruption tarred public perception of women who were seeking political equality with men. [5]

Past suffragette movements have been classified as soft and polite. The new direct methods conducted by the WSPU attracted many middle-class British women. However, when the organization became militant, it lost the support of many working class women and because the WSPU was formed in order to preserve the middle class women, it lost a great deal of people needed for it to incite change. In addition, many women found that the organization focused too heavily on equality for women’s political rights and not rights on all levels. For example, the slogan, “Votes for Women” would not mean a great deal as society has, at the time, pitted them as second rate citizens. This position would not change even if women were able to vote. [5]

The militant actions of the WSPU can be characterized into three phases:
  • 1905 - 1908: Disruption of political meetings. Any sort of publicity was favored. [6]
  • 1908 - 1913: Limited threats to public order. Any sort of provocation that would get themselves arrested. From there, the women would go on hunger strikes and then embarrass the government. [7]
  • 1913 - 1914: Attacks on property of those opposed to female suffrage. [8]
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[1] “The Women’s Social and Political Union.” The Vistorian Web. N.p., n.d. Web 4 Mar. 2012. <http://www.victorianweb.org/gender/wojtczak/wspu.html>
[2] Ibid
[3] Trueman, Chris. “Women’s Social and Political Union.” History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web 4 Mar. 2012. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_in_1900.htm>.
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid
[7] Ibid
[8] Ibid

C.) Evaluation of Sources
- - -. "Women in 1900." History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2012.
<http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_in_1900.htm>.

The article was written by Chris Trueman; he graduated with a BA (Honours) in History Aberystwyth University, Wales in 1979 and has since studied at Loughborough University and gained a MA in management from Brighton University in 2000. Created the website because he felt that there was no comprehensive history website available. This article serves to outline stereotypical roles women held during the early 1900’s. These roles included housewife, holding jobs which typically involved some form of service such as working as a waitress, cooking, etc. As an article that briefly overviews this specific topic, it would naturally be lacking in terms of detail.

- - -. "Women Landmarks." History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2012.
<http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_landmark.htm>.

The article was written by Chris Trueman; he graduated with a BA (Honours) in History Aberystwyth University, Wales in 1979 and has since studied at Loughborough University and gained a MA in management from Brighton University in 2000. Created the website because he felt that there was no comprehensive history website available. This article serves to outline landmark years for women’s rights. These years include:
  • 1903 - Women’s Social and Political Union formed (WSPU)
  • 1906 - Liberal Party wins general elections by a landslide. Suffragettes were expected much from the party
  • 1908 - Suffragettes become militant after Herbet Asquith’s becomes Prime Minister
  • 1910 - Conciliation bill was introduced to give women the right to vote but lost
  • 1911 - A second Conciliation bill was introduced but lost once again
  • 1912 - A third Conciliation bill was introduced and lost ONCE again
  • 1914 - Suffragettes suspend all actions to support WWI efforts
As an article that briefly overviews this specific topic, it would naturally be lacking in terms of detail.

D.) Analysis
At the time of its conception, Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was thought to be the answer towards women’s political inequality. The organization offered direct means which would achieve political equality. Originally, the WSPU was formed in order to provide pressure on the Independent Labor Party, therefore pushing for women’s rights. This task was easily accomplished since majority of the organizations members were wed to members of the ILP. However, this would prove futile. It was originally thought that the Liberal Party would pioneer women’s rights as it was in its very nature to carry out political reforms. However, when the Liberal Party failed to implicate any sort of political change for women, the organization would go militant. These new means of achieving political equality were not highly acclaimed among the middle-class women. In fact, this new approach was so unpopular that it actually caused more people to leave the organization. It was thought that the WSPU focused too heavily on one issue which was political reform. However, the majority of the middle-class women understood that changing the political roles of women would ultimately do nothing for them. It was understood that societal biases place women in these second-rate citizen positions and not the politics. The lack of cohesiveness in goals utterly crippled the organizations much needed numbers to incite any sort of change.

E.) Conclusion
The Women’s Social and Political Union to an extent, changed the political roles of British women in 1900. Though the WSPU’s initial conception was accepted warmly by the middle class women. This was because compared to past suffrage movements, the WSPU had more direct approaches. However, working class support quickly dwindled when the organization began militarizing all of their actions. Given that the organization was created to preserve the middle class women, the Women’s Social and Political union lost the numbers it needed to incite change in the populace. Though the organization did not bring about any actual significant change in the political roles of British women in 1900’s, it did bring about the attention of social reform.

F.) Sources
Trueman, Chris. "Suffragettes." History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar.
2012. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/suffregettes.htm>.

- - -. "Suffragette Tactics." History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar.
2012. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/sufragettes_tactics.htm>.

- - -. "Women in 1900." History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2012.
<__http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_in_1900.htm>.__

- - -. "Women Landmarks." History Learning Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2012.
<http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_landmark.htm>.

"The Women's Timeline." Women's Resource Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Mar. 2012
<__http://www.wrc.org.uk/includes/documents/cm_docs/2010/w/website_timeline_2010.pdf__>