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Votes for Women

Scottish suffragettes were active and influential in the tireless campaign for the vote. The movement largely involved middle-class women. Action in Scotland was varied and widespread. Yet it is the militants' campaign of disruption for which the movement is remembered. Demonstrating suffragettes were sent to prison for their actions.

Drawing of a young lady wearing a hat, National Records of Scotland reference: GD345/1440/6During the Great War, the women of Scotland declared a truce to fight with the government against the greater enemy and filled the labour shortage on the home front. For many women there was no wish to return to their pre-war status. They wanted a say in the running and rebuilding of the country. The government recognised the value of women's wartime contribution and in 1918 passed the Representation of the People Act granting married women over the age of 30 the right to vote. Several towns in Scotland immediately organised Women Citizens Associations for those who wanted to take an active role in public affairs. The suffrage movement re-emerged in the form of new societies that were no longer dedicated to violent protest but to encouraging women to stand for election to serve their communities and bring about change and improvement to standards of living.

Resources feature documents from the National Records of Scotland which illustrate the actions taken by and against suffragettes in Scotland. Suffragettes featured include Lady Constance Lytton, Emmeline Pankhurst, Maude Edwards and Fanny Price alias Janet Arthur.



Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) formed


First Scottish branch of WSPU established in Glasgow


Home Secretary ordered force feeding of women on hunger strike


Campaign of destruction of property started
- March: Emily Green arrested for smashing windows in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
- November: Scottish suffragettes poured corrosive and flammable liquid into letterboxes in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Leith


- Glasgow pillar boxes attacked
- Telegraph poles cut in Dumbarton
- Leuchars Station in Fife burned to the ground
- 'Cat and Mouse Act' - Government passed the Prisoners' Temporary Discharge for Ill-health Act giving powers of release and re-arrest over hunger-strikers


January: Bonnington House in Lanark completely destroyed by fire
May: King's portrait slashed at the Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh
July: Janet Arthur arrested for trying to blow up Burns Cottage, Alloway
August: War declared. WSPU suspended military action


Representation of the People Act enabled women to stand for parliament


General Election: women first exercised their rights to vote
Scottish Council of Women Citizens Associations established


All women over the age of 21 given equal voting rights




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