The use of petitions was another tactic employed by the suffragists to demonstrate support for their cause. Many of these petitions were presented to Parliament.

Early petitions

The first petition to Parliament asking for votes for women was presented to the House of Commons by Henry Hunt MP on behalf of a Mary Smith, on 3 August 1832. The same year, the Great Reform Act expanded the electorate, but to 'male persons' only.

The Women's Suffrage Committee, formed by Barbara Bodichon, collected 1500 signatures on a petition for women's suffrage in 1866. This was presented to the House of Commons by John Stuart Mill, the philosopher, political economist and Member of Parliament.

Parliamentary bills

Mill proposed an amendment to the Second Reform Act in 1867 asking for enfranchisement of all householders regardless of sex. It was unsuccessful but bills in favour of women and the vote were presented on an almost annual basis to Parliament from 1870 onwards. 

There were other men inside and outside Parliament who also supported women's suffrage, challenging the received opinions of the time.


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John Stuart Mill
Emmeline Pankhurst

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