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The Early Suffrage Societies in the 19th century - a timeline


The Second Reform Bill fails to include women in an enlarged electorate.


London National Society for Women's Suffrage formed. Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929) became a member of the London Society's executive committee in 1867, aged just 19.


Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage formed. Lydia Becker (1827-1890) was the Secretary of the Manchester Society and went on to be a prominent suffrage leader and campaigner for women's education.


Edinburgh National Society for Women's Suffrage formed. Pricilla Bright McLaren (1815-1906) was the first president of the Edinburgh Society. She was an active campaigner including supporting Josephine Butler's campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts.


The Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage formed by members of the Manchester Society, to work in London to pressure MPs. Millicent Fawcett becomes disillusioned with the London Society's lack of effort and in 1874 joins the Central Committee.


The London Society merges with the Central Committee, taking the name Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage. Millicent Fawcett becomes a member of the executive committee.

1884 T

he Third Reform Bill gives the vote to new classes of working men, including agricultural labourers, but fails to include women.


The Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage splits. Politics has complicated the suffrage campaign. There is dissension as to whether its rules should be changed to allow other political organisations to affiliate. The concern is that the suffrage society would be swamped by members of the Women's Liberal Federation, which supports Gladstone and Home Rule. The Home Rulers are defeated and break away to form the Central National Society for Women's Suffrage. Liberal Unionists, led by Millicent Fawcett, who are anti-Home Rule and anti-Gladstone, remain as a reconstituted Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage. This split mirrors that which occurred in the Liberal party in 1886. 


Millicent Fawcett is president of the Special Appeal Committee, for which all suffrage societies work together. The Appeal, signed by 257,796 women, is displayed in Westminster Hall on 19 May.


The Central and Western Society for Women's Suffrage, covering territory in the west of England, is the new name given to the Central National Society. The Central Committee for Women's Suffrage is renamed the Central and East of England Society for Women's Suffrage, of which Millicent Fawcett is the honorary secretary. Time has softened the political differences that split the societies in 1888 and they now rearrange themselves along geographical lines.


The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) formed as an umbrella organisation for all the suffrage societies in England, Scotland, and Ireland.


Millicent Fawcett becomes president of the NUWSS, which was to conduct the constitutional suffrage campaign in the 20th century and successfully negotiate votes for women (over 30 years of age) in 1918.


Millicent Garrett Fawcett, photographed in the 1860s.



Catalogue number

From LSE Library's Collection [ref. no. TWL.2009.02.077]