Parliamentary Friends of Women's Suffrage, 1860-1900
In 1960 Lord Pethick-Lawrence declared: ‘All down history women have supported men in their fight for liberty. They have toiled with them, suffered with them, died with them. There is nothing surprising therefore in the fact that in the militant struggle of British women for their own emancipation some men stood with them in the fight.'
The Reform Acts of 1832, 1867 and 1884 led to greater numbers of men voters, and added momentum to appeals to Parliament to similarly enfranchise women. Early MPs who supported votes for women included John Stuart Mill, Jacob Bright and Walter McLaren.
A growing number of other MPs and Peers came to share their views over time and showed their support by presenting numerous petitions calling for women's suffrage in Parliament in the 1870s and 1880s. No fewer than thirteen Bills proposing legislation on the issue were discussed between 1867 and 1889. In 1888, 169 MPs signed a statement urging the Government to provide time to discuss a women's suffrage Bill.
Peter McLagan, MP for Linlithgowshire 1865−1893, gave distinguished support to reform in favour of women's suffrage throughout his Parliamentary career. His views were in sharp contrast to those of Herbert Henry Asquith, the member for nearby East Fife, who first entered Parliament in 1886.