In 1918 the Representation of the People Act was passed which allowed women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification to vote. Although 8.5 million women met this criteria, it only represented 40 per cent of the total population of women in the UK.
The same act abolished property and other restrictions for men, and extended the vote to all men over the age of 21. Men in the armed forces could vote from the age of 19. The electorate increased from eight to 21 million, but there was still huge inequality between women and men.
It was not until The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928 that women over 21 were able to vote and women finally achieved the same voting rights as men. This act increased the number of women eligible to vote to 15 million.
Celebrating our democratic equality
The UK Parliament is marking the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act and 90 years passing since the Equal Franchise Act 1928 with a range of exciting engagement activities to remind the public of our shared political history and the achievements made towards equality.
Between 18 June – 2 July, thousands of organisations across the country are coming together to share, debate, and celebrate what equality means to them now as part of the UK Parliament’s EqualiTeas engagement campaign.
Historically, tea parties were hotbeds of political activism. It was one of the few ways women could meet without men to discuss and plan. The leading suffrage organisations used tea parties and tea shops as central elements in their campaigning. They were excellent spaces to increase awareness, discuss tactics and raise money.
A diverse range of organisations are official partners, including, Young Women’s Trust, Action with Communities in Rural England, the Scottish Youth Parliament, Historic Royal Palaces, Adult Learning within Reach and Girlguiding across the UK. Their support will help to engage young people in our democratic history and processes. On 11 June the UK Parliament will also be flying the suffragist flag to mark the birthday of leading suffrage campaigner Millicent Fawcett, a statue of whom was unveiled in Parliament Square earlier this year.
Visit the UK Parliament
On June 27, the UK Parliament will open the Voice and Vote exhibition in Westminster Hall. Featuring a range of amazing interactive features, the exhibition will cover the campaign for votes for women and the representation of women in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Find out more about the UK Parliament’s Vote 100 engagement activities.