The Vote Before The Vote - Leeds women and the 19th century march towards the vote

Time Line 1903 to date


1903 Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst forms the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) originally as a “ginger” group to encourage the newly formed Labour Party to support women’s suffrage.
1905 Militant Suffragette campaign started by Christabel Pankhurst & Annie Kenney at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.
1907 The 1907 Qualification of Women Act allowed all women irrespective of marital status to be elected to County & Borough Councils and as Mayors.
1908 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became first woman to be elected Mayor – in Aldeburgh.


1914 Start of First World War ends militant suffrage campaigning. Mrs Pankhurst urges her followers to take up war work. Nina Boyle of The Women’s Freedom League and Margaret Damer Dawson form The Women’s Police Service, staffed by volunteers.
1915 The first Women’s Institute founded in North Wales.

Edith Smith appointed the first female police officer with powers of arrest.
February : The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave the Parliamentary vote to all men over 21 and women over 30 who met a property qualification - approximately 8.4 million women.

1918 May: Nina Boyle of the Women’s Freedom League tried to stand at the Keighley by-election but her candidacy was refused.

October: The 1918 Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act enabled women to stand as MPs on the same terms as men so women aged between 21 and 30 could be candidates but not vote.

November: End of First World War.

December: 17 women stand as candidates in the General Election. Only Constance Markiewicz of Sinn Fein is elected (for Dublin St Patrick’s). All 73 Sinn Fein MPs refuse to take their seats.
1919 Nancy Astor elected MP for Plymouth - first woman to take a seat in the Commons.


1920 The 1920 Sex Discrimination Removal Act removed the bar to women’s formal inclusion in public life, allowing women access to the legal profession, accountancy and the Civil Service, and to serve on juries.
1922 The 1922 Law of Property Act allowed husband and wife to inherit property equally.

The Lord Chancellor rules that women cannot sit in the House of Lords.
1923 The 1923 Matrimonial Causes Act equalised grounds for divorce.
The 1928 Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act – women gain the vote on equal terms.

1929 Women became “persons” in their own right by order of the Privy Council.

Margaret Bondfield became first woman cabinet minister and first woman Privy Councillor as Minister of Labour under Ramsey MacDonald


1939 Second World War starts.


1941 The 1941 National Service Act introduced conscription to war work for unmarried women aged between 20 and 30; later extended to include women up to age 43 and married women.
1945 End of Second World War.

The 1945 Family Allowances Act allowed families 5 shillings per week (25 pence but with the purchasing power, now, of £6.20) for each child after the first. After a rebellion in the House of Commons led by MP Eleanor Rathbone, the Act was amended so the allowance was paid to the mother.


1956 Women teachers and civil servants entitled to equal pay with their male colleagues.
1958 The 1958 Life Peerages Act allowed female life peers to sit in the House of Lords.


1963 The 1963 Peerages Act allowed hereditary female peers to sit in the House of Lords.
Barbara Castle appointed Minister of Transport, the first woman Minister of State.

1967 The 1967 Abortion Act.

The 1967 NHS (Family Planning) Act allowed Health Authorities to provide contraceptive advice regardless of marital status.
1968 Women at the Ford car factory at Dagenham strike over equal pay leading to The Equal Pay Act 1970
1969 The 1969 Representation of the People Act gave the vote to everyone over 18.


1975 The 1975 Sex Discrimination Act
  • Illegal to discriminate against women in education, training and work.
  • Married women allowed to open their own bank accounts, enter into personal credit agreements, and have their name on a mortgage with their husband.
  • Single women permitted to have a mortgage in their own name without a male guarantor.
Margaret Thatcher became first woman Prime Minister in the UK.


1982 The Court of Appeal rules that bars & pubs cannot refuse service to women.
1985 The 1985 Equal Pay (Amendment) Act gave women the right to equal pay for work of equal value.


1990 Independent taxation for women introduced allowing married women to be taxed separately from their husband.
1991 The Law Lords rule that rape within marriage is a crime. This becomes law in 1994.
1994 First two women ordained in the Church of England.


2010 The 2010 Equality Act protects all people from discrimination.