During the 18th and 19th centuries, the lives of working women were not easy. They tended to work for small pay in some private businesses or workshops. Coming back from work, they did not have a rest. Instead, they did the household chores. Women's rights were infringed in many spheres of life throughout the world. Women could not smoke, wear pants, had not right to own property, to vote, and even to study and work. Even if they have been hired, the salary was lower than that of men. Very often, women were dependent on their husbands or fathers. They could not make decisions concerning their family issues and were usually required to ask men for permit. Inequality between men and women led to the women’s suffrage movement.
British women are known for their desire for gender equality. Their desire for recognition of women's right to vote was extremely strong. The struggle was waged by both sexes. Some men also found it unfair to ban women’s right to vote. It was as unreasonable as an assertion that “higher education cripples women” (Holton n.pag.). Men and women of different backgrounds and beliefs were among the opposition activists. There were two trends among the participants of this movement. The followers of the first direction acted lawfully and sought for an effective change through a constitutional means. The latter used more radical methods of struggle, sometimes even resorting to violence and robbery. There were also different opinions concerning the place of women in the society. Some believed that women are naturally better, more tendered and more worried about the vulnerable members of the society, especially children. In accordance with these views, women's participation in the elections would lead to a more civilized politics and, in particular, would help to establish control over the circulation of alcohol. In addition, they believed that the main task of women was to maintain the household chores. Therefore, each woman should have an opportunity to influence the laws on her house. Other participants argued that women should be fully equalized with men. There were also different views concerning the right to vote for the other categories of people. Some thought that all adults, regardless of property, sex and race, were entitled to vote. Others felt that the women's suffrage must abolish the right to vote for the representatives of the poor classes and men with a non-white color of skin. The growth of the women's rights movement began in the early 19th century. The book A Plan for Parliamentary Reform by Jeremy Bentham also advocated the female suffrage. In 1832, the Great Reform Act has only worsened the state of affairs, causing a lot of protests and disturbances (Smith n.pag.). Since the Industrial Revolution and a widespread employment of women, there appeared an opportunity to organize the groups of various kinds. From about the middle of the 19th century, the sororities began to appear. They were seriously concerned with gender equality. In the 1850s, the desires of women to exercise political activity as well as other demonstrations of feminist expression have dramatically increased. Gradually, the role of women in the society has become more important. At this time, there appeared the so-called suffragists. They thought that they could achieve their objectives through the peaceful tactics. The suffragists held non-violent demonstrations, petitions and lobbying the Parliament. In 1957, the feminists have achieved the right to sue the ex-husbands.
John Stuart Mill, who was elected to the Parliament in 1865 and publicly supported women’s right to vote, advocated the introduction of a charter of women's suffrage. Soon, Mill wrote the book The Subjection of Women in support of gender equality. In 1867, he tried to hold the parliamentary reform that allowed women to vote. However, it was rejected by 194 votes to 73. It was not surprising, because the Parliament consisted of the only male members with the conservative views (Holton n. pag.). In 1882, when the feminists have achieved the women's property rights, they have got even more inspiration. In 1897, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was formed, consisting of various women's suffrage societies. The leader of this association, Millicent Fawcett, believed that this law-abiding, polite and intelligent organization can earn the right to participate in political issues for women. As planned, the community was democratic and tried to achieve their goals by introducing bills and holding meetings in the Parliament, where the representatives of the NUWSS expounded their objectives. However, not all members of the NUWSS were pleased with the speed of promotion of the organization’s bills.
Therefore, some of the participants, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, decided to secede. In 1903, they created their own association called Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). The union’s main goal was to put pressure on the Independent Labor Party. From the beginning, the WSPU wanted to live by its motto: "Deeds, not words". As the national media lost interest in these communities, they decided to use other methods. Decency and legality of the shares did not matter to most members of the organization. The new union tactic was used for the first time in 1905. During the speech of Sir Edward Grey, the two activists constantly chanted the protester’s words. After refusing to stop the noise, the police had arrested the girls. In protest, they refused to pay the fine and preferred to go to jail. However, not only members of the WSPU were behind bars. Lady Constance Lytton, who had already sat in jail in protest, wanted to go there again. Posing herself as a poor seamstress, Lytton was arrested and suffered from the force-feeding. In addition, other methods were also used in the struggle for women's rights. In 1908, the suffragettes tried to break into the House of Commons. Furthermore, they set fire to the house of David Lloyd George, despite his promises to introduce women's suffrage. In 1913, one of the feminists in protest ran out in front of the horse that belonged to King George V. As a result, the woman has received numerous wounds and died (Flanz n.pag.). Such kinds of antics were very common in the early 20th century. During the First World War, the noisy shares were temporarily suspended, and the suffragettes used hidden methods of lobbying the interests of women. In 1918, a law concerning women’s right to vote was passed. It allowed women that were older than 30 years to vote. They were to have a higher education, be the head of the family, or be married to the head of the family. It could be considered a great achievement, but it did not stop the feminists. In 1928, the UK women were given suffrage equal to men.
For many years, women have fought for their rights in different ways. However, thanks to many sacrifices, they won a decent place in the society. Nowadays, men and women of the United Kingdom have the equal rights