Jo Swinson, the Liberal Party and Women’s Suffrage

As we celebrate the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave the parliamentary vote to (some) women, for the first time, readers may be interested in two meetings and one publication:

In Conversation at the Mile End Institute: Jo Swinson MP (19 February)

At 6.30pm on Monday 19 February, at the Mile End Campus, Queen Mary University of London, Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrats’ Deputy Leader and Shadow Foreign Secretary and the MP for East Dunbartonshire, will join Professor Philip Cowley in conversation.

This is part of the Mile End Institute’s regular series of political ‘conversations’, the most recent of which was with Jacob Rees-Mogg. Phil Cowley, co-author of the British General Election series of books (he’s currently working on the 2017 edition) is an excellent and engaging interviewer, and the event will be well worth attending.

It’s free and open to the public, but registration is required. To book your ticket, visit the Mile End Institute’s website or Eventbrite. For those unable to attend, the conversation will be live-streamed, and podcast and a video of the event will be available afterwards.

The Liberal Party and Women’s Suffrage (9 March)

A hundred years ago the vast majority of Liberal MPs, including the Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, supported the enfranchisement of women. This support was not unanimous, however: the party had been divided for many years over the issue, and the previous Asquith government had obstructed reform. Opponents argued both that politics was not the ‘proper sphere of women’ and that if enfranchised, women would be more likely to vote Conservative.

This fringe meeting at the Southport Liberal Democrat conference will discuss the divisions within the Liberal Party over votes for women, the stance taken by the Asquith government and the impacts on the party of the debates over women’s suffrage.

Speakers: Krista Cowman (Professor of History, University of Lincoln) and Geraint Thomas (Lecturer in Modern History, University of York). The meeting will take place at 8.15 pm on Friday 9 March, in the Executive Boardroom, Ramada Hotel, Southport.

Mothers of Liberty: Women who built British Liberalism

Even before they gained the right to vote and to stand for election, women played many key roles in the development of British Liberalism as writers and thinkers, campaigners, political hostesses, organisers and, finally, as parliamentary candidates, MPs and peers.

The new edition of this booklet from the Liberal Democrat History Group contains the stories of the women who shaped British Liberalism – including Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Taylor Mill, the suffragist leader Millicent Garrett Fawcett, the first woman Liberal MP Margaret Wintringham, Violet Bonham Carter, Megan Lloyd George, Nancy Seear, Shirley Williams and many more. This second edition updates some of the entries in the earlier edition and adds two entirely new ones and a table of all Liberal, SDP and Liberal Democrat women elected as MPs. With a foreword by Jo Swinson MP.

The booklet costs £6 plus P&P (20% discount for subscribers to the Journal of Liberal History). Orders can be taken via the Liberal Democrat History Group website.

* Duncan Brack is the Editor of the Journal of Liberal History and former Vice Chair of the Federal Policy Committee.

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2 Comments

  • When the Reform Act of 1867 was being debated, John Stuart Mill proposed an amendment that would have given the vote to women on the same terms as men but it was rejected by 194 votes to 73. Gladstone, however, was able to push Disraeli into introducing far more wide-ranging electoral reform for men than the Conservatives had intended at the time. In 1868 Gladstone became Prime Minister for the first time and the campaign for votes for women began to gain momentum. Votes for Women was again hotly debated in the passing of the 1884 reform act, but political pragmatism in the face of opposition from the Lords and the Monarch saw the issue deferred for another generation.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Feb '18 - 3:05pm

    This issue needs more space than is allowed. The maximum length should be stated so that contributors can know the rules. Deleting the contribution entirely makes it impossible to shorten it as requested.

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