Today we mark 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave women the right to vote in UK Parliamentary elections for the first time. This followed a long campaign, reflected in the Library’s collections, for example in the records of the Llangollen Women’s Suffrage Society and David Lloyd George’s correspondence. The campaign contained elements who wanted to make their case within the existing political structures, while others favoured more dramatic action, and in Wales, Lloyd George was often the target.
There had been significant opposition to allowing women to vote in Parliamentary elections but the Great War did much to change attitudes and it came as little surprise when Lloyd George’s government tabled legislation in Parliament to extend the right to vote to include some women which would come into effect in time for the first election after the war.
In that election, only one women stood for a constituency in Wales and the first woman wasn’t elected to Parliament from a Welsh constituency until Megan Lloyd George won the Anglesey seat in 1929. The first time in which women won half the seats in a nationwide election in Wales was in the elections to the National Assembly for Wales in 2003.
As well as holding material related to the women’s suffrage campaign, the Library is also home to the archievs of many prominent women MPs and MEPs including Megan Lloyd George, Baroness Randerson, Eirene White, Ann Clwyd, and Beata Brookes.
Many women were also politically active outside Parliament, for example as part of a political party and in one case, as the leader of a council. Gwenllian Morgan was elected Mayor of Brecon in 1910, 8 years before she was able to vote for her own MP.
Even though the 1918 was an important step forward, it only gave the right to vote to women over 30 years old. Women had to wait another 10 years to gain the right to vote in Parliamentary elections on equal terms with men, when the voting age was equalised at 21.
This post is also available in: Welsh