First feminist movement

a multimedia history of world war one

There is much controversy as to whether the granting of the vote to women was the outcome of WWI or part of a current towards the progressive democratisation of Western societies. After all, in countries such as New Zealand (1893), Australia (1901), Finland (1906) or Norway (1913) women got the vote before the war began, whereas others such as Denmark (1915), Iceland (1915), Holland (1917) or Sweden (1919) enfranchised women during the war without being involved in it.

Among the combatants, women were in some cases given the vote towards the end of the war or after Armistice (Russia, 1917; Germany, 1918; US, 1919) but in France and Italy they had to wait until 1945 to see this right acknowledged despite the fact that, at least in France, feminist suffragists were very active. Besides, the enfranchising of women over 30 in Britain did not really benefit the young women of any class who'd born the brunt of most war-related activities.

It is very likely, though, that British male politicians simply wanted to avoid a situation in which women would get not only the vote but also a majority.

Feminist women were to be found in all classes but always as a minority; working-class feminists, besides, would often combine feminism and trade-unionism much to the dismay of their upper-class sisters. Feminism and socialism needn't go together and this may well explain why feminist agitator Emmeline Pankhurst eventually became a member of the Tory party.

Paradoxically, most conservative anti-feminist women - of any class - supported the war though feminists like Pankhurst were also pro-war; in any case, it can be said with little doubt that practically all pacifist women were also feminists. To sum up: not all women supported feminism, and among those who did, lines were divided between pro-war and anti-war positions.


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