On this day 100 years ago, Irish women got the vote

Feb 06 2018 Posted: 13:09 GMT

On 6 February, 1918, the Representation of the People Act extended the parliamentary vote to women. This political right was restricted to women over the age of 30 who met specified property qualifications or who held university degrees. An estimated 8.5 million women were qualified under the terms of the legislation – roughly 40% of the total number of potential women electors. In contrast, men were entitled to vote at age 21. The Act also extended local franchises to women and men alike and addressed war-time disruption to existing residency requirements.

The 1918 Act gave partial or restricted rights to women only, reflecting long-entrenched class and gender-informed thinking. The clause, to grant votes to women, was resisted in the House of Lords until January 1918 - right to the end. In light of the long-held fear of the place and the power of the woman elector, the granting of votes to women in 1918, though restricted, was a revolutionary moment in women’s political history. In Ireland, the age of voting for women was lowered to 21 years in 1922 and, in England and post-partition North of Ireland, it was equalised only in 1928.

The story of votes for women opens up important opportunities to think about citizenship, democracy, social class and how and why political life is shaped as it is. It is a time to reflect upon the arguments and ideas of those who campaigned to change the law; much of what they wanted to change still remains to be done.