The 100 years from 1819-1919 were the most remarkable in the history of womankind. In 1819 women had no rights, no status, no options, no votes. Females were denied higher and further education.
Job opportunities were menial and few. Legally, women were not even considered to be ‘persons’. By 1919 they had achieved full legal rights and status; the doors of education, equality and professions had been thrown open to them; they had proved that they could do any job a man could do; and most importantly they had achieved universal suffrage.
Appalling conditions suffered by those living and working in the textile industries of the North-West provided the impetus to demand democratic political reforms and a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Women were not allowed to join official associations so they formed their own groups, seeing the main objective as achieving results for their menfolk, which would make life better for women in turn. Then they could concentrate on fighting for their own rights.
The Peterloo Massacre in August 1819 was a day of bloody carnage during which females were singled out, hunted down and killed or injured to ‘teach them a lesson’. It did teach them a lesson, but not the one their attackers had intended. It gained them status and sympathy in the eyes of many and further encouraged them to fight for themselves as well as their men.
Women became involved in reform groups, Chartism, trade unions, politics, education, career opportunities and the right to vote, although they encountered fierce hostility and opposition from both men and their own sex. Perseverance paid off. Women finally gained their equal opportunities, winning the right to vote as a reward for their major contribution to the Great War.
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