In 1918, property-owning women over the age of 30 were granted the vote. This was a huge step forward, adding a significant number of women to the electorate, however, it is worth remembering two things about this achievement as well as the massive sacrifices made by women to win the vote.
Firstly, 1918's change was still rather restrictive. Gender equalisation in terms of the right to vote would not take place until 1928, with all women and men over the age of 21 being granted the right to vote for their MPs. Secondly, the UK was quite late the game on this issue. Germany introduced votes for women at the same time as Britain, but places like New Zealand and the Isle of Man had introduced the change decades before.
Furthermore, there is one fact that shows just how little women’s representation in politics has come in the hundred years since they were first granted the vote:
Since 1918, there have been just 489 female Members of Parliament.
Take a moment to let that sink in. That’s right, according to the “Women Members of Parliament: Background Paper” by the House of Commons Library, there have been fewer than 500 female MPs in the House of Commons in its entire history.
To put that into context, there are 650 MPs in total after each election.
Furthermore, the report highlights that:
“Until December 2016, there had been fewer women MPs ever than there were men sitting in the House of Commons, at any one time. When Dr Caroline Johnson won the Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election on 8 December 2016, she became the 455th woman to be elected as an MP. There were 455 male MPs in the House of Commons at that time.”
For women in politics, there is evidently a significant way to go.
The time to smash this glass ceiling is long overdue.