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Suffrage edges forward

19 January 2018

January 18th, 1918.

A LAST expiring effort was made in the House of Lords on Monday and Tuesday to exclude from the Electoral Reform Bill the clause extending the vote to women. At the suggestion of some eminent ladies, of whom Mrs Humphry Ward was one, it was moved that before assent to this reform was given, the opinion of the women themselves should be ascertained by means of a Referendum. The House would not agree to the proposal, largely, we believe, through fear of the Commons. At all events, the female franchise has come to stay. In this week’s debate no new arguments, for or against, were advanced, but it was curious to see how the war influenced the various speakers. Some found in it greater justification than ever for their hostility to this novel experiment. Others maintained that the women’s claim to the vote was absolutely established by their conduct in the war; while others, again, previously hostile, had come to the conclusion that any step, however rash, must be taken, so as to avoid a domestic quarrel when there is more important work to be done. The higher standard of age for women-electors seemed to be some sort of comfort to the half-converted, and, on the other hand, it is accepted with all its inconsistency by ardent Suffragists, because in the Parliament after the next the whole adult sex will be enfranchised. The fact that a woman of twenty-one is more matured than a youth of that age will irresistibly break down the argument for deferring the vote till the age of thirty is reached. And then there will be a majority of a couple of millions or so of women’s votes over those of the men.

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