Online course

Beyond the Ballot: Women’s Rights and Suffrage from 1866 to Today

Explore the campaign for women’s right to vote and its impact on women’s rights and equality to the present day.

Beyond the Ballot: Women’s Rights and Suffrage from 1866 to Today

Explore the remarkable story of women’s rights and campaign for the vote

6th February 2018 marked the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, the piece of legislation which extended the vote to (some) women for the first time. 14th December 2018 marked the centenary of the first election in which women could then exercise their vote.

Discover how the vote was won, the nineteenth century background to the campaign and what happened next with Claire Kennan from Royal Holloway and experts from the UK Parliament, The National Archives and the Women’s Library at the LSE.

Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsOn the 6th of February, 1918, the Representation of the People Act received royal assent and passed into law-- an act to amend the law with respect to parliamentary and local government franchises. That act granted the vote to women for the first time. In this course, we will chart the struggle for women's rights and the vote in particular, from the first mass petition calling for female suffrage in 1866, to the Women's March of January, 2017. Along the way, we will encounter women who rallied against the social and legal barriers that curtailed women's rights in the 19th century, and examine how women were represented in literature and art.

Skip to 0 minutes and 49 secondsWe will examine the campaign for the vote, its leading figures and organisations, assessing their tactics and effectiveness. And we will follow the passage of the Representation of the People Act in 1917 and 1918. So join us as we explore the history of women's rights and their campaign for the vote.

What topics will you cover?

Guided by Claire Kennan from Royal Holloway, University of London, this course examines:

  • The myth and reality of women’s experience of the nineteenth century through literature, art, work and the law;

  • The case studies of four pioneering women whose campaigns for issues other than the vote laid the foundation for the women’s suffrage campaign;

  • The movements and milestones in campaigning for votes for women;

  • The impact of the First World War and the passage of the 1918 Representation of the People Act;

  • The campaign for equality after 1918 and the impact of the first women MPs;

  • The relationship between protest and political change and how Suffragette militancy would be regarded today.

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 4 March 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Assess and discuss the social, cultural and legal frameworks that curtailed women’s rights in the nineteenth century and how these were being challenged by a selection of pioneering women
  • Assess and discuss the origins of the women’s suffrage movement and why early attempts to extend the franchise failed
  • Evaluate and discuss why (some) women received the vote in 1918, comparing different arguments and assessing key documents
  • Assess the impact of the struggle for equality since the passage of the Representation of the People Act, comparing the responses of early women MPs and campaigners and wider movements
  • Reflect upon and discuss the role of protest in effecting political change and how Suffragette militancy and the government’s response at the beginning of the 20th century would be classified today

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for anyone with an interest in nineteenth or twentieth century history, the women’s suffrage campaign or the history of women’s rights. It does not require any reading before you start or previous experience of studying the subject.

Who will you learn with?

Claire Kennan

Citizens Project Officer
I work as part of the Citizens Project team at Royal Holloway, University of London. Citizens is a Heritage Lottery Fund supported project exploring the history of liberty.

Matthew Smith

Dr Matthew Smith, Senior Fellow in Public History at Royal Holloway, University of London, is the Director of the Citizens project, of which this course is a component.

Steven Franklin

Steven Franklin, PhD researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London, and Project Officer for the Citizens project, of which this course is a component.

Who developed the course?

Queen Victoria presided over the grand opening of Royal Holloway in 1886. Since then the College has continued to grow in size and status to become one of the top research-led institutions in the UK.

The UK Parliament represents the people of the United Kingdom and makes decisions that affect us all.

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