The nineteenth century was very significant for women, mainly because they were at a turning point in their living conditions. It was ascertained that their place was at home and they were not able to think, unlike men. This situation was considered as unbearable by a growing number of women and a need for rights began to appear. Actually, the suffrage question, which means the extension of the franchise to women, became more and more significant to them. The involvement of women into politics increased through the nineteenth century as the need for change began to be felt. It leads us to the following question: how did feminist politics appear in the nineteenth century? Firstly, we will focus on the political background of the period. Then we will discuss the birth of feminist politics. Finally, we will deal with the evolution of these feminist political ideas. The political background of the nineteenth century Britain was mainly represented by the two political parties of that time, the Whigs and the Conservative party. The Whig party governed Britain for most of the nineteenth century with leaders like Henry John Temple and the Viscount of Palmerston. Whig ideology was influenced by John Locke's contract theories, which meant that government was not established by God. Whigs began to be referred to as the Liberal Party and William Gladstone became their leader in 1866. He tried to “impose his own self discipline and sense of Victorian Christianity on the nation. He also did his best to assure ‘laissez faire' economic policies.
[...] However the nineteenth century remains the starting point of feminist politics, and as we have seen, the difficulties it already encountered in those days, we can only wonder about what will happen through the years and centuries to come. Bibliography Diane Atkinson, ‘Votes for women' Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Women in history) Richard Daniel Altick, ‘Victorian People and Ideas' London: Dent Barbara Caine, ‘Victorian Feminists' Oxford : Oxford University Press John Merriman, history of modern Europe vol “From the French Revolution to the present”' New York; London: W.W. [...]
[...] Thus, it appears obvious that even if the Parliament was not listening in feminist politics, it did not discourage women's determination to express their ideas. To conclude, we have seen the evolution of the feminist politics through the nineteenth century. Even if the political background was not so favourable, the birth of feminists took place. Despite the lack en enthusiasm from men, women's ideas managed to rise little by little thanks to women like Helen Bright Clark who did their best to spread feminist ideas and feminist politics. [...]
[...] One of the few events which was of significance for women's politics in this first half of the nineteenth century was actually Chartism because it was one of the main starting point for feminist politics, even if they were not very popular at that time. A stronger involvement in women's organisation related to suffrage took place in the second half of the nineteenth century, was not until the 1860's that a tiny women's suffrage movement was founded in five major cities in Britain: London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Edinburgh”. [...]
[...] Consequently the main claim of women in the nineteenth century was the right to hold property and the right to vote, which explains their growing involvement in feminist politics. Working class women were also longing for rights and their living conditions explains this need. Even if upper and middle class women were not allowed to work, it wasn't the case for working class women. They were “part of the labour force” and “their availability in large numbers enabled employers to pay the low wages”. [...]
[...] This reveals the reactions of men in front of this women's movement, which were certainly not very welcoming, due to the fact that feminist politics were viewed as a threat by men. Also, Helen Bright Clark tried to convince women that the fact that they were not allowed to be part of the political life was unacceptable, she said all women everywhere to examine whether it is just or beneficial to anybody that should be entirely overlooked and excluded in matters which so deeply affect them”. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee