You rightly report rejoicing at the centenary of “some women winning the right to vote in 1918” (Marches summon suffragette spirit in cry to continue fight for equality, Report, 11 June). This right was enshrined in the Representation of the People Act 1918 which awarded the franchise to 8.4 million women aged over 30. The Act passed through the Commons in June 1918.
We seem in most commentary now to forget that this act also newly enfranchised approximately 8 million men as it abolished the residential and property qualifications that had denied the vote to 40% of men. These included most of the poorest in society: soldiers, sailors and men such as adult sons living in their parents’ houses.
The first world war was finishing. The Russian revolution was inspiring many. Perhaps half of returning British soldiers would, without this act, be disenfranchised. In the defeated German empire there was universal male suffrage. Government and parliamentary leaders were under perhaps greater pressure to give all men the vote as to grant it to “some women”.
I am delighted that we are celebrating the electoral advance of women and, in the midst of celebration, asking questions of our society about the extent to which gender equality remains to be achieved. I would, however, urge writers in the Guardian, which was founded 200 years ago in the wake of the Peterloo massacre of workers seeking the right to vote, to reflect also on issues of class and increasing economic inequalities. A good place to start would be by recalling as well the male enfranchisement of 1918.
Dr John Hull
• The same “witty and subversive” spirit noted in your editorial about banners (Stitched, splendid, fluttering in the breeze…, 11 June) was manifested in the slogans of young Irish female pro-choice marchers. It was a stand out feature at the many demonstrations during Ireland’s long campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Among the most popular was “get your rosaries off my ovaries”; my own personal favourite was “keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers”.
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