First Time Votes for Women in Elections (1918)

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In the latter half of the 1800s there was organised feminist action on various issues related to women especially in the areas of education and the parliamentary vote. Slowly women gained the right to attend university and have access to degrees and courses and if they were rate payers, the right to vote in county and borough councils and urban and rural district councils.

Nationalist and women’s organisations were formed including Inghínidhe na hÉireann founded by Maud Gonne in 1900, the Irishwomen’s Franchise League founded by Hanna Sheehy Skeffington and Margaret Cousins in 1908 and in 1911 the Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation by Louie Bennett and Helen Chenevix, the Irish Women’s Reform League by Louie Bennett and the Irish Women Worker’s Union with Delia Larkin as its first secretary.

When the Irish Citizen Army was founded in 1913 it offered equal membership and training to men and women and 1914 saw the formation of Cumann na mBan with its main aim to help fund and arm the men of the Irish Volunteers.

A lot of suffrage and activism was undertaken by women seeking the right to vote, especially in the two decades of the twentieth century. Finally in 1918 women aged 30 were granted the right to vote through representation of the People Act. 1918 also saw the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act which made women eligible to be elected to, sit and vote in the House of Commons. Eleven women stood in the 1918 elections with Countess Markievicz being the only woman elected to parliament.

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