Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918

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Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, 1918[1]
Long title An Act to amend the Law with respect to the Capacity of Women to sit in Parliament.
Citation 8 & 9 Geo. 5 c. 47
Introduced by Lord Robert Cecil
Territorial extent United Kingdom
Dates
Royal assent 21 November 1918
Commencement 21 November 1918
Other legislation
Repealed by Statute Law Revision Act 1983 (RoI)
Status: Current legislation
Revised text of statute as amended

The Parliament (Qualification of Women Act) 1918 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It gave women over 21 the right to stand for election as an MP. It did not alter the minimum age for a woman to vote in an election, which had been 30 since the Representation of the People Act 1918. It was not until the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act 1928 that women were given the vote on equal terms with men, at the age of 21.

At 27 words it is the shortest UK statute.[2]

Effects[edit]

The Representation of the People Act 1918, passed on 6 February 1918, gave about 8.4 million women the vote, and it led to the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act being passed. In the 1918 election to the House of Commons, seventeen women candidates stood to be elected, among them well-known suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, representing the Women's Party in Smethwick.[3] However the only woman to be elected was the Sinn Féin candidate for Dublin St. Patrick's, Constance Markievicz. Following the popular Irish political policy of abstentionism, she chose not to take her seat at Westminster and instead sat in Dáil Éireann (the First Dáil) in Dublin.[3] The first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons was Nancy Astor on December 1, 1919. She was elected as a Coalition Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton on November 28, 1919, taking the seat her husband had previously vacated.[4]

As Members of Parliament, women also gained the right to become government ministers. The first woman to become a cabinet minister and Privy Council member was Margaret Bondfield who was Minister of Labour in the Second MacDonald ministry (1929–1931).[5]

Age limits[edit]

During the debate of the bill, Lord Islington explained the apparent discrepancy that women could sit in Parliament at 21 but could not vote until they were 30:

"...the age of thirty, which was prescribed for enfranchisement of women, was made not because women of a younger age were considered less competent to exercise the vote, but rather because the inclusion of women between the ages of twenty-one and thirty might lead to women-voters being in a majority on the Register, and this was considered, too drastic a departure in the realms of constitutional experiment. Therefore the embargo on any woman below the age of thirty was placed in that measure. In the case of eligibility to Parliament, this age condition is not necessary. The whole question of age, suitability, and competence can safely be left, and should be left, in the hands of the electorate to decide..."[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Short title as conferred by s. 2 of the Act; the modern convention for the citation of short titles omits the comma after the word "Act"
  2. ^ "Oldest surviving judicial code". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2017-09-28. The shortest statute is the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918, which runs to 27 operative words: `A woman shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from being elected to or sitting or voting as a Member of the Commons House of Parliament.' Section 2 contains a further 14 words giving the short title. 
  3. ^ a b Simkin, John (September 1997). "1918 Qualification of Women Act". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 28 January 2009. 
  4. ^ Wilson, Courtney (6 August 2004). "'Our Nancy': The Story of Nancy Astor and Her Gift to the University of Virginia". xroads.virginia.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-09. 
  5. ^ Heater, Derek (2006). Citizenship in Britain: A History. Edinburgh University Press. p. 145. ISBN 978-0-7486-2672-4. 
  6. ^ Hansard, 12 November 1918, volume 31

External links[edit]