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W.A.W. Timeline


Legislation provides for Welsh representation in the House of Commons


England and Scotland united by Acts of Union passed in parliaments of both countries. Scotland allocated 45 seats in the House of Commons.


Bribery Act passed to address corrupt elections


Mary Wollstonecraft publishes The Vindication for The Rights of Women arguing for equality


Parliamentary report states girls should be educated to be ‘decorative, modest, marriageable beings’


Act of Union joins Ireland and Great Britain. Ireland allocated 10 seats in the House of Commons.


Representation of the People’s Act (First Reform Act) extends vote to men meeting property qualifications, reduces rotten boroughs and redistributes parliamentary seats to better represent urban areas

Great Reform Act excludes women from electorate by defining voters as ‘male persons’

First petition to parliament on women’s suffrage

Chartists campaign for the right to vote for all men


The People’s Charter is drawn up for the London Working Men’s Association


The first Chartist’s petition is presented to the House of Commons


The second Chartist’s petition is presented to the House of Commons


The third Chartist’s petition is presented to the House of Commons

1857 – 1866

Langham Place Group: Group of middle-class women who campaigned to improve the situation of women


Taunton Commission – reports that men and women have the same mental capacity


Opening of the Cambridge Local Examinations to women


12 secondary schools exist for girls in England and Wales


Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Emily Davies present the Kensington Society’s petition to parliament calling for women’s suffrage backed by John Stuart Mill and Henry Fawcett


1st debate in parliament on women’s suffrage led by John Stuart Mill

Representation of the People’s Act (Second Reform Act) extends vote to urban working men meeting property qualifications.

J. S. Mill adds an amendment to the Reform Act calling for female suffrage but it is defeated 196 votes to 73


First women’s college at Cambridge founded by Emily Davies, Barbara Boudichon and Lady Stanley of Alderney: Girton College with students occupying a house in Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Women are granted the vote in Wyoming, USA who become the first government in the world to grant this right


Lectures for Ladies started at Cambridge University


Founding of The National Union for Improving the Education of Women

Newnham College begins as a house for 5 students in Regents Street financed by philosopher Henry Sidgwick and run by Anne Jemima Clough (who previously ran her own school in the Lake District).


Ballot Act introduces secret ballot at elections

Girton College moves to Girton


Newnham creates purpose built building on site it is today: Old Hall

Emma Paterson becomes the first female delegate of the TUC (Trades Union Congress).


20 February: First suffrage meeting in Cambridgeshire held in the Mission Room in March. Jessie Craigen spoke on the bill to remove ‘Electoral Disabilities of Women’ to be presented to parliament in the next session by Jacob Bright MP.


Treating, bribery and intimidation are rife in voting – 1 in 20 seats is considered to be corrupt


Women at Cambridge gain the right to take the Tripos examinations and are offered university certificates if they pass


Monastic life of Cambridge Colleges ends with fellows allowed to marry for the first time


Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act effectively ends serious corruption in British elections

Co-operative Women’s Guild is founded


Women campaign to be included in the 3rd Reform Act but without success

Representation of the People’s Act (Third Reform Act) addresses imbalance between men’s votes in boroughs and counties

First meeting (November) of the Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Society in the Old Guildhall


Boundaries redrawn to produce equal electoral districts. Single member seats become the norm.

Hughes Hall College Cambridge for women founded.


Agnata Frances Ramsay of Girton College heads the list in the Classical Tripos challenging an accepted idea that women are genetically less intellectually capable than men

Large scale meeting of the Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Society at the Working Men’s Hall, Fitzroy Street


Women workers at the Bryant and May Match Factory London take industrial action against poor working conditions naming their action ‘strike-action’. The strike was supported by journalist Annie Bessant.


The Women’s Franchise League is formed with the aim of winning the vote for married women and single widowed women

Margaret Llewellyn Davies (niece of Emily Davies) becomes general secretary of the Co-operative Women’s Guild


Women are granted the vote in New Zealand


Homerton College Cambridge for women founded

Ellen McArthur begins teaching as the first woman Cambridge University Extension Lecturer


Formation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage (NUWSS) led by Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929) bringing peaceful campaign groups together under one banner

Proposal at Cambridge University to give women titles and degrees is defeated


More than 30 fee paying boarding schools for Women


Founding of the Cambridge Co-operative Women’s Guild by Clara Rackham

Women are granted the vote in Australia


Founding of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Manchester by Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) where the slogan ‘Votes for women’ is coined


700 women from Oxford and Cambridge travel to Trinity College Dublin to receive their degrees


Suffragette militancy begins

Girton College Oratorial Society gives speech ‘Why we should care for it (women’s suffrage) and how we can help to further it’


Women are granted the vote in Finland

Mary MacArthur founds the National Federation of Women Workers for women in unorganized trades who were not admitted to their appropriate trade union

Belfast Women’s Strike


Formation of The Women’s Freedom League following a break from the WSPU

Millicent Fawcett becomes president of the NUWSS

Cambridge Guildhall hosts the quarterly meeting of the executive committee of the NUWSS including Millicent Fawcett, Emily Davies and Marie Stopes.

NUWSS Suffrage ‘mud’ march to London from Cambridge

Girton College Women’s Suffrage Society is formed


Edith Morley becomes the first female full university professor in the UK

Hunger striking by Marion Wallace-Dunlop adopted as a WSPU strategy

Girton College Women’s Suffrage Society and Newnham College Women’s Suffrage Society merge to form the Cambridge University Women’s Suffrage Society, their blue silk banner bearing the words: ‘Better Is Wisdom than Weapons of War’

‘Women’s Sunday’ suffrage march to London from Cambridge carrying the Cambridge University banner

Girton Anti-Women’s Suffrage League formed leading to many debates at the college


Force feeding begins of jailed suffragettes on hunger strike


Parliament considers various ‘conciliation bills’ to give some women the vote but none pass


The Pageant of the Great Women written by Cecily Hamilton (Women’s Suffrage Writers League) was shown in the Cambridge Guild Hall with 80 CWSA (Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Association) women, and 20 men, performing including Lady Elizabeth de Clare (of Clare College) and Lady Francis Sidney (of Sidney Sussex College).

Cecily Hamilton writes the lyrics for ‘The March of the Women’ that is performed in the Albert Hall and becomes the official anthem of the suffragettes

CWSA has premises at No.41 Green Street, Cambridge, but moves due to vandalism of their flags outside the building

Grace Roe, East Anglian regional organizer of the WSPU supports Emmeline Pankhurst at Wisbech during the general election campaign

18 Nov 300 suffragettes march from Caxton Hall to the House of Commons where they are met by a large police cordon on Parliament Square. Women are attacked and sexually assaulted by police and their unidentified thugs resulting in the death of Henria Williams. The day was nicknamed ‘Black Friday’ by the Daily Mirror.

25 Dec Mary Clark (Emmeline Pankhurst’s younger sister) dies of a brain hemorrhage after being released from prison where she had been on hunger strike and force fed


Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913) hides in a cupboard in the House of Commons on census night

International Women’s Day observed for the first time

Lloyd Georges National Insurance Act includes 30 shillings maternity benefit

CWSA makes No. 2 Bene’t Street, Cambridge, their permanent shop


January: Millicent Fawcett addresses meeting at Cambridge Guildhall organised with the Girton Suffrage Society and the Cambridge University Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage


The Prisoner’s Temporary Discharge for Ill Health Act (The Cat and Mouse Act) is introduced targeting Suffragettes on hunger strikes

Maternity benefit accepted as the legal property of the mother

26 July: Suffrage Pilgrimage to London includes 300-400 Cambridge women

Dec. pageant ‘Britannia’s Daughters’ held at the Co-operative Hall, Burleigh Street, written by Fanny Johnson of the CWSA. CWSA women portrayed working women including a jam maker, flower girl, slum woman, teacher, lawyer, and pit-brow lassie among others.


Britain declares war on Germany on 4th August. During the war 1914-18 an estimated 2 million women replace men in traditionally male jobs

Margaret Llewellyn Davies collects invited letters from working women to share direct experiences of childbirth and rearing as part of a sustained campaign for maternal and infant care for poorer women

May: March Suffrage Society, Cambridgeshire is formed and addressed in their first meeting by Agnes Ramsey who argued women needed the vote to redress the injustices of sweated labour, infant mortality, prostitution, and low pay.


Women’s tenants groups in Glasgow successfully campaigns against rent increases

Co-operative Women’s Guild published by G. Bell and Son with the help of Virginia Wolf: Maternity: Letters from Working Women revealing the damage of negligent medical care, poor feeding and overwork of women


A conference on electoral reform chaired by the House of Commons Speaker is set up


The conference on electoral reform chaired by the House of Commons Speaker recommends limited women’s suffrage


Education Act raised compulsory school leaving age to 14 for both boys and girls

Marie Stopes opens first birth control clinic in the UK

The Representation of the People’s Act is passed on 6th February giving all men over 21 the vote and some women the vote provided they are over 30 and either they or their husband meet a property criteria/ qualification

On 21 November The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act is passed allowing women to stand for parliament

On 14th December Women vote in a general election for the first time (8.5 million women are eligible to vote)


Constance Markievicz becomes first elected female MP but refuses to take her seat. Nancy Astor became the first woman to be elected and take her seat on 1st December.

The Sex Discrimination (Removal) Act means women can enter almost all professions. The number of women in higher education doubles.


Government of Ireland Act

The 19th Amendment is passed in the USA to grant all white women the vote in all states

The first women magistrates are sworn in including Leah Manning


Oxford University admits women to degrees and full status

Cambridge University gives women titles but no associated privileges (ie. No participation in University government). Women undergraduates are given the right to attend University Lectures.


Irish Free State Agreement reduces number of seats for Irish constituencies at Westminster from 105 to 13 constituencies in Northern Ireland.


Cambridge University appoints its first women Teaching Officers


2 July Representation of the People’s Act / The Equal Franchise Act is passed giving women equal voting rights to men. All women over 21 can now vote (15 million women are eligible).

December celebrations held at Newnham College to celebrate all women having the vote


On 30th May women aged 21-29 vote for the first time (The Flapper Election).


Women protest against cuts – a hunger march leaves Wales for London on 160 mile march


A statue commemorating Emmeline Pankhurst is installed in Victoria Tower Gardens


Dorothy Garrod becomes Disney Professor of Archeology at Cambridge University and is the first female professor at either Cambridge or Oxford Universities


World War II: Women work in traditionally male roles such as ship building. By 1943 2 million women work in munitions alone.


House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act establishes four permanent boundary commissions for the UK and a regular system for reviewing constituency boundaries


Gloria Carpenter is the first black woman graduate at Cambridge University, studying Law at Girton College


The Welfare State is established

The Family Allowance Act is passed providing money for children and is paid directly to mothers making them more independent. Women can continue teaching after marrying and play a significant role in the NHS


(6th December) Cambridge University admits women to degrees and full status. Full membership to women is granted with no contrary votes. The University retains the right to limit the number of women undergraduates


(27 April) The new statutes implementing Cambridge admitting women with full status is approved by the King and, containing no date, come into effect immediately.

(21 Oct) The Queen Mother becomes the first woman to receive a degree in the Senate-House.


Lucy Cavendish Dining Society established

Legal Aid provision is provided for divorce


New Hall College Cambridge founded for women


Women and men take Cambridge University exams in the same room for the first time


The first contraceptive pill is approved in the USA


Women are allowed membership of the Cambridge University Union Society


Brooks Advisory Centre for family planning opens in the UK


Cambridge University repeals its statute prohibiting mixed colleges. Graduate Colleges Darwin, Clare Hall and Wolfson (then University College) are the first to act on this reform.


Lucy Cavendish College Cambridge established for mature women admits first students as graduates.


The Abortion Act legalises abortion under certain conditions (not in Northern Ireland)


Women workers at Ford strike for three weeks for equal pay


Representation of the People’s Act extends the vote to men and women over 18.


World’s first refuge for women escaping domestic violence opens in Chiswick, London.

Equal Pay Act enshrines in law the principal of equal pay for women. Employers encouraged to pay women an equal wage where the job is ‘broadly similar’.


Lucy Cavendish College Cambridge established for mature women admits first undergraduate students.

Gender inequalities in divorce legislation that left women in difficulty after divorce are challenged


Churchill College, Clare College and King’s College admit first mixed undergraduate intake.

First Rape Crisis Centre founded in USA

Nursery Action Group (NAG) established


Cambridge University Students of the NAG occupy the Senate House demanding nursery fascilities for students, bedders and academics.

The Sex Discrimination Act makes gender/marital status discrimination illegal.

The Equal Opportunities Commission is established.

Rosemary Murray, President of New Hall becomes first woman Vice-Chancellor


First rape crisis centre opens in London, UK


Girton College admits men for the first time.


Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister


Greenham Common Protest instigated by one woman who set up a march from Wales to the proposed missile base in Berkshire. Marchers set up a peace camp which gains widespread support.

Women in Greenock Scotland occupy Lee Jeans Factory for 7 months stopping its closure and saving their jobs


Rape in marriage made a criminal offence in Scotland


Women and miners wives play key role in the miners strikes – the longest strikes in British history – picketing, giving media appearances and providing food

Equal Pay Act (Equal Value Amendment) introduces equal pay for work of equal value


Cambridge University Students Union appoints its first Women’s Officer


Lucy Cavendish Dining Society passes society and foundation status to become a college


Dianne Abbot, who studied History at Newnham College Cambridge, becomes the first Black woman to be elected as MP

Cambridge University repeals its cap on the number of women students (not acted upon since 1961) and formally adopts an equal opportunities policy


Magdalene College admits women undergraduates – the last of the former men’s colleges to do so


Rape in marriage made a criminal offence in England


Debate begins on comparative performances of women and men in examinations. (Undergraduates launch this debate in Varsity – the University student newspaper).

UNISON is created through the merger of NALGO, NUPE and COHSE


Cambridge University joins Opportunity 2000, a national organization that aims to increase women’s participation in the workforce at all levels.

A ruling in the House of Lords gives equal rights to part time workers.


Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act is passed creating 60 specialist domestic violence courts.

UNISON win campaign for minimum wage – an issue that disproportionately affects women


Cambridge University marks the 50th anniversary of women receiving degrees with an events programme: a celebration event, academic conference, photographic exhibition, a gathering of alumni, and a published writing competition on ‘What have Women Done for Cambridge?’


UK Government signs up to European Charter which sets limits on working hours, improves maternity leave and improves working conditions for part time and temporary workers

Same sex couples are granted equal rights when applying for adoption.


Section 28 of the equal rights act is repealed


Civil Partnership Act grants civil partnerships for same sex couples in the UK.

Gender Recognition Act allows people to gain full legal recognition for the gender in which they live


The Equality and Human Rights Commission replaces the Equal Opportunities Commission


New legislation granting additional maternity leave and clarification on rights to return to work

Gender Equality Duty – public authorities promote gender equality

Jenny Bailey becomes the first transgender mayor in Britain as Mayor of Cambridge


Voting Age (Reduction) Bill – A Private Members Bill – to reduce voting age to 16 does not become law


A £37 Billion hole is created in public finances to save banks. Government cuts which threaten 730,000 jobs in the public sector, of which at least 500,000 are held by women


Biggest Trade Union March in history to save public services


Women are granted the vote in Saudi Arabia

Report on race equality by the Runnymead Trust reveals there are only 17 black female professors across all UK Universities


BBC report reveals major gender pay divide


Presenter Winifred Robinson is told by the BBC she can’t host a programme on gender pay and is taken off air

Wide spread celebrations of 100 years since some women got the vote.

Millicant Garrett Fawcett is voted most influential women of the 20th century in poll conducted by BBC Radio 4

Statue of Millicent Fawcet by artist Gillian Wearing is erected in Parliament Square

A Blue Plaque is erected in Millicent Fawcett’s memory on 18 Brookside, Cambridge, where she lived in 1874 with her husband already commemorated there with his own plaque.

A Blue Plaque is erected in Clara Rackham’s memory at 9 Park Terrace, Cambridge

Olivette Otele becomes first black female history professor in UK

Equality and Higher Education Report reveals there are only 25 black female professors in UK Universities


MP Tulip Saddiq is required to attend parliament in order to cast her vote on the day she is due to give birth forcing her to postpone her c-section.


Supreme Court USA rules Civil Rights Act 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity meaning workers can no longer be fired for being gay, bisexual and transgender.