Local elections

The 1834 Poor Law Act gave duly qualified women the right to vote for Poor Law Guardians.

In 1835 the Municipal Corporation Act ended women's right to vote for Poor Law Guardians or in local elections. This right was returned to them in 1869 when the Municipal Franchise Act decreed that: 'words importing the masculine gender ... shall be held to include females for all purposes connected with ... the right to vote' for county councillors. Yet this was interpreted in 1872 as meaning that married women still could not vote, this time because they had no legal identity separate from their husbands. Then, in 1880, it was interpreted as meaning that women could not stand for election as councillors, even though the 1869 Act had stated that all those entitled to vote were entitled also to stand. The was taken to the Court of Appeal, which found against women's claim. Lord Justice Fry stated: 'a woman is absolutely disqualified by nature from being elected'. The Local Government Act 1894 gave all women, irrespective of marital status, the right to elect, and also to stand for election, for parish councils, district councils, school boards and Poor Law Guardians. Just six years later there were 1975 female Poor Law Guardians and about 200 women members of school boards.

The 1901 Education Act removed education from the hands of the school board, ending women's 32-year influence.

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All pages © Helena Wojtczak 2009. Corrections and additions are warmly welcomed. Email me